Probably the worst feeling in the world when it comes to writing anything... whether it's writing the first draft, starting a brand new project or beginning again with a brand new draft... staring at the page and realizing that that "strong opening line" isn't coming to mind.
There are few things more important to a story than having a strong first sentence. Because that's what keeps the reader reading. Whether it addresses a person, what a person is feeling or what, there has to be a reaction like:
"Why does s/he feel that way? I have to read more to figure this out."
"Whoa! You've got my attention. What's going to happen next?"
With this story, my first draft began with a lot of exposition. A couple of years after I wrote it, looking back at it, it felt phony to me to start with "My name is..."
The latest draft I did, which is going back to 2011, was a bit more dramatic: "Mother was worried. Something is coming."
Now that's a beginning that could get a heart to skip a beat. I could keep going with that, but there's also the question of what I do next. I wrote a little bit of exposition to explain the kind of world this story takes place in, a little bit about tiger clan hierarchy, Chihiro's mixed heritage. The question that follows up in my head is: how long should I drag this out before going back to the first sentence? Followed by: Should I bother with the exposition at all?
Because I really don't feel confident with "throwing away" my drafts, I know I'm going to have that information somewhere where I can pull it out if needed. If one thing comes up a lot in the querying process, it's the hook, snagging an agent's attention, especially if their submission guidelines include the first couple chapters/pages of the story. There has to be enough there for them to want to keep reading.
So while I work to answer those questions, I've moved onto another idea, a temporary Plan B:
Restarting the story in a completely different way-- we're at the penultimate event of Part 1; Chihiro finds her second home with her uncle/godfather. And while she's recovering, she retells the story of the journey she took to get there.
But I hit another brick wall: Where to begin, with her arriving there or with her recovering there.
Obviously I need a clear head for all this and my eyes starting to go a little bit as I'm typing up this entry... it's not going to happen tonight.
Last night I started on one of my badly timed brainstorming sessions. As soon as my head hits the pillow for me to go to sleep, my mind starts cranking out ideas, and I'm too comfortable to roll out of bed, grab my notebook and write it all down.
Once again, I started playing around with the idea of Chihiro being a white tiger because of a genetic mutation that only affects a handful of individuals, rather than playing around with man and beast consummating. But given the kind of realm this is, nobody will know what genetics is. When members of a species are born with white fur and blue eyes, they either believe it's a bad omen (because they don't understand why this difference exists) or it gives away a bond of dirty blood (royal bloodlines mixing with common folk) or, an even more ancient belief (adultery).
The other week, I determined that the cause of the massacre that destroyed Chihiro's way of life was nothing short of jealousy. Her mother had several suitors and she picked none of them in favor of someone else entirely.
Heck, I could build up the fact that Silas, the eventual villain, vowed revenge because her refusal of him was an embarrassment to his entire clan and a blow to his reputation.
Chihiro's father could have been a nomad passing through and came across her mother in a time of need. She opens up to him about her predicament, marrying someone from another clan so they can bring their families together. But none of them feel about humans the way she does. They have been at peace in her region since she came into power and she didn't want to damage that trust. Slowly but surely the two fall in love, she decides she is strong enough to have no need of marriage. "You live your life and we'll continue to live as we have for a number of years."
The one snag is whether Chihiro's feelings for Lucas are believable. Surely if I take the inter species relationship out of the picture, the idea of man-beast hybrids, members of different races can't fall in love because they obviously cannot reproduce.
But in my weird, twisted universe, I can technically make up whatever the hell I want to fit my situations.
This could easily be something that can have the story go full circle. Kirakotsu chose love over fulfilling a "duty" to her species. Ultimately Chihiro makes the same choice, choosing to give her life for Lucas, forsaking the duty she'd worked so hard to be ready for... her goal throughout this story should be taking her place as the heir of her mother's people and wanting to be at her absolute best to do that duty to its fullest. Throughout her training and journey with Lucas, a shift starts to happen.
Providing a balance to everything is definitely going to be key here.
Which just leaves the question of Lucas. Is his parentage similar? Did his father (his pack's alpha) consummate with an omega from another pack? Should his story remain the same it's always been? He and Chihiro developed a bond earlier on because their personal histories have similarities.
Technically speaking, I guess Lucas could still be a bastard son because he came to be out of wedlock. And his mother, if she isn't human, could have human sympathies the way Chihiro's mother does with the human villages bordering her territory. Their relationship begins with his father's intrigue about human life and why this she-wolf allies herself with them.
All of these are ideas that need to be developed further, but I think I might have a foundation to work with.
The one thing that is for certain is that Chihiro's mother had immense trust and regard for the human race and for them to declare a war that results in an all-out slaughter... such a thing could only have been stirred up by dark magic. Which Silas only had recently perfected his craft in.
That is an important thing for me to bear in mind after all of this goes down. Chihiro's newfound distrust/fear of humans, as a result of this, leads to being caught between a rock and a hard place. Not feeling confident in seeking their help when, at times, they seem willing to offer it. And the hard place, of course, is being outcast by her own kind... which can only escalate from bad to worse. With humans, it'll fluctuate, but an uneasiness will always remain in some small way.