So, just in case you don't know, I sold book 4 in my mystery series with a title and a one line blurb. Here is the blurb for CHICKEN CACCIA-KILLER.
When an international playboy ends up dead at the International Italian Festival, and Alex’s sister is accused of the murder, Jordan and the motley crew of neighbors hatch a plan that leads to the Godfather himself knocking at her door.
Okay, that's what I have to work with. Knowing where to begin has always been a problem for me. In the past, I've struggled with wanting to put in too much back story too soon, but I think I have finally killed that demon. I write mysteries, so I know the first three chapters are set up.
In MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT, book 3, the setting is a culinary contest on a cruise ship. (Think Top Chef meets my Clueless Cook.) I went back and forth as to where to actually start the story.
Should I put them walking onto the ship? What about starting out with the first competition which I called the Greased Lightning Elimination Round?
I finally settled on a scene on a fishing boat the day before the cruise when my heroine and the contestants spend the day drinking, eating, and trying to get bonus points by catching enough fish to feed the judges and 25 tasters in the elimination round. Of course, with contestants who will do anything to win the prize, all is fair in love and cooking competitions, and somebody ends up with a huge saltwater fish hook in his thumb. Did I mention booze plays a big part in the fishing trip?
I debated long and hard about whether this was the right place to start. That manuscript is with my editor right now, so I'll let you know what she says. Ultimately, she gets the deciding vote. Fortunately, I trust her judgment enough to heed her advice. In looking back, I now think it was the perfect scene to begin with. It allowed me to introduce the contestants and to give the readers a little peek into their personalities before all the reoccurring secondary characters arrived for the cruise later that day. Despite the fact that I don't have to spend too much time with these secondary characters, I do have to give them some air time. Not everyone who picks up MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT will have read either of the first two books in the series. I'm always conflicted about not giving enough information to new readers and repeating too much stuff and ticking off my old readers.
Which brings me back to my original thought about where I should start book 4. There are several ways to start a novel. Here are a few of them with a made-up example.
1. Open with narrative.
The Texas heat burned down on the plains with the vengeance of Satan himself.
2. Open with dialogue
"Damn, it's hotter than hell today."
3. Open with action.
She grabbed her arm as a bullet pierced her shoulder, and she fell to the drought-hardened ground, feeling the heat of the sun caking the blood before it ran down her arm.
Okay, I know these are lame examples, but you get the point. Although my writing style is to start with action, I have used every one of these in my books.
LIVER LET DIE – Single white female stuck in a dead-end job, looking for tall dark rich guy…
MORTAL DECEPTION – Before the night ended, she would have sex with a total stranger.
MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT-- Whose hair-brained idea was this, anyway?
I believe first lines are so important I change mine at least five or six times before I settle on one. I'm thinking for my new story I should open with my heroine Jordan meeting her love interest’s sister and mother for the first time. Maybe something like.
"So you're the girl Alex has been shacking up with."
Just kidding. I write cozies, remember??
Anyway, I'm really curious how you all start a novel. Any hints on knowing what the perfect scene is? And if any of you have a great first line for me, I would be forever grateful.