Writers are advised to start a novel with a hook – something that will grab the reader by the throat and compel them to keep reading. The first sentence doesn’t necessarily serve as the hook, but when that happens the reader is usually in for a great ride.
I recently read Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier. For me at least, his first sentence got my full attention and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen in this story.
“Luce’s new stranger children were small and beautiful and violent.” – The first sentence in Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier.
I’d be hard pressed to think of the opening line of another novel that piqued my interest or struck me quite like that one. In 10 words – just five more than the title of this blog post – Mr. Frazier introduced the book’s main character; told us that there are new children in her life who are strangers to her; and not only are those new stranger children small and beautiful, but they are also violent.
Do I have your attention? Okay, okay. Here’s the second sentence in Nightwoods: “She learned early that it wasn’t smart to leave them unattended in the yard with the chickens.” Now you know that the misbehavior of those children will surely be a recurring theme in this book.
It turns out that Luce has “inherited” the son and daughter of her deceased sister, and they are wild.
Since my last blog post
I have made good progress with my work in progress, The Spanish Coin. Rather than being measured in number of words written, last week’s progress was made as I worked on character profiles and my book’s thematic statement. I realized that I had not tried to put the novel’s theme into words. Maybe I didn’t even know what the theme was?
I had to come to grips with the theme of my novel in order to be sure I had chosen the right protagonist, or main character. Discerning that the theme of The Spanish Coin is slavery was a milepost and surprise for me. I thought I was writing a murder mystery set in the Carolinas in the 1760s – and I am; however, the theme of the book has turned out to be slavery.
Five people have signed up for my newsletter since my February 19 blog post. This was given a boost, no doubt, by the fact that David J. Rogers reblogged my post on his site, https://davidjrogersftw.com. As far as I know, this was the first time a post of mine has been reblogged. Thanks, David. Thank you, Philip, Gary, Katherine, Paul, Michelle, and Kay for signing up for my newsletters.
Until my next blog post
Speaking of my newsletters – which have neither been scheduled nor written – if you wish to be added to my mailing list, please fill out the form at the end of this blog post. With your encouragement, I believe The Spanish Coin will indeed be rewritten and published, giving me some news to put in a newsletter.
I will continue to put meat and bones on the characters in The Spanish Coin and perhaps get back into the outline. All the while, in the back of my mind I’ll continue to mull over my book’s hook.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Taster, by V.S. Alexander.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.
January is over, so it’s time for me to “fess up” about how I spent the month. Perhaps a better way to say that is “what I accomplished.” In my January 8, 2018 blog post (2018 Reading, Writing, & Living Plans) I felt I needed to be accountable to my blog readers. In order to do that, I said I’d set monthly writing goals. For January, I set a modest goal of adding 2,000 to the scenic plot outline for my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.
For starters, I failed miserably on reaching my 2,000-word goal. What I did, though, was brainstorm about story location. I continue to wrestle with what direction to take in re-writing my historical novel manuscript. The working title remains The Spanish Coin.
Historical novel progress
In January I settled on a location for the story. At least, I hope I will not change from this latest locale. I did some 1700s research on the place and worked on the story’s timeline. Location plays an important role in historical fiction. The era for the novel is the 1760’s, which is a decade earlier than my original plan.
Spanish Coin location reveal
Curious about the story’s setting? The Camden District of South Carolina. Choosing a location for the story has freed me to proceed with the outline.
Goal for February
I tend to write detailed outlines, so I’ll go out on a limb and set a goal of 6,000 words for February.
I got my concentration back and had fun reading in January. I read what I wanted to read instead of tying myself down to any particular reading challenge.
That said, I picked up the rules for the 2018 reading challenges for the public libraries in Harrisburg and Mint Hill (I couldn’t help myself!), but I don’t plan to let them dictate what I read. With 500+ books on my “want to read” list, though, I might meet those two challenges without really trying. Incidentally, even though I read seven books in January, my “want to read” list had a net gain of 39. I realize this is not sustainable. I would have to be a speed reader and live to be a centenarian to finish my ever-growing list.
52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, by Brett Blumenthal
The book title says it all. I took note of the suggested change for each week. This week seems like a good week to start, since I didn’t begin in January. This week’s small change: Drink enough water to stay hydrated. I’m told I should drink approximately 80 ounces of water every day. Since I normally drink less than half that amount, this constitutes more than a “small” change for me.
The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
This latest John Grisham novel took a little different tack from his earlier books in that The Rooster Bar is about a group of law school dropouts practicing law without licenses. I found it to be more humorous than other Grisham novels I’ve read, but it was still full of suspense.
Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts, by Ryan Holiday
I blogged about this book on January 22, 2018, so I direct you to that blog post if you missed it: (Works That Last.)
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, by Denise Kiernan
I’ve been reading so many novels the last couple of years that I’d forgotten how long nonfiction book titles tend to be. Or maybe it’s just the three I read in January.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate. Living in North Carolina, I have toured the Biltmore House four times. The first time was on a sixth grade field trip. Motion sickness on the bus as it wound around the endless curves on old US-74 east of Asheville is my main memory from that day, but I digress.
My other visits to the Biltmore Estate have been very enjoyable. Reading this book made me want to plan another trip to Asheville and tour the mansion again. It is a delightful book.
Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate
This novel was inspired by the shocking history of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society during the first half of the 20th century. It is a gripping story and is expertly written. It is not a happy read, but I highly recommend this book.
The King of Lies, by John Hart
This was the January book choice of the Rocky River Readers Book Club. The novel is set in Salisbury, North Carolina, so I was familiar with some of the streets and buildings referenced in the book. It’s fun sometimes to read a book set in a location you have visited.
I though Mr. Hart could have omitted some of the “woe is me” theme in the first third of the book. The narrator’s whining about the wealthy people in this small town got old after a while. If you’ll hang in there, though, you’ll probably get so involved in trying to identify the killer that you’ll get to the point you can’t put the book down. You’ll think several times that you’ve figured out the villain’s identity but, chances are, you haven’t.
Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier
This novel has been on my “to read” list for several years, so I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finally read it. It is set in the mountains in western North Carolina.
Nightwoods is a tale about a woman who unexpectedly “inherits” her deceased sister’s twin boy and girl. The children give their aunt/new mother a challenge every day – and then her late sister’s widowed husband/killer comes to try to get the large sum of money he thinks the children took with them. The children are wild and uncommunicative. Add to that the fact that the aunt has no idea why her ne’er do well ex-brother-in-law has suddenly shown an interest in his children and has come to hunt them down.
What about December?
I just remembered that I never did blog about the books I read in December. They were a mixed bag of novels: The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius; Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich; and The Secret, Book and Scone Society, by Ellery Adams.
David Ignatius’s political thrillers never disappoint me. The Quantum Spy was no exception.
The last two Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich disappointed me. I used to eagerly await her annual next installment of these funny novels, but “Twenty-Three” and “Twenty-Four” were too predictable.
The Ellery Adams novel is an entertaining read about four women who want to form a friendship, but each one is required to reveal a secret about herself before they can truly trust one another.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, by my fellow-blogger David J. Rogers; The Salt House, by Lisa Duffy, which was recommended by my friend Karen; Beartown, by Frekrik Backman, which is the February pick for The Apostrophe S Coffee Chat online book community; and The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. That’s about one book too many for me to read at the same time, but they are different enough that I’m not getting the story lines confused.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
If you subscribed to my mailing list last week, you renewed my faith in mankind. Thank you, Vicki, Colby, Katrina, and Glen!
In case you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, you have another opportunity to do so using the fill-in form below. I appreciate it!