Saturday, October 28, 2006

First Page Challenge

In a pause from looking at my heroes, I was interested in this First Page Challenge so I thought I'd join in.
Over on her blog, Julie Cohen has been talking about the way that she sets up a book from the very beginning - setting up character and conflict and starting to show the characters and the problems they face in the first sentences, the paragraphs of the story itself. She challenged other writers to do the same.

So here are a couple of examples from my most recent book - and the one coming up in March 2007
From At The Sheikh's Command

IT was the outriders that Abbie saw first. Big powerful men on big powerful motorbikes, engines purring, chrome and black gleaming in the sunlight. In spite of the heat, their muscled bodies were encased snugly in supple black leather, their heads concealed in helmets. A sense of threat and invasion – those big powerful men coming into what has been Abbie’s calm quiet world. But then of course these men were the bodyguards of a man who ruled a country far away. A desert country where the sun beat down day after day, building to temperatures far higher than the moderate heat of an English summer’s afternoon. The ‘invaders’ come from a very different country, far away - in distance, temperature, and culture.

The man who was in the car behind them. This is the man who has the real power. The one who is really going to invade her life.

The convoy swept down the drive in a roar of engines, swirling to a halt outside the main door and waiting, bodyguards sitting taut and tense on their machines, unseen eyes clearly darting everywhere, watching, observing. Their job was to protect the occupant of the vehicle that followed them. That big, sleek car, with smoked glass windows behind which she could just detect the form of Sheikh Malik bin Rashid Al’Qaim. The car also had a small flag on the bonnet. The first sight of Malik is mysterious and behind smoked glass, because the family – and most particularly Abbie – don’t really know the truth about him.

The flag of Barakhara. The name of the country will be very important later.

Abbie drew in a deep breath and felt it tremble all the way into her lungs.So he was here. It was really happening. This was not a dream. It was absolutely, totally real. And that reality turned it into the biggest nightmare she had ever known. Her grey eyes blurred briefly with tears and she blinked them away hurriedly, pushing trembling hands over the blonde smoothness of her hair as she fought for control. Building a physical impression of Abbie to make her seem real and 'solid' to the reader at the same time as showing by her emotional reaction just how this is so very important to her personally. She is already frightened and worried.

From Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Wife
(This book has two 'beginnings' - one a prologue that gives a glimpse of events a year before - and the real Chapter One opening that starts the main story in the present day.)

IT was the perfect day for a wedding. The sun was shining, with the promise of heat later in the day, but it was still early so that the slight coolness of the dawn still lingered. Opening the story with ‘the perfect day’ means that obviously something is going to go wrong. The day is just beginning – a lot can happen – and there is ‘the promise of heat’.

At home in England the early flowers of spring would be blooming purple and gold, and white. In the trees, newly covered in soft green foliage, but here there was only the city streets and the high, high building where the glass of thousands of windows glinted in the morning sun. This wedding is taking place somewhere away from the bride’s home, out of her normal environment.

But she didn’t miss the green and the flowers, and colours of home, not for a second. She’d found a new home. She wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here, right now, in this perfect moment. Why is she there and why is she marrying so far from home?She has left all that behind, physically, mentally, emotionally, because she is embarking on a new life. But has she left behind what is safe and secure?

Because today was going to be perfect, no matter what the weather – or anything else was like. And she was totally, perfectly happy. She couldn’t possibly find any space in her heart for any more joy or delight. She’s so happy – but this hints that perhaps she’s ‘protesting too much’ – that she’s reassuring herself that it will be perfect. That she will be happy. Underneath this there is an edge of insecurity.

Today she was marrying the perfect man, the most wonderful man in the world. But is he ? Again, more reassurance that this is going to be perfect - which builds up the suspicion that it just won't be.

This Prologue is echoed at the start of Chapter One - 7 pages later when the present day part of the book actually begins like this:

IT was the perfect day for a wedding. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm and soft, and all along the edges of the gravel path that led from the carved wooden lychgate to the metal-studded door of the little village church, the early flowers of spring were blooming purple and gold, and white. In the trees, newly covered in soft green foliage, even the birds were chirping softly to each other.

It was the perfect day and the perfect setting for an elegant English county wedding.

But in Guido Corsentino’s mind, nothing could be perfect about the wedding towards which was heading, his long, savage strides covering the ground with furious speed. And the mood that gripped him was far from idyllic; totally at odds with the bright sunlight of the day, the relaxed and smiling attitude of the crowd that had filled in the narrow country lane.

An interesting exercise - thanks Julie!


Anonymous said...

Oooh I love how the prologue and the actual book begin exactly the same way but with two such different moods and points of view! That's a really effective technique. I do that sort of repetition sometimes but not so close together--I like it!

Thanks for taking my challenge Kate and I'm glad it got your brain going!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

OK Kate, not fair! While I can appreciate the excerise I don't appreciate the tease.....I want to read Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride NOW, I don't want to wait! Just kidding but it sounds like it's going to be another wonderful book. I enjoyed reading your post.

Amanda Cole said...

What an interesting exercise this is. I'm not sure I dare post anything myself but I'm learning a lot by reading the posts of those who have taken part.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting yours, Kate. I'm learning so much through reading these.

I've posted mine on my blog but my latest WIP isn't a romance - it's a time slip thriller (with a romance threaded into it) but I have to say that I'm missing writing a proper romance so I might just write one on the side.

blueberri said...

Thanks for the lesson, Kate! I try to learn something new about the craft each day!

Our apple crop this year was blighted so DH has been winging them into the spent garden to till into the soil. He's been waiting for dry weather to use the tiller. This has left the garden with hundreds of red apples, an appetizing view until you look closer at them. But apparently the animals think them a delightful treat. Last night we saw a beautiful gray fox for the first time as he walked amongst the fallen crop. Have you ever seen one? If not, you can Google a photo up. Gray foxes can climb trees! This was the first time DH or I ever laid eyes on one. :)

Kate Walker said...

Hi Julie - I don't normally analyse my work like this - so it was an interesting exercise for me. Glad you like the repetition

Marilyn - I'm sorry! Of course I didn;t mean to teae ;-) (OK - yes I did!) But I promise you that you'll have a copy of that story just as soon as I can get one to you

Hi Amanda and welcome - I've learned a lot too - it is a very revealing exercise

Happy to help, Sharon - I've visited your contribution too - very intriguing. A time slip thriller soudns good

Hi Blue - it's great to learn more isn;t it - I don't think we ever stop learning, especially about writing. I've never seen a gray fox - red ones, yes - but I did google a picture and they are gorgeous!


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