Usually associated with plants, of course, buds can be a great way to tease, inspire, and assist the fiction writer. What are the buds in your novel, and how can you use them?
What does a bud represent? Broadly speaking, hope. This is a great emotion for an opening chapter. Certainly readers want to know that predators abound, that conditions are imperfect, and that in such a horror of competition, someone’s got to lose. Which bud will it be? Which character will triumph over environmental pressure or succumb to adversity? A great opening clashes promise with defeat, and fruition with futility. Otherwise, why keep watching?
~ Present and future.
Aside from a bud’s appearance after a long, possibly painful hiatus, its symbolism reflects both immediacy and maturity. Isn’t this a new angle on your novel’s early and middle scenes? Each detail, description, pause, and hint should involve current significance along with outcome. Do you capitalize on the preliminary stage, or save too much for later? Don’t hoard. Rather than focusing exclusively on potential, use language and imagery to make each moment count.
~ Setting as set up.
Like every bud, the environment surrounding the character hints at what’s ahead. Although most buds represent success, some suffer blemish at the side or tip, perhaps discoloration that goes all the way down to the core. Without being overly obvious, how can you use the character’s world to suggest the doom that will drive your story?
Except for dandelions or burdock, people want most buds to mature. Fiction readers, though, follow story to learn how much will go wrong before it goes right. Your characterization, plot, and setting buds need enough imperfection for propulsion. Everything you first introduce should hint that there will be insufficient sun or rain, or the reverse. Each bud should arouse curiosity and the probability of mixed blessings.
The most appealing buds often tantalize by teasing, by leaving the outcome a bit uncertain. Humor evaporates if readers predict the joke or surprise ending too far in advance. Trickster shoots start out white, only to redden, or green only to blanch, or gold only to blush bronze. You’ll need subtlety, perhaps even duplicity, to hint that certain possibilities will ultimately prove improbable. And the reverse. If not, where’s the tension?
In the garden, this is a bloom, a snack, or even a dinner. In a novel, the harvest is the earned ending. Its origin springs from that initial bud. According to Gloria Naylor, author of The Women of Brewster Place,
One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work. It’s the DNA, spawning the second sentence, the second, the third.
Could the buds in your first sentence and chapter be more haunting? More significant?
Tip: The buds in your novel determine its outcome. Weed and fertilize accordingly.