• Mark Meier

The Beginning

This might seem like another digression, but it pertains. At the beginning of the movie Dune, Princess Irulan (played by Virginia Madsen) has a nice long soliloquy that starts out, “A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then, that it is the year 10191. The known universe is ruled by the Padisha Emperor Shaddam IV, my father.” Most people won’t know what she’s talking about when she says beginnings are delicate. In the book series, we find out Irulan eventually becomes an author. The reasons don’t matter, but the introduction to the movie means it’s really hard to start a book with just the right words. The reader needs to know certain things, and the presentation of that information is . . . delicate. Too little detail will leave the reader mystified, too much and the reader is swamped with minutia and won’t read beyond a few pages at most. That’s kind of the position I’m in. I’m taking what I thought was a wonderfully constructed novel and making it a trilogy. (The “wonderfully constructed” part was delusion, BTW.) I’ve succeeded in developing the first volume into what I consider to be a complete work, but I’m mystified about how to start the second volume. “A beginning is a very delicate time.” There are things that Must Be Included, other things that could be put in, and striking the right balance is . . . delicate. Too far either way and the reader won’t like the book. The situation I find myself in is after a relatively quite time in the protagonist’s life. Years pass, with children born and growing. The eldest, a newborn at the end of the first book, is now a pre-teen. But how do I introduce the people without boring the reader? That’s the delicacy. And the beginning is truly a very delicate time.

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