Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Advice on Opening

So I am having trouble settling on a way to open my work for Camp NaNo and wanted to get some input. My story is set in England in the 19th century. As such I am debating between whether to jump straight into narrative, extensive exposition, or somewhere in between. Typically I don’t start with exposition, except here.


After my father died, I lost the privileges and duties of heir apparent to my younger brother. I hold no resentment towards him for that, or the woman I called Mother for fourteen years of my fifteen years. As the lady of the estate and proprietress of Father’s businesses it was within her authority. While I never had the chance to find out which of the rumors were true, I always favored a belief that she feared her economic future were I to inherit when I came of age. Also, since my brother was now the first born son of the head of the estate, Mother, it seemed natural to me in some odd way. In truth I did not care to inherit Father’s business enterprises, nor the management of the vast family properties. I was content enough at the time because I knew that I still had status as the first born son to the public. More or less, my future was guaranteed. It certainly would have been entertaining to see my name changed from Hawthorne Albert Hall to Hawthorne Albert Temple, the surname of my then betrothed.

1st Rewrite

The clink of porcelain china called Stephen into the dining room. Mother’s eyes shifted between brother and I. With deft swiftness, Stephen collected the dirtied breakfast china. Silence reigned until his brown terrier tail slid through the heavy oak door and the latched clicked. Fortunately, Mother’s eye did not land on me at that moment. “When will you return to your studies?” she asked, her head cocked at the interrogation angle. Her cup of tea hovered just in front of her vulpine muzzle.
Tristan pushed his cup and saucer away from him. The hot tea sloshed around in the white porcelain cup, drops falling out on to the white, embroidered table cloth. He sat back in the high chair and tapped a black furred paw on the table. “Tonight I go to Dover, then the train to London tomorrow.”
“Very good.” Her gaze turned to me. “And you, Avery, what do you have planned for the coming days?”

2nd Revision

When I was born, some years ago, my mother never recovered. Before I was a year’s grown, still a small ball of red fur, Father was expecting his second born with his new wife, the vixen I came to regard as Mother. As the years passed, I proved very little, while brother Tristan excelled. Despite my failure that Mother faulted on my lack of ambition or motivation, Father shrugged it off as a matter of deferment. Up until the day he died, before I was of age, he believed I would grow into my position as eldest son. I honestly did not do much growing, Tristan did. Truth be told, I was happy when Mother used her influence to name Tristan heir. The weight of expectation, of the tremendous stature the family name Hall carried, was lifted.  

Much obliged. Hope everyone enjoys the camping.

Personally, I think the 2nd rewrite flows the best. It feels the most “organic” to me. Your original I don’t care for too much. It feels sterile. The 1st rewrite feels like the middle ground between the two, but if this is the opening paragraph, it doesn’t hook me like your 2nd rewrite.

Personally, I would replace the “some years ago” with the specific years ago if it were mine and I was going with the third option. But that’s me. ^.^

My plan was likely to either start with the first revision or tack the first revision on to the start of the actual narrative. Then iron out the awkwardness of morning tea.

In the 1st re-write, I really thought Stephen was the narrator’s brother. We also establish Stephen’s species & breed before the family’s. But the tension’s good, which is nice out of the box.

In the 2nd rewrite… feels slightly more period, but honestly, it could fill the 2nd paragraph after the first rewrite rather nicely.

I was going to say something about your version of 19th century England appears kinder to women, if the Laws of Primogeniture are different enough to allow the Lady to become title holder. But that changed in 1836 when King William IV died, so, ummm, never mind.

Sorry, History’s hard.

I agree with Greyflank. The first re-write is the best, and the second rewrite should be (after a little alteration) used as one of the following paragraphs, if not the next one.

The 1st was a good layout of what you were going to write.
The 1st rewrite was you writing that.
2nd rewrites are usually not a good idea, because you’re second guessing yourself, and usually you’re no longer improving, but taking away. Just keep writing and moving forward, it will all make sense and fit as you go on.