Every author has their nemesis when it comes to constructing a book. For many people, it's the infamous saggy middle where the action drops off after a furious introduction. Some writers can't end the damned book to save their lives. I can think of one of my favorite MM romance authors who has trouble ending her stories. They just seem to end, then go on, and kind of end again, but nope, still going. This writer can't let go.
For other writers, the challenge is the premature or delayed opening.
Where do you start a book? "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Nope. Starting stories in omniscient point-of-view full of grand prose may be great for classics, but a modern reader won't accept a romance written that way.Today's reader wants to be hooked instantly or she/he will give up and move on to a book that gets started faster.This means a writer can't waste a second on back story or scenery or even character setup. Bam. We need to meet the main character and know what his or her problem is just that fast. Very soon thereafter, almost always in the first chapter and usually in the first few scenes, we have to meet the love interest. And all of this needs to be set up with a touch of excitement.
Sheee-it! Caleb hit the ground, pain flashing through the twice-broken shoulder. Needed breath. Needed to hang on to the damned soccer ball. Don’t let go. He clutched that baby to his chest with his mitts. Pain. All over. Just your regular. Don’t let go. Scar tissue held. Rib broken? Maybe just bruised. Had to get up, kick in.
Hands grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. Crap, it hurt. Noise. Crowd cheering. No, more than cheering, going ape shit. The clock must have run out.
Whoa! Two guys grabbed him and hoisted him into the air on their shoulders. He grinned. Brave guys. He was a load. Wobbling. Hitting the ground again did not sound fun. He waved a mitt to the screaming fans. Oh yeah. Guess he’d blocked the kick that would have tied the game. Final whistle. Game over. Rocket Dogs win. The season is done. Thank God.
After getting pounded on the back several hundred times, shaking countless hands, giving five media interviews, and taking a quick shower, he stood beside the bench in the locker room trying to get his boxer briefs pulled up.
“Great game, bro.”
“Helluva save, baby.”
Guys slapped his shoulder in congratulations, and he tried hard not to wince.
Suddenly the noise from the hall got louder. He glanced up to see the locker room door burst open. Well, crap. He pulled the briefs up fast as a wild-eyed girl, probably about nineteen or twenty, ran into the big room. “Cal. Cal, baby.”
Her eyes widened when she saw him. Where were his clothes? He grabbed for his shirt as she raced across the open space toward him, bumping into guys in towels and less. A few feet away, she hurled herself straight at his half-naked body. Think fast, Martin. Catch her, or let her fall? Oof. The shirt went flying. One hundred twenty pounds of squirming female climbed all over him. He tried to keep her from hurting herself as she grabbed his head, kissing his cheeks, trying to get to his mouth. Shit. He twisted his head. Damn, get this female off! All around him, he heard the other guys laughing. Fat lot of help they were.
He heard the door open again. Rescue. Two burly guys in security uniforms hurried toward him. Cal grabbed her waist and pushed her toward them, still wriggling. “C’mon, guys, get her off.”
The bigger guy, Harry, grabbed her. “Sorry, Cal, she got away from us.”
He smiled. “I can see how that could happen.”
Harry carried her carefully. Don’t hurt the fans. She leaned back in Harry’s arms and gazed at Cal with puppy-dog eyes. “I love you, Cal.”
He laughed. “I love you too.”
They dragged her, squirming and yelling, out of the room.
Cal glanced up. His roommate, Lex, stared at him. The guy was grinning, but there was this crease between his eyebrows. Yeah. Cal sighed. Only Lex, the coach, the owner, and one other guy on the team knew that Cal was more interested in the bare asses in the shower than in that cute girl. They were good about it as long as they didn’t have to be reminded too often. And that meant Cal got to spend ninety percent of his time pretending to be someone and something he wasn’t. Not just pretending to be straight, but also acting like a guy who only wanted to be a huge soccer star in his life. Cal sighed and finished dressing. Man, he was glad the season was over.
You see what has been shown in the scene? Cal is popular, a rising star, gay, in the closet, torn about being a soccer star, and at the end of his season. We see all that without ever "telling". In the very next scene he meets Eli, the man of his dreams and the source of both love and conflict enters the story. In the scene after that, he meets Angel, a girl who looks like a boy and now he's in double hot water. Deceptive Attraction is a complicated story, but, thanks to Sharon's suggestion, the book gets the reader off to a solid start.
But the desire to "get to the good stuff" can sometimes lead an author astray. I recently read an unfinished novel for a friend in which the book started so far into the love story that we missed all the goodies--their meeting, first kiss, first sex, etc all so that we could see a funny scene in which the two were in conflict. That's the opening overshoot.
Can you think of openings that really grabbed you? What about openings that didn't but you stuck with the book anyway? What about the ones you gave up on? What do the different openings have in common?
I'll tackle a discussion of the saggy middles and flat ends as well in the next couple weeks. Just for the fun of it. If you'd like to follow the blog, please do. and my mailing list sign-up is at the top of the right hand column. Thank you so much for visiting.