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The Importance of a Powerful Introduction in Fiction Writing
Some Thoughts Before You Read the Chapter
Truth be told, I read a lot. I mean a lot! I go through a book every two days. It’s always been that way for me. I love to read, and I firmly believe that reading has helped me as a writer.
Most of the books I read are mysteries. I have no idea why. I will go through spurts where I’ll read a bunch of biographies, or accounts about historical events, but I always come back to mysteries. James Lee Burke is my Mystery God; he can do no wrong, and I devour everything that he writes.
However, I have never written a mystery….not even a short story….until now.
I began this novel two weeks ago. Because of my other writing responsibilities, the progress on this novel is a bit slow. I’ve completed six chapters and I suspect I’ll complete the book within six months, at which time the re-writing will begin. My target date for publication is March, 2014.
With that introduction out of the way, I give you the first chapter of “A Season For Killing.”
Remember the Ten Second Rule of Writing as you read this. A writer has about ten seconds to capture the reading audience. If you have done that, then the rest of the first chapter better be fireworks to convince the reader to continue on for 300 pages. As you read this chapter, keep those two points in mind.
Finally, without any further ramblings, I give you the introductory chapter of "A Season For Killing."
Good tips from a lady who knows
More good thoughts on writing
I take no pleasure in killing. Never have, despite my background. The simple fact of the matter is that some people deserve to be eliminated. The molesters, the pimps, the drug dealers and the serial killers, they all deserve death. They deal in death and death they shall receive, and I am the Fed Ex man more than willing to drop by with a little package for them.
Willy Boy Hopkins, kneeling before me, was a prime example. Willy Boy had been making a living off of the misery of others for twenty of his thirty years. He killed a ten year old neighborhood girl when he was ten; sliced her throat from ear to ear on Christmas Eve, 1992. Left her in her backyard, discarded like so much refuse, where her parents found her one hour later.
Since then he had left more refuse behind, a human Katrina plowing through humanity and sucking energy from those he has harmed. I had no idea how many women Hopkins had killed; all I knew was Jeannie Adams had a sister one month ago and now she doesn’t, and this piece of shit was the reason. He met Jeannie’s sister at a bar, followed her to her car, and beat her to death with a Louisville Slugger.
I knew Jeannie; she called me, talked to me about her suspicions, and three months later I’m holding a .357 Magnum to Willy Boy’s ear and asking if he has anything he wants to say, like maybe he is sorry for the fact that Jeannie’s sister will never be twenty-five.
“Screw you, Baker! If you think I’m going to beg you then think again. Pull the damn trigger or shove that gun up your ass. Your choice.”
So I shot him! Old habits die hard.
No matter how many times I shoot someone, I will always be amazed by the amount of damage a high-velocity, soft point bullet can do to the human brain.
Well, in Willy Boy’s case, there wasn’t much left.
There was a church two blocks west and four blocks north. I had seen it driving in, and it seemed as good as any, so I walked there. Nobody was going to be coming for Willy Boy for awhile, not in that part of town.
I entered the stone cathedral and walked down the center aisle, my footsteps echoing off of the walls. I knelt down in the front pew, made the sign of the cross, and prayed to my God for forgiveness. “Bless me Father for I have sinned…”…that sort of thing. I don’t know if He listens to me. I don’t know if He cares. I just know it makes me feel better.
Old habits die hard!
I lit a candle in the vestibule for Willy Boy; dropped twenty bucks in the plate and left.
I had been a priest at one time. This was after my twelve years in Special Forces and before my five years working the down and dirty in Cleveland for the Cleveland Police Department. It seemed like the thing to do after my stay in Afghanistan; turned out to be a mistake. I’m not priest material, despite the dying wish of my mother. I gave it a try, spent three years with a white collar, until the day I met Peter Hodkins in the confessional and he told me he had raped his five year old daughter.
I left the priesthood that afternoon; Peter left this world that evening.
Don’t let anyone tell you that violence does not diminish us, because it does. A part of me died with Willy Boy, just as a part died with Peter and all the others. How can it not be so? If we do not feel the loss of a soul, what does that say about us? Willy Boy and I were united, just as Peter and I were united, and when they left this corporal world I felt it, deeply, and that feeling of loss will never leave me.
I walked back to where Willy Boy was still laying. I tossed a manila envelope, with a picture of Jeannie’s sister taped on the front, on his body, got in my car and drove away. Inside the envelope was all the evidence I had gathered on Willy Boy over the last three months. The cops would be able to close the case on Jeannie’s murder, and they wouldn’t be too eager to solve Willy Boy’s untimely death. Cops are like that; they never expend too much energy on the detritus of society.
So, What Do You Think?
Be gentle now; it’s a first attempt at a genre I am not comfortable with. Oh heck, you don’t have to be gentle if you don’t want to be. I’m just grateful you took the time to visit and read my first chapter.
So now we re-visit those two questions I posed at the beginning. Did I accomplish what I needed to do in the first ten seconds? Did I hook the read in ten ticks of the clock? If so, was the rest of the chapter interesting enough for you to want to read 300 more pages?
That is the challenge every fiction writer faces. Never underestimate the importance of that first chapter. Unless it is a slam-bam, thank you ma'am piece of literary art, you will lose your audience.
And we sure don't want to lose them before we even get started now do we?
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."