That first blank page...
I love those movies about writers that show the character staring at a blank screen, watching the cursor blink in a beckoning manner as if to say, C’mon, show me what you got?
Working a forty hour week outside my home office, I don’t have time to stare at a blank page. When I sit down at the keyboard, I need to know I have something to say. Perhaps that’s why it takes me soooo long to start a new book. That first page sets the tone for everything that comes after it. And it has to be juuuuuust right.
So, where to start? At the beginning? Oh, heck no. Start at the point of change.
Start with action. That was the advice I got when I first started writing and wanted to begin my historicals with backstory. Nooooo! Stop! Instead, pull the reader right into the thick of it, sometimes against their will, and get them totally invested by the end of that first page. That’s my goal. Hook them and don’t let them go. A page turner begins on page one.
I know a lot of professionals tsk-tsk, but I love to start a book with a prologue. Drop the poor reader into the middle of it with no explanation. Here are the characters. Here’s something horrible or life changing that tips their world upside down. WTF! I guess I’m just a tease. In fact, that first page, that prologue, that first chapter should be an incredible, irresistible tease that leaves the reader dying to find out who these people are and what happens next. The significance of that prologue scene may not come into play until late in the book but believe me, it matters. A lot!
So, back to where to start… With the hero? With the heroine? With a seemingly unrelated incident? For the answer, an author has to have a pretty good handle on the story and where it’s going in order to pick who has the most at stake in that opening scene. Who has the biggest secret? Who needs immediate reader empathy? What incident is the catalyst for everything that follows? For BETRAYED BY SHADOWS, I picked the hero Giles St. Clair’s pivotal moment where a choice he made took his life in a dramatic darker turn. Though he’d been a secondary in earlier books, I didn’t know anything about him other than he’d been introduced as a thug working for a New Orleans mobster. And I wondered why. What would make this affable, big hearted guy step off an honorable path? Hopefully, now I’ve got you wondering, too.
Start with action. With dialogue. With crisp, quick movement and little set up. With characters that are dynamic. Let the reader be as disoriented, shocked, and confused as those unfortunate characters . . . but leave them wanting more. Leave them asking, What happens next?
Here’s my tease from BETRAYED BY SHADOWS . . . Have I done my job?
“So, who do you want killed?”
It was just business to Jimmy Legere, but to the unexpected visitor balancing on that razor’s edge of no going back, it would change everything.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have come to you.”
Balls and respect. Jimmy liked that. He leaned back in his chair, fingers tented, amused. “So why you here, fixin’ to make a deal with the devil, college boy?”
Giles St. Clair took a deciding breath. “I need to know who murdered my father.”
Legere waved a dismissing hand. ”Tracking down murderers is the NOPD’s job.”
“Well, they didn’t do a very damn good one.” Heat sparked in St. Clair’s words. “They asked questions, filled out forms, then filed my father away in a drawer. They weren’t interested in justice when it pointed someplace they’re paid not to go.”
He didn’t have to specify where; his unwavering stare said it plainly enough. All avoided roads led to organized crime.
“So you came to me. You think I can do better?” Legere challenged, still indulgent.
“Considering the killer was employed by Vic Vantour, I’m certain of it.”
The mobster’s eyes narrowed with cunning interest. Vantour. His biggest competitor for the docks, an annoying roadblock to the full control he coveted. “Vantour? You sure of that, boy? What kind of business did he have with your daddy?”
“None. That’s what got him killed.” The lip curl of disgust showed that Giles St. Clair hated lowering himself to make this request of someone no better than the villain he was after.
Jimmy’s smile widened. “You think your daddy would approve of what you’re doing now?”
“No. But he’ll rest easier once it’s done. And so will I.”
“A man’s life is expensive,” Legere mused, tapping his fingertips together as he waited for the young man to squirm and plead. But the kid never broke a sweat. His intensity was almost unnerving. “So, how you planning to pay for this favor? With your college fund?”
The young man’s features tightened. “That’s my mama’s money.”
Jimmy shrugged, then baited his trap like the skilled predator he was. “So maybe you’re thinking of working it off. Whatchu going to school for?”
“I got me a slew a businessmen already, the best money can buy. And something tells me you knew the second you stepped into this room that you weren’t going back to college to finish that degree.”
That cold and bitter truth was met with a determined “What do you need?”
Jimmy took his time studying the young man who’d come so boldly into his home. Behind the Ivy League clothes was the stuff that gave starch to the boy’s spine and fire to his stare. Stuff Jimmy could use and mold.
Though the kid’s voice was unaccented, Jimmy caught the earthy patois of Cajun Country. Tough, no-nonsense folk, those bayou people; clannish by nature, suspicious of outsiders, but fiercely loyal once their word was given. Jimmy assessed him critically. A big fellow, broad shoulders, with an unmovable stance and a direct, unflinching stare. That could be valuable, once channeled into intimidation.
“Max,” Jimmy called quietly.
“Whatchu need, Jimmy?” came a low rumble from the shadows of the room.
“Find out about Vic Vantour’s interest in—” Jimmy broke off and asked his guest, “What’s your daddy’s name?”
“Clovis Robichaux,” the college boy said, hard resignation flatlining his gaze.
The kid wasn’t a fool. He knew what he was getting into, signing his name in Jimmy’s book of souls.
“Get a name for the trigger man, Max.”
“You want me to take care of him for you, Jimmy?”
Legere passed Max’s question along with a lift of his brow.
“No,” St. Giles replied quietly. “It’s family. I’ll take care of it myself.”
Jimmy believed he would.
And he believed he’d just acquired a damned fine asset.
Balancing a criminal empire and a preternatural clan war, reluctant front man Giles St. Clair doesn’t need a problem like Brigit MacCreedy . . . How much trouble can the head-strong and manipulative Shifter beauty get into in two weeks? Plenty when her schemes range from kidnapping to fleeing the retribution of her dead lover’s clan.
With her family’s lives on the line, Brigit is willing to do whatever it takes to save them. The only thing standing in her way is an immovable stone wall of a man she can’t bully or beguile . . . a human, no less, who has promised to protect her from the secrets and dangers she conceals.
Risking her own safety gets complicated when an honorable and annoyingly desirable man puts himself between her and her powerful enemies in a battle he can’t win in this Taming of the Shrew meets Shifter Goodfellas on the Bayou tale of consequences, redemption and finding love in all the wrong places.
An author of over fifty novels since 1987, Nancy Gideon thrives on variety. Under her own name and several pseudonyms, she’s written award-winning series suspense, historical and paranormal bestsellers, earned a “Career Achievement for Historical Adventure”, and has had two original horror screenplays optioned for film. A Michigan native, she works full time as a legal administrative assistant and feeds a NetFlix addiction.
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