Currently working on: The heroine’s betrayal
I love first chapters. My first three hit the page with a speed that I won’t match again until I start the next story. I’m not saying they are great chapters. In all honesty, they usually suck and often have nothing to do with the story itself. But that doesn’t lessen my enthusiasm for first chapters at all.
Because I think of first chapters like first dates. (You probably started to see the correlation with the ‘usually suck’ part.) Hey, I’m a romance writer at heart. (The previous parenthetical comment notwithstanding.)
Firsts are all about the excitement that anything could happen. That charming guy you’ve agreed to meet for cocktails could be a millionaire bachelor — or a serial killer! See? How exciting! First chapters are like that too. I never know if I’m onto something… or if I’m going to end up with three chapters that need to be drenched in lye and buried at a crossroads with their heads removed lest they come back to haunt me.
During firsts, everyone is on their best behavior. I come to my keyboard perky and coiffed… okay, not literally coiffed, but my desk is clear, my notes are piled tidily. But eventually comes that first hiccup. Oh sure, it made me giggle once. How sweet that my characters feel comfortable enough with me to share their… er, inner selves. Then I realized it wasn’t a hiccup. No, that was a full-on burp. Nay, a belch. It’s a turning point in the relationship (coming about the same point as the first turning point in the three-act structure) and the infatuation is over. We stare at each other over cups of coffee, and the silence thickens as I contemplate throwing that metaphorical sexy strappy sandal through my screensaver.
Firsts have no baggage. I arrive at the first date with one of those supremely cute little beaded clutches without room even for a mass market paperback much less my Alpha Smart. The cursor blinks at the beginning of a pristine blank page. But even then I know this isn’t like a first date to the hottest new nightclub; this is like the first step of an around-the-world walkabout with scenic sidetrips up Everest, down the Amazon, and across the Sahara. You gotta pack for that.
Firsts offer freedom. There’s no commitment, and I can try on new clothes, be whoever I want to be. Eventually though, I’m going to have to decide: Is this a story for which I’m willing to strip myself bare?
Ah, the passion and promise of those first chapters, when the story is young and fresh, not to mention thin and pliant. This is no time to think about the sagging middle…
So what’s your best worst first date story? When did you realize the magic was gone?