by Earl Staggs
Ideas for stories are not hard to come by. Everywhere I look, I see something I could develop into a short story or a novel. Coming up with characters to populate the story is not difficult either. Once the story rolls around between the ears a few times, people materialize who want to be in it. Things that happen during the story come easily, too. Once the story is underway, I come up with a multitude of things that could happen. It’s only a matter of choosing the best ones. Endings? Maybe the easiest of all. There are only a small number of places where the story could lead and how it could end. Again, it’s a matter of choosing the best one.
So what is NOT easy for me in a new story? It’s where to begin. I have trouble coming up with the perfect opening sentence or paragraph. Even though I already have a good grasp on the basic plot, what characters will be involved, what will happen as it plays out and where it will all wind up, I can’t start writing until I’m sure exactly where to begin. I need that first scene to start the ball rolling. Once I have that, it doesn’t take long to knock out the whole story. At least, the first draft.
For example, I’ve wanted to write a sequel to my first novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER, for quite a while. I knew the plot and the paths Adam Kingston, the protagonist, would follow. My problem was, where to begin the story?
Then I thought back to that first book and about how it began. In the opening scene, Adam is awakened by a woman’s voice saying:
"Adam Kingston! Get your skinny butt out of that bed."
Her voice cut through his sleep and made him cringe. He pulled his face out of his pillow, forced one eye open, and turned his head far enough for a squinting glance around. Yes. He was in his own bedroom.
He opened the other eye and focused on the figure standing at the foot of his bed. Slim, well-dressed, skin the color of cocoa, arms folded across her chest, dark eyes boring into him. He plunged his face back into his pillow and mumbled, "Dammit, Ellie."
After thrashing about in vain for a good opening to the sequel, it finally occurred to me I might begin it in a similar manner. I decided to give it a try, and the opening turned out to be the same woman’s voice saying:
“Adam Kingston, what the hell have you done now?”
Adam grimaced and held his cell phone away from his ear. Ellie always yelled when she was pissed.
“I didn’t do anything, Ellie. I only called to ask--”
“Did you pull one of those stupid practical jokes on her like you and Phil do to each other?”
Yes! That worked. That opening brought in the main character along with an important secondary character in a situation that would allow me to open with a subplot and easily seque into the primary plot. Once I had that opening scene, the rest of it followed along just fine. Not that it was easy, mind you. Writing is never easy, but once I had the opening, I was on my way.
Now you know one of the problems I have every time I begin a new story. Maybe other writers have the same problem. By that I mean, they can’t begin a story until they have what they feel is the perfect opening line.
Or, am I strange and different from everyone else?
Naaahhhh. There’s nothing wrong with me.
Move over, Reacher. Step aside, Bourne. Tall Chambers is in town and nothing will stop him. They murdered someone close to him. Now. . .it's personal.
JUSTIFIED ACTION is available in print or ebook form at: http://tiny.cc/e85ftw
“. . .immediately engaging. . .smooth plotting and fine prose keep the pages turning swiftly. . .thoroughly enjoyable. . .” Gloria Felt
“. . .a high-octane thriller that will keep you reading through the night.” Mark Troy
“. . .Fast action with twists and turns makes this novel a thrilling read.” Kevin Tipple
Read Chapter One at: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com