THAT First Sentence

by RS on January 2, 2015

I suffer as always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amazing the terrors, the magics, the prayers, the straitening shyness that assail one. ~ John Steinbeck

Hard to believe that the man who wrote this had any trouble coming up with getting down that first grabber:

To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

I spent almost an entire week coming up, “He needed a shave, Sandor thought, rubbing his stubbled jawline as he unlocked the door of his brick townhouse.” I fiddled with it and finally came with that gem (cough). Although the chapter turned out okay, I realized 2,600 words later that I went completely in the wrong direction. Yes, he’ll still need a shave because it plays an important part of the story, but everything in the middle needs to be reworked. At the moment it lacks the emotional tension of a man verging on the edge of a breakdown and the micro-tension that lead to that trigger. So it’s back to the drawing board.

This story is very different from Julius. It isn’t political, but it still deals with history and how it shapes the characters. The past and their personal heritage is what drives them. Today I posted a quote (yes, I am full of them today) from Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night:

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

This is the crux of the new story—questions of identity, heritage, and sins of the father. Perhaps not as much research Julius, but I find that I’m questioning more how one reacts when he learns a terrible truth about his heritage that’s a black mark in history. Does he take on the burden of the guilt and come to terms with it or does he shamefully and fearfully hide it? Are the children of criminals responsible for the sins of their fathers? 

Those are the two questions I’ll be trying to figure about one of my main characters of how he lives with his fabrications and what occurs when the truth surfaces. The challenge is to figure out those emotions and be able to add enough tension that makes the reader somewhat uneasy. It’s a difficult task because I’m digging into areas that I’ve never experienced and I need to rely on sheer imagination.

So I end this post with this: 2015 is all about new challenges in life and writing. I welcome them without any complaint.

2 comments
guilie172
guilie172

Sounds brilliant, Rebeca. I sympathize with the "write what you don't know" sensation of somersaults on thin ice, but I'm sure you'll manage it perfectly. And yes, that first sentence is always torture :)


Happy new year!

Guilie http://guilie-castillo-oriard.blogspot.com

RebecaSchiller
RebecaSchiller moderator

@guilie172 Happy New Year! That first chapter was a challenge, and I will get back to it. I have a much better idea of how it will work out after mulling over it for a few days.

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