In my beginning is my end

I love TS Eliot’s eloquent line from East Coker (The Four Quartets) – the melancholy in it is balanced and weighed and there is an inevitability about it which I find appealing.

Eliot’s elegant summary of the trajectory of a human life can also be applied to the development of a story. Integrated into all the elements that you assemble at start of a book should be a suggestion of where the narrative might end, or at least an indication of the direction of travel. I’m not suggesting that you give away too much, but I think it’s very important in your opening paragraphs that you let the reader know the kind of ground that you will be covering, at least in terms of genre: it should be obvious from the outset whether you are writing romantic fiction or a thriller. If you open your book with a dramatic event which begs several questions, not only will it draw the reader into your story, but it suggests a kind of competence and authority that will help to reassure them that you know your craft and it will be worth then investing valuable time in finding out what happens next.

If you want an example of what I mean, read the beginning of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge where, after a bout of drinking, Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter to a passing sailor in a defining moment which dictates the course of subsequent events.

In a well-crafted narrative all the seeds of the story will be evident in the opening: character, style, genre and the suggestion of a plot. If your beginning is well-conceived and integrated, you won’t have too resort to clunking expediency later on, the only kind of surprises lying in wait for your reader will be the right kind.

In my beginning is my end…