The First Two Pages

Every Tuesday, a mystery writer explains how he or she faced the challenges of those brutally difficult–and vitally important–first two pages.

Incorporating the Inciting Image

Paula Gail Benson

Sometimes a strong image inspires me to write a short story. Watching a PBS cooking program where the chef tied his meat with twine, placed it on a spit, and roasted it over the blazing fire in his kitchen’s wall-length hearth resulted in “Only the Sacrifice Knows,” a Thanksgiving mystery published online by Kings River Life.

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Entering a Cozy World

Kaye George

Fat Cat Spreads Out is the second book in the cozy Fat Cat series. Cozy mystery lovers expect specific things from the genre. First and foremost is comfort. These are feel-good books, in spite of the dead bodies. The bodies are not dwelt upon, or even described in detail, leaving the purpose of the murder to be furnishing a puzzle for the reader to try to work out before the sleuth does. The pace has to move along, but the reader doesn’t need to be slammed with nail-biting tension at the very start.

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The First Two Pages of “Devil for a Witch”

R.S. Brenner

“Devil for a Witch” is a title I’ve been hoarding for years on my brain shelf, waiting for the right match. It’s from a southern expression: You trade the devil for a witch. Not an attractive bargain either way. A good title (maybe only a working title) is akin to calling an unborn baby by a name. If not the “real” name, then one off a list of names. A title is my mantra to repeat while I conjure its hidden dimensions. I begin there.

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Opening on the Past: The Challenge of Writing Historical Series Fiction

Susan Spann

The start of a novel is always critically important, but the challenges multiply when the book is part of an ongoing series.

I write the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Although the books are standalone adventures, in the sense that readers don’t have to have read the previous installments in order to enjoy each book, a large percentage of my readers are also returning fans of the series—which creates some additional challenges in writing the opening pages.

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