Tuesday, August 29, 2017

THE TRICKY FIRST CHAPTER by Linda Shelby

The first chapter’s job is to hook your reader. If you can’t get your reader past the first chapter, then it doesn’t make much difference how great the rest of the chapters are.

The chapter one problem I faced with A Splinter In Time was that most of it takes place with the two main characters, Audrey and Leigh, sitting in a cafe booth. How boring is that? Lucky for me, I had watched the director’s commentary of You’ve Got Mail in the CD’s special features menu.

Director Nora Ephron faced a similar problem in the cafe scene when Meg Ryan is waiting to meet - for the first time - a man she has been emailing. Tom Hanks shows up and sits down at her table. Of course, he is the man she has been emailing. He knows this, but she doesn’t. To her, Tom Hanks is the man whose mega bookstore is on the verge of putting her small bookstore out of business. Not only is he the last person she wants to talk to, but she is afraid her date will arrive and Tom Hanks will ruin her much anticipated meeting.

Nora Ephron creates a series of distractions to keep the viewer from becoming bored with the constant back and forth delivery of conversation. Meg Ryan hurls insults at Tom Hanks from the moment he sits down. But he is intent on antagonizing her—payback for her public campaign to make him look like the bad guy. He picks up and twirls a red rose she has lying on a copy of Pride and Prejudice – the agreed signal to her gentleman friend.

The cafe door opens – is it her date? No, two older women walk in. Meg’s relief is obvious. She changes course and pleads with Tom Hanks to leave. Tom gets up, but sits back to back at the table behind her. An over the shoulder conversation continues. He moves back to her table. You see her frustration. The door opens again, is this the date? A man in a magician’s cape walks in – not her date. In the end, of course, she is stood up.

The rose, the two women, Tom’s move from the table, his move back to the table, and the magician, all break up a constant flow of conversation.

Armed with this lesson, I tackled the rewrite of my first chapter. Although the scene was already set in Felony Fred’s cafe, I added a prohibition era decor and a few famous felons to make the scene more visual. A life-sized cardboard cutout of a machine gun welding Bonnie Parker stands guard at the cash register. Audrey glances at the clock above a black and white glossy of Al Capone. Add a snappy exchange between the waitress and Leigh, and the entrance of the antagonist—all break up continuous dialogue.

To read the first chapter of this award winning novel, click the following link, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCTJ3EH then click “Look inside” just above the book cover.

@linda_shelby

Linda Shelby
A Splinter In Time - Civil War romance/Time travel

2 comments:

C.B. Clark said...

Thanks for sharing, Linda. I enjoyed your Blog and you made some excellent points. All the best.

Linda Shelby said...

Thanks for commenting, C.B. Clark. I didn't think I'd ever be able to find anything to blog about, but I've found I enjoy reflecting on the writing of A Splinter In Time. The novel was hard work during the process. Now I enjoy revisiting these characters.