Once I know the next project I’m going to work on it never really leaves me, even when I’m busy doing other stuff (like looking for a car). So it’s no surprise that yesterday as we zipped along the backroads through the redwoods on our way to Santa Cruz, that Frankie and Max popped back in my head. I’ve got about 45 minutes of good thinking time there and I put it to use trying to decide where to start the book. A couple of months ago I thought I knew. I had the opening line even. But yesterday I realized if I started there I would have skipped the day that was different. That day that sets everything else in motion for the story.
“Make it a flashback,” said my husband.
I made a face. “Or not,” he said, quickly changing his mind. The trouble with a flashback when you’re not that far into the story it’s hard to care about what’s happening to the characters. But if I start with the day that is different, the day that changes Frankie’s life, I worry that the focus will be on what is no longer there than on Frankie and Max. I mean, the day that is different changes things for Frankie but it’s not the big black moment that comes later in the book. I started trying to figure out if the day that the really REALLY bad thing happens is the place to start or not. Would it have more impact if we see the characters in a happy normal life BEFORE the really REALLY bad thing happens? I mean don’t you have to care about the characters for there to be a strong impact on you when things happen to them? Then I thought maybe I’d write the big chapter and then after that would be a page that said six months later or one year later but then I wondered if that was cheating the reader somehow.
In my head I backed up the story a bit more, just one chapter I’m thinking to show the relationship with everyone, lull the reader into a gentle read, (which means the voice would have to be 100% compelling, I’m just not sure. Or I could just write a short scene of the
My husband let me ramble for most of the ride and then ventured another suggestion. “I think you should just right about IT and then you can add a new beginning later, if you want to.” And I know he’s right because it will plunge me right into the story but boy, it’s going to be really tough writing. Another thing to do would be to show the black moment right at the beginning and then go back to the beginning of what led up to it all. I don’t know if that would work or what readers thinking about that type of story. I’m going to have to go to my bookshelves and try to find books were written that way. Right now the only one I can think of is When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester
This is just me, thinking out loud, and trying to get brave enough to write about the really REALLY bad thing.