C. T. Collier
Have you ever performed a ritual to let go of something you once valued but have lost? The impulse to use a ceremony or ritual to mark a transition, such as “letting go,” is universal, and it’s part of the hook that draws the reader into my current mystery, Planted.
The first sentence … certainly the first paragraph … of a book sets the tone and should entice the reader. What is happening? Why? And … what will happen next?
Shadows on a Morning in Maine, published last month, is the eighth in my Shadows Antique Print mystery series. Books in the series take place about three months apart; the eighth book is set almost exactly two years after the first. During those two years (in addition to solving more than eight mysteries, of course) my protagonist, Maggie Summer, has dealt with being a new widow, run her antique print business and taught at a community college, fallen in love, and decided to adopt an older child. But Will Brewer, the new man in her life, doesn’t want to be a father, and tension on this issue follows through the series.
“I couldn’t believe they found Brad’s body. I thought I buried him deeper.
But eight years is a long time and a girl can forget little things like that. You know, stuff like: Where’d I park the car? Where’d I leave my shoes? Where’d I bury my boyfriend?
I knew where I buried him, just not how deep. Deeper’s better. Trust me. Anyway, the first time you kill somebody is always trial and error.
By the second one, I had improved my technique.
And number three was… sheer perfection.”
We put a lot of pressure on the first two pages of a book, bless their hearts. We ask them to introduce characters, set the scene, give readers some idea of what the story is about, and maybe a glimpse of a theme or two. And we want those two little pages to do all that while drawing readers in without bogging them down. Hoo boy. How do we do that? For Plaid and Plagiarism, the first two pages and I took big breaths and hit the ground running.
In my book When the Past Haunts You, retired Dallas homicide detective Harry Bronson is forced to face his painful past when his estranged sister begs him to rescue her.
Since the book is part of the Harry Bronson Mystery Series, I was hoping that the readers would know that Bronson does not have a sister. But now here, clear out of the blue, not only a sister appears, but she wants her Big Bro to help.
With this type of setup, I immediately encountered some dilemmas when deciding how to open the story. I needed to establish the fact that Bronson does indeed have a sister. But if so, why the big mystery? Why hadn’t he mentioned her before?