Recently I decided to change the opening scene of my novel. It seemed like the eighteenth birthday of the main character was a good place to start. Lots of important things happen on that day, and it would cut out much of the back story that I tend to overwrite. (I'll plug in the back story in small bits scattered throughout the novel.)
So I started the writing with Catherine, my main character, waking up. She gets dressed, goes downstairs, talks with the cook of the house, walks down the hill, gets a bus to the beach. (At this point, I know I need to do more research to find out whether she would have taken a bus, train, streetcar, omnibus, or horse and cart to get to her destination.)
While on the bus she talks to the conductor, is serenaded by two young drunk bucks coming back from a night on the town, and finally reaches her destination, the beach. As I finish writing all this, I realize that the book should start with her already at the beach, and all those words about getting there are more unnecessary back story.
Sutro Baths are close to where Catherine would be walking on the beach. I immediately imagined an alternative opening with her swimming in one of the salt water pools on her birthday.
So, there is my current dilemma. Here are the two opening paragraphs which I have quickly crafted. I submit both to you, my faithful readers, and you can tell me which one would make you want to read further.
Beginning Number One:
Catherine unlaced her high boots and removed her stockings. She loved to walk barefoot in the sand, to feel it squish between her toes. The difference in the feeling between the dry sand and the slightly wet sand at the water's edge made her feel like she was heading somewhere important, even if it was only closer to the ocean. She had come out to see the ocean shortly after arriving in San Francisco, and she returned on most of her days off. She would walk along the shore and imagine her life. Today she was imagining what might happen at dinner, and hoping Edward would propose. Since she wasn't paying attention, a wave came up and caught her, getting the bottom of her dress wet. Catherine was glad she hadn't worn her new dress. That was for later tonight.
Beginning Number Two:
Catherine's head emerged from the saltwater, slicing through the surface into the air. She breathed in deeply, loving the damp murky scent of the Sutro Baths. She had hopscotched from pool to pool, the water getting progressively cooler each time. Now she was in her favorite element, the coldest of the seven salt water pools. She had not known that she had loved swimming while growing up on the plains of Nebraska. There had been nothing like this there. Now Catherine could think of no better way to start the celebration of her eighteenth birthday. Later in the day she would see Edward for dinner, and she hoped that he would propose, and they could begin a new life together. But right now, she grinned at the light streaming in the giant windows and slipped beneath the water to once again feel free.
P.S. By the way, be gentle, as these are both hot off the press, with minimum revision.