It can be surprisingly difficult to "plant" that initial seed, but it's so important to a lot of stories, because it is what will bloom into the larger meaning of the story (if you'll forgive the botanic metaphors). Anyway, I'm re-reading a YA novel that I fell in love with when I was a kid--My Name is Sus5an Smith. The 5 Is Silent by Louise Plummer--and I've been admiring how the book starts off with a moment from the past that's crucial to the front story.
|Armadillo snipped from here.|
The novel's arc will follow Sus5an as she develops into an independent young adult and artist, but it will also cover her quest to find out who she is and a place where she will finally belong--and it will also include a search for her ex-uncle, Willy. So, instead of opening with Sus5an's departure from Springville high school to Boston, the novel begins with a 4-page scene of the last time she saw Willy. It's such a smart beginning, because it's a simple, specific moment; it's a discrete milestone (the very day that Willy left); and it sets 8-year-old Susan up for the eventual inciting incident (Susan's high school art show and graduation) and the book's larger journey.
It also leaves us with a great metaphor that helps guide the rest of the novel--the idea of flying. At first it's literal flying--Willy swings Susan around in circles by her hands and feet--and then it transitions into more figurative forms of flying. First, Willy--who was an airforce pilot--describes his overseas tours to a wistful Susan who longs to travel to exotic locations, and it's clear that both uncle and niece are dreamers who long for escape. Then, Susan tells Willy that she, too, wants to fly a plane, and presents him with a picture she's drawn of him flying over the mountains. His reaction cements not only their relationship, but Susan's future aspirations:
|Snipped from here.|
"'...Listen girl,, he said, holding me around the waist. His arms were brown and smooth, his fingers long and nicely shaped: artistic fingers. 'When you do fly over the mountains, make sure you fly in your own plane so no one else can tell you where it is you have to go. Remember that. Fly in your own plane. It's real important.'"Despite its economy and simplicity, its emotional intensity and the importance of this moment in future Sus5an's life are more than enough to invest the reader in the remaining 200 or so pages of the book--and Willy becomes a force powerful enough to vie for Prince Charming's role, or at least the Prince Charming Sus5an wishes him to be.