Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Frantic State of Being

Open with a bang.

That's what I always say. Now, whether that is an actual bang from gunshot, explosion or door slamming really doesn't matter, I like to come in shooting. Literary speaking of course, I myself am scared to death of guns, even though I have shot one.

I've written books-several-where my hero or heroine are pinned down by gunfire, being chased by armed men, or in the midst of a bad landing in a hostile atmosphere in the first line of the book. My characters are truly tortured in the worst sense of the word.

Take my latest romantic suspense for instance. My poor heroine wakes in a hospital with no knowledge of the accident that landed her there, being told by plain-clothes police that her soon-to-be ex-husband was in the car and killed in said accident. Really now. That's quite the shocker to wake up to. But instead of having the old cliched heroine who can't remember her name or her reason for being with Mr. Ex in the first place, I have narrowed the memory loss to the few days before the collision. Thus the mystery begins.

This is what I call an emotional bang. Instead of starting out of the block with the car hitting the brick wall, I moved the action to the pinpoint of light she sees when first opening her eyes. The reader then gets to journey with her and her quest to fit the peices of the puzzle together. A much more interesting take than to spoon-feed the reader the information beforehand. (I'm not a big fan of spoon-feeding, if you haven't guessed.)

The problem comes about when trying to sustain the action at a high level throughout the manuscript. And what about the love scenes? The developing relationship between hero and heroine? All must move along in a reasonable fashion, while not bogging down the action, or dragging the plot down.

Not an easy task.

Well, I've managed to successfully do this in sci-fi and futuristic novellas for some reason. Why then, moving the time period to the present and setting the New Jersey Pine Barrens instead of a space battle outside a station light-years away, is it so difficult?

My characters are universal in emotion and experience. Not saying they are all the same, but there are certain hallmarks of the human experience that are universally recognized. Depending on the culture, these things may change in order of importance, but are usually found on the list of needs. (Remember Maslov?)The way the characters go about obtaining or fulfilling the needs can add to the action and keep the plot from bogging down.

So, the big bang opening gets to ripple out like a pebble on a pond. The physical danger bleeds into the emotional and sexual danger. The characters are poised on a knife's edge wondering whether they are going to be alive to see the sunrise, or die in a hail of bullets tonight. And all the while wanting each other with a desperation that keeps the tension high.

Oh, yeah. I believe in opening with a bang- and keeping my characters guessing as to what peril I'm going to place them in next. What about you?



Minx Malone said...

I definitely like when a book starts in the action. It grabs my attention and then later I'll actually care about the backstory LOL

Sierra Wolfe said...

Nice post Kate! You started off with a bang! ;) I enjoyed reading how you like to start off your stories. Thanks for sharing.

Alisha Paige said...

This is an excellent way to suck the reader in, Kate! I've used this technique before too and love it. And I hate spoon feeding the reader as well just as much as I hate being spoon fed while reading. Let me figure it out! Keep me turning those pages! Thanks for starting our blog off with a bang!

Mark Alders said...

Good on ya, Kate! Action works for me, too!

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