The Daily Writes: Day 2
It’s been a slow day. The difficulty of not having a map is that you have to almost wait to see what’s going to happen. In beginning my story – the piece I wrote yesterday is a kind of prologue – I have to establish the pace. My temptation, always, is to give everything away immediately, but it’s one I have to resist.
There are tricks to do this, but I have to make myself use them.
So, I began with action – something that’s fundamental to the story is happening. The surrogate mother of the little boy born six years earlier is turning up out of the blue at the house of the couple who are raising him. She is about to confront my main character for the first time in the book.
I start with the line: She arrived on a hot, sunny day in late September, when it seemed as if the summer might not give up the ghost and morph into autumn.
This opener will change, probably several times, in the redrafting of the book, but for now it’s a scene-setter.
But instead of bringing her centre stage instantly, I now explore what’s happening for my main character at this moment, and how it relates to his life as it is at this time. It’s a kind of winding back from the present, but it’s important not to go to far. No reader wants too much back-story at the beginning of a book, no matter what the genre, because it stops the forward motion.
I want my reader to want to know what happens when my main character opens the front door and finds the surrogate mom standing there, but I have to string the action along a little bit. It’s like throwing down breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. The opening gambit is a breadcrumb, but you have to know when to throw down the next one. You have to feel your way.
500 words in, I still haven’t thrown the next breadcrumb. But it will come soon.