If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In the beginning...

As writers, we’re often told to begin our stories “in media res,” which translates as “in the middle of things.”

It is a truth universally acknowledged...
Present day readers want the story to begin right away. They aren’t inclined to read patiently through background or exposition. Authors are challenged to find a “hook,” something which pulls the reader into the story right away.

As kids, we’d get goose bumps at when someone read, “Once upon a time…” we knew it was the beginning of a story. We’d settle down to wait for the story to begin.

The next words were often, “far away and long ago.” More goose bumps.

Many classics started with passive sentences. Who can forget the timeless opening of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley starts with a letter from R. Walton to his sister, discussing, of all things, the weather. 
It was a dark and stormy night...
Try to get that past an agent or an editor these days.

Charlie Brown’s Snoopy, who fancies himself an author, sitting on his doghouse with a typewriter, starts many of his efforts with “It was a dark and stormy night...”

The Bulwer-Lytton Contest (http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/index.html) annually solicits and selects dreadful first sentences, paying homage to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s opening for his novel, Paul Clifford. While he was not the first to use that opening, his use of it rose to an art form.
 It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” — Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

Jim Jackson's
Bad Policy
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Thriller Fest and the ITW have started a contest for the best first sentences. (http://thrillerfest.com/best-first-sentence-contest/)

B.K. Stevens, a mystery writer with a number of novels and short stories to her name, including a twelve-piece series that has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, presents a different author each Tuesday on her “First Two Pages” Blog. The author discusses how he or she has started a novel, what led to the choices, and how the reader is drawn in by the beginning of the story.

On June 2, WWK’s own Jim Jackson presented the first two pages of his book, Bad Policy, (Barking Rain Press, January, 2014) and gave us his "opening six pack" designed to immediately engross the reader in his story.
Paula Gail Benson's
"The Train's on the Tracks"
appears in this anthology.

And on June 9, Paul Gail Benson, another WWK blogger, told us of the special challenges presented by short stories. She used her short story, "The Train's on the Tracks," which appears in Fish or Cut Bait: A Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press, April, 2015) to illustrate how important those first two pages can be to a story that may run only ten pages or so.

And today, the site features the first two pages of Steeled for Murder, (Wildside, 2015)  the first in my Jesse Damon Crime Novel series. Yet another approach, but also intended to draw the reader irresistibly into the story.

Steeled for Murder.
first in the
Jesse Damon Crime Novel series
Link to B.K. Steven's Mysteries
Blog: The First Two Pages

link: (http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com/blog/

Do you find the first two pages of a story or novel to be "make it or break it" for deciding whether to continue reading?

Can you think of any books you like with extraordinary beginnings?


Jim Jackson said...

I know I am a bit unusual as a reader. I am willing to be patient, to let an author set up the story. What I find most aggravating with a number of published works and untold number of unpublished works I read when I was a reader for Poisoned Pen Press, is when authors start at the right place in the story and then shortly thereafter dump a page or two or even a chapter of deadly boring backstory, seemingly forgetting all they learned in the first two pages about being active and keeping the story moving forward.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

I am less patient than Jim. If a writer doesn't have me hooked in the first two pages, I joined the legion of those who got away.
Of all the books I have read only two improved significantly after forgettable openings.

KM Rockwood said...

If a set up is intriguing, Jim, I'm willing to be a patient reader and let it build for a good story. And I do have a tendency to want to write that way. But I don't think most people will continue to read, so I usually end up starting my story on page five or so of the original draft. Backstory is essential, but it's hard to supply it without boring readers. Some of my favorite books start with a prelude, but these days, that alternative isn't often well-regarded.

KM Rockwood said...

Warren, I know what you mean. There are too many good books out there to waste your reading time on ones that don't interest you right away.

Shari Randall said...

I know it is strange, but I'll often dip into a story half way through and make my decision about reading it that way. Is it worth reading to get to that point? is my metric. I've become numb to the "starting off with a bang" (though I've done it myself in a manuscript because I thought it showed something important about the protagonist).
BTW, I like the way to started your story with dialogue. That pulled me in immediately.

Gloria Alden said...

KM, I agree with KM. I was hooked from the beginning of your book and every one in the series that followed. Like Jim, I'm willing to give a book a chance. Because my book clubs pick books that weren't necessarily my choice, I may find it slow going at first, but almost always find myself hooked and glad I'd read the book. A dead body in the first chapter doesn't necessarily hook me.I have to like the characters and want to care what happens to them.

Kara Cerise said...

I like for the first two pages of a book to grab my attention and transport me to another world. But I will keep reading past that point if the characters are compelling.

KM, your good advice inspired me to revise the opening of a short story that I'm in the middle of writing.

KM Rockwood said...

Shari, that's a wonderful idea! I must admit I never tried it. But if the middle of a story makes you wonder what happened before and how it will end, it's a pretty good indication you'd like the book.

KM Rockwood said...

Gloria, I find my book club makes me read books I otherwise would not, and because they all tend to be good books, I've never been sorry I read them.

Characters who make you care what happens to them are the best "hook."

KM Rockwood said...

Kara, it happened to me yet again. My critique group met last Saturday (we go to a lovely bistro for a late breakfast) and I handed in a short story. The first comment was, "Your story begins at the top of page four."

Sigh. You'd think I'd learn.