More Thoughts on the First Seven Sentences of a Novel

So I wanted to show you the differences between the first seven sentences of A Coincidence of Doors and this new novel I am drafting, which we’ll just call MYSTERY BOOK for now. (2,592 words of outline and 4,712 words of draft. In six days.)

For Coincidence, I wanted to be all intellectual and evocative and serious and sad, and came up with this:

Grace never came home for Christmas, not even when she was still Julia. She traveled to Thailand, played a gender-bent Feste in Twelfth Night, married Charles. Now she and Charles took one of the two flights into the tiny municipal airport on January second, or on the third if there was snow, and although their presents were under the tree—all the presents, for Grace and Charles and Ellen and Carolyn and their father—they didn’t want any of it; they’d had a week with Charles’ family at the ski lodge, with the carols and the hot chocolate and the champagne on New Year’s. They didn’t want another Christmas dinner, another gift that Grace would whisper to Ellen to ship them later because their suitcases were full. 

They wanted to sit, and rest, and tell stories about Charles’ aunts and cousins, and let Ellen take care of them. They still thought of family as a place where you are taken care of, even if it’s a place you don’t necessarily want to be and are only going out of duty because it’s Christmas—or it was, over a week ago.

Ellen thought of family as a series of actions.

For MYSTERY BOOK, I didn’t bother trying to come up with seven brilliant sentences that would introduce the reader to this world and its primary conflict. I didn’t think about the importance of the first seven sentences at all, and decided to jump right into my protagonist’s most immediate problem:

“I am not going to choir practice tonight,” Larkin told her mother.

“Yes, you are,” Josephine Day said, not looking up from her laptop. “I already told Ed you’d be there.”

“You can’t tell people I’ll be places,” Larkin said, not getting up from the couch. “That’s not how this is going to work.”

“I think I get at least some say in how it’s going to work,” Josephine said. “Since you are living in my house.”

This is where I should be all Sophomore Language Arts Curriculum and ask you to tell me everything you know about these characters from these seven sentences.

Here’s what I know: writing this way is a lot more fun.

Also, in case you were curious, Larkin states her primary conflict in the draft’s eighth sentence:

“Because my dreams are crushed,” Larkin said, projecting her voice towards the kitchen table in the hopes that it would loom over her mother and withdraw with some sympathy extracted.

WILL LARKIN BE ABLE TO GROW BEYOND HER CRUSHED DREAMS?

WILL SHE ALSO HAVE TO SOLVE A MURDER?

AM I GLAD THAT I AM FINALLY WRITING A BOOK WHERE THE MOTHER AND DAUGHTER ARE ON THE SAME TEAM, EVEN THOUGH THE FIRST SEVEN SENTENCES MAKES IT LOOK LIKE THEY’RE BICKERING?

Good gravy, yes. ❤️

 
Previous Article
Next Article