Writing Chapter One: The Hardest Part

Now that I’m writing my second book, a continuation of the the first, I’m realizing I have stadium-size writing hurdles to leap over. The biggest challenge? The first chapter.

In Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, my initial stab at Chapter One was autobiographical. I was presented with a speeding ticket on the 405 freeway in Huntington Beach, California on the way to my first day of work at the only movie studio located in Orange County.

“BMWs should only be driven in the fast lane, but that’s not what I told the nice officer,” was the opening line of the original Chapter One. The rest of the chapter involved heroine Corrie trying to weasel her way out of the ticket (which was not exactly what happened to me, but the nice officer did lower my projected speed). I couldn’t get that chapter going anywhere but in the round file. It was rubbish.

Attempt two involved a prologue. As any semi-seasoned writer knows, prologues are a no-no when crafted by a wannabe author. I loved my prologue like I love my pie crust when it turns out perfectly formed and flaky and light and not too sweet and without any aftertaste. But no amount of my prologue love made it work in that spot. So I moved it to the final third of my story.

My next rendering involved a flashback of Corrie with her dad. It was her first swimming lesson and established their strained relationship. Her parents were newly divorced and Corrie was not exactly adept in her swimming skills. As she says, “I have the swimming skills of a snail.” That chapter was out of line with the tone of my book, so it had to go.

Finally, my last attempt put her where she is today. Near home, late one Sunday, jogging on the wood chip trail in Hermosa Beach, on her way to buy a snack from a convenience store. She was trying to settle her nerves on the night before she was to start her new job at the movie studio. This chapter set the stage for the fact that Corrie has a tendency to walk, run, or jog into precarious and sometimes dangerous situations. Her reactions and interactions revealed her strengths and weaknesses. And I finally had a chapter that worked.

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8 years ago

I can’t wait till your second book comes out. I enjoyed reading your first book so much. Thank you.

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