ADDED 5:13 pm Sunday: Oh! Toni has a winner from last week! Elisabeth (commenter #9). Yeah! Please email Toni at toni [dot] causey [at] gmail.com and give her your preferred email address and whether you want an Amazon or a BN or Borders gift certificate. Toni will then email the gift certificate directly to you!
Now back to the regularly scheduled blog . . .
I start writing a new book tomorrow. I would start today, but I’m revising the final two chapters of my current book one last time. It’s crucial to make sure the ending is not only satisfying, but that all the loose ends are tied up, and those that are continuing threads are at least neatly identified. Writing a series is HARD WORK–I didn’t realize how hard until now.
But whatever difficulty I have in ending a book, it’s nothing like the beginning of a book. And the most important question for me now is:
WHERE DOES THE STORY START?
Because this is a series, and this book takes place about two weeks after the book I just finished (well, I THINK two weeks, I’m not quite sure because I haven’t started it yet), the story really started two books ago. Of course, readers don’t want a boring recap of what happened in the first 900 pages of this saga.
For CARNAL SIN, I started with another vision for my heroine, prompting a tense conversation between characters where I could both advance the story and give the reader the minimum information she needs to understand the story. But since my heroine is not in town at the beginning of MORTAL SIN, I can’t do that again–and it would be kinda boring to do the same thing.
LAW & ORDER is brilliant in how they enter a scene “late”–meaning, after the action or in the middle of action. Elliot and Liv go in asking questions. No lengthy set-up. Dead body? Rape victim? We see part of the set-up (prologue) and then jump into the middle of the investigation. We don’t see them being called, or stopping for donuts, or having a conversation about how they spent the night before. BORING. Sure, it might go to character, but we can get that information in context, not in the beginning.
I love starting books with a dead body. A standard opening in mysteries–a crime to be solved. I’ve done it in many of my books:
SPEAK NO EVIL:
Her death had not been easy.
Homicide detective Carina Kincaid stared at the dead, naked corpse of the young woman, avoiding the wide-eyed terror etched on her face. her mouth was gagged, but what drew Carina’s eye was the word slut scrawled in thick black marker across her chest. A small red rose was tattooed on her left breast.
The homeless man’s murder had been ritualistic, brutal, and efficient.
Rowan Smith learned about Doreen Rodriguez’s murder from the reporters camped out in her front yard Monday morning.
Because in MORTAL SIN, one of my main characters is suspected of murder, I thought–why not start with finding the body? Not let the reader know–through reading the scene–whether he’s innocent or guilty. When I get into his head, the reader will know (he’s a reliable narrator) but initially, there are doubts. And, perhaps, he’ll know more about the death than he lets on to the other characters–
But still, I don’t know for sure that this is the best place to start, hence my preoccupation with beginnings today.
So I pulled out some books from my TBR pile and read the first paragraph of two, just for fun. Now for a little game: read the openings and tell me which book you would most like to read. (And if you know the book, don’t let on! I’ll post the titles in the comments at the end of today.)
At the mass of the dead, the priest placed the wafer of unleavened bread and the cheap red wine on the linen corporal draping the altar. Both paten and chalice were silver. They had been gifts from the man inside the flower-blanketed coffin resting at the foot of the two worn steps that separated priest from congregation.
“You have a whisker.”
Though I hear the loudly whispered comment, it doesn’t quite register, as I am rapt with adoration, staring at the wonder that is my hour-old niece. Her face still glows red from the effort of being born, her dark blue eyes are as wide and calm as a tortoise’s. I probably shouldn’t tell my sister that her baby reminds me of a reptile. Well. The baby is astonishingly beautiful. Miraculous.
Every eye in the newsroom followed me as I left Kramer’s office and walked back to my pod. The long looks made it a long walk. The pink slips always came out on Fridays and they all knew I had just gotten the word. Except they weren’t called pink slips anymore. Now it was an RIF form–as in Reduction in Force.
They all felt the slightest tingle of relief that it hadn’t been them and the slightest tingle of anxiety because they still knew that no one was safe. Any one of them could be called in next.
I’ve always wondered what people felt in the final few hours of their lives. Did they know something terrible was about to occur? Sense imminent tragedy, hold their loved ones close? Or is it one of those things that simply happens? The mother of four, tucking her kids into bed, worrying about the morning car pool, the laundry she still hasn’t done, and the funny noise the furnace is making again, only to catch an eerie creak coming from down the hall. Or the teenage girl, dreaming about her Saturday shopping date with her BFF, only to open her eyes and discover she’s no longer alone in her room. or the father, bolting awake, thinking, “What the fuck?” right before the hammer catches him between the eyes.
Cops aren’t supposed to get frightened. The badge and the uniform and the gun strapped to a cop’s side are intended to ward off the normal fears that most people experience when confronted by unspeakable horror and evil.
But it doesn’t always work out that way. Cops get scared, just like everyone else. Sometimes they get so scared, they run for their lives. Other times, they get shaken to the core and never forget the things they’ve seen. It happened to me, two years into the job.
On January first, Mac rolled over to smack her alarm clock, and ended up facedown on the floor of her studio.
“Shit. Happy New Year.”
She lay, groggy and baffled, until she remembered she’d never made it upstairs into bed–and the alarm was from her computer, set to wake her at noon.
Okay, those are the six pleasure books on the top of my TBR pile–meaning, I’d looked through them on Friday to pick something to read for the weekend, and those interested me the most, but then one thing led to another and I didn’t have time to start anything new. If those six books were at the top of your TBR pile, which would you read first? Remember, don’t spoil the fun and give away the author!
And as a little teeny reminder . . . ORIGINAL SIN went on sale this week. It’s a supernatural thriller–a little different than what I’ve been writing, but I had a lot of fun writing something new! So to celebrate . . . I’m giving one copy away to a random commenter. Just tell me your favorite beginning (above) or just say hi!