What ever happened to starting at the beginning?
Have you noticed the formula for TV crime dramas lately?
One of last week's shows, for example began with a chase through a busy street in Boston. A young guy in a hoodie (of course) was being chased by two cops—down a busy street, over a fence, through a farmers market, down a crowded subway station—knocking over people and produce as they ran.
Just as I was wondering if the cops would overtake the runner, the frame froze and a caption came on the screen: ONE DAY EARLIER. Groan!
Only then did we get the true beginning of the story, and a half hour later we knew what had precipitated the chase.
Annoying! Sometimes we're taken back six months earlier, or one year earlier, or even twenty years earlier.
My guess is that TV programmers think viewers need some kind of thrilling, edge-of-seat opening, or we won't be interested enough to stay with the show. We've been pegged as an impatient, non-thinking crowd, needing to be entertained and titillated every second lest we bail for a show where celebs are dancing or families are feuding.
The device follows the trend to place great emphasis on beginnings in writing. There are conferences and sites that feature opening line contests, and warnings to those writing query letters that our success depends on our opening HOOK, on the first page, or, at most the first chapter of our manuscript. If we don't have grabbers at the beginning, we might as well chuck the rest of the novel.
What about the middle? The end? Of the last hundred or so novels I've read in the last year, at most a half dozen of them had satisfying endings, endings that lived up to the great, attention-grabbing beginning. That's a lot of disappointment.
Maybe there should be last-line contests.