I was working on a scene for Paladin today and something popped into my head. That, of course, is wonder enough, but this was something good.
Barbara and most of the people who have read the opening scene of Paladin have encouraged me to up the stakes. I’ve been a little hesitant because I didn’t see how to do it without having some extraneous disaster happen.
Barbara is patiently nudging me in the right direction like she thinks I am part Charolais. They are beautiful cattle, but they do have a very bad habit of jumping the fence like a deer if you crowd them. So, Barbara of Infinite Patience, has been encouraging me to show more immediately the heroic traits of my mc.
Lo and behold, Donald Maass has some very good advice in his book WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. Guess what some of the first advice is? Who are your heroes? What attributes do they have? How do they apply to your character? Do you demonstrate that or hint at that in the opening pages?
Yes, it finally soaks in what Barbara has been trying to tell me. Don’t kill the opening chapter; strengthen the tension.
So my opening lines go from:
Papa adored Mama, and normally he gave her whatever she desired. Mama didn’t ask for much, but when she did, he made it happen. He was resisting this time, however. They’d been arguing, discussing as Mama said, since the far rider stopped by with a message three weeks before.
In her nearly sixteen years, Gentyl had never seen her parents fight, and yet that’s all they had done since the far rider came by three weeks before.
The internal monologue in the first scene becomes a skirmish between Gen and her mother.
The relaxing bath becomes her daydreaming about being a far rider (courier for the Horse Guards) and how happy and content she is just to be part of the cavalry. Her happy reverie is shattered by her mother’s complaints about her dawdling when they have important business.
With just a few changes, the tension is heightened dramatically. By the time I finish going over the whole chapter with a magnifying glass to look for more opportunities, I think I will finally have the chapter I need.
Yes, I am happy.
Of course, just fiddling with the scene about Gen riding; makes me miss my horses terribly. One of these days…
I made the hotel reservations for Surrey. I’ll be flying in Wednesday if all goes well and staying through Sunday.