The Importance of Your Book’s First Scene

The first impression you make on someone is vitally important. The same can be said about the importance of your book’s first scene. After writing my first draft of “Shell Game,” I came back and decided that my first scene didn’t have a strong hook. I went back to the drawing board in the rewriting process.

Do Some Soul Searching

After a day or so of soul searching, I came up with a new opening scene and revised first chapter. I actually did not realize the dramatic impact of the first scene until I let some fellow writers read it, and also, read it to my writing group. 

The rewrite accomplished several writing goals. The opening…

  • Started the story at a pivotal and suspense filled moment.
  • Introduced an unusual situation, intriguing characters and antagonists in a surprising and frightening setting.
  • Allowed me to package surprise, conflict and dread in the first encounter.

But I still wanted to up the ante of this suspenseful beginning scene. I added an unsuspecting protagonist, preoccupied with her own problems.

Up The Stakes

My job during the next chapters was to up the stakes. I needed to turn the screws to force my main character along with fellow protagonists and supporting characters to take direct action. I wanted them as deeply involved in the conflict and problems shown in the opening chapter throughout the rest of the book.

Critique Your Manuscript

When I gave my final manuscript to others for critique, I realized that I had done a good job in drawing people into the story of Shell Game. People were invested and interested in finding out what happened to the characters. I created a “whodunnit” and the question of “why.” 

Make Your Work Relatable

Shell Game has a universal element that is relatable, if not scary. The characters are placed into an unknown situation. Making matters worse, they are immediately fraught with physical danger from unknown persons and situations. 

The medical aspect of my thriller offered me some seriously creepy and gruesome means to inflict mayhem on my protagonists and their supporting characters. Being a medical “insider” has given me the ability to take what I know about hospitals and peri-operative processes and pervert it to create challenges and obstacles for my characters.

As for my next goal with my novels? I hope to invoke the same type of instant “Gotcha!” and interest that I feel I’ve created with the first chapter of Shell Game.


Truth is Stranger than Fiction

As they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” I’ve often wondered why I have been blessed or perhaps cursed with odd experiences. Add to that wonderment, the fact that I work in the world of anesthesia and my experiences become compounded. If I had to point to a reason for my unusual experiences, it must be to give me a wealth of material for my books.

Writing from Reality

Much of my writing  material has happened in one form or another. I like to write about the underside and back rooms of the glossy and polished for public consumption side of medicine. It is frequently not pretty or nice, and many times, a rosy, neat ending doesn’t occur. But within those messy endings is a universe of themes and characters to be explored and excavated.

I’ve found the reluctant heroine, the ruthless antagonist, the helpful sidekick — all with their own stories of consequence. My own life adventures and misadventures find a way into my stories and help to create my characters. Naturally, I want to frame them in the context of current day topics and situations to which people can relate.

My Process

I get to create a world of my choosing filled with people in all of their flawed, messy glory. How do I keep all my characters and their quirks straight? I write about them extensively in documents that never see the light of day. These are my “character bibles” — detailed analyses of every quirk, tick, and habit. The process of writing and conducting research to help me flesh out my characters, create their backstories, and find their motivations is both fun and fascinating. 

My quirky habit of traversing the internet rabbit hole in search of factoids, is finally coming in handy! People are far from monolithic and typical. Tropes and stereotypes are easy to write about, and, in my eyes, boring.  I strive to present characters who remind me of real people, in all of their foibles, weaknesses, and strengths. 

Taryn and Blake were fun and relatively easy to create and write about. Now, I’m on to the next challenge — my next protagonist. Who is… well, that’s a mystery writer for you.