Category Archives: Drama Box

Keep sharing your first paragraphs!

As was pointed out to me, I forgot about chapter seven. Hee, hee. Sorry. But it happens when you drop back and add a chapter you weren’t planning on and everything moves forward. The chapter I added actually goes before six, and I added it because I got tired of putting out clues and decided to do the reveal I wasn’t planning on until chapter twelve or so. I wanted to own it. Go big or go home, and all that jazz.

But before I share it with you, I want to tell all of you who have been putting your chapter’s first paragraphs out there, Bravo! I know that some of you are used to sharing your work and have thicker skin, but some of you are first-timers, and I’m trying not to bruise you while still nudging you into picking up more tools to make your work stand out. I love words and the patterns they make, and I know it’s hard. We have all levels of skills here, but every single one of us begins writing crap. (laugh) I have three years of exceptionally crapy crap carefully, and lovingly, tucked away.

One thing I’ve noticed is that with a lot of you, there’s a lot of telling me what has happened in the few hours before the action really starts, presumably somewhere on paragraph three or four. Sometimes, it’s necessary, but trying to put too much in front of the action tires the reader and cheats you of a chance to connect your reader with your main characters. If you think you are guilty of this, and trust me, I am, go back and find out what’s important in the first few paragraphs, and put that right up front. Start with the pop, whether it be a thought, action, or place setting, and work backward adding all the other stuff you skipped as you go along. Take your time and show us. It’s a chance to flesh out the world and characters. Slow. Down.

I guess what I’m saying is that while we perceive and process information by peripheral stuff and moving in, don’t write that way. Give us the gut feeling, then move out. It will naturally ground your reader in the character and action.

If you’re not sure what I mean, try starting with dialog. It naturally pulls you into action. And if you don’t like it, throw it out. Nothing is ever really wasted.

So, bouncing back to a previous, added chapter:

Chapter five

The heat of the noon sun cut off sharply as Sam left the drive and slipped under the old-growth trees. It took several more steps, careful in his flip-flops and with that glass of water, before he got past the tangled cluster of vegetation at the edge and the humidity vanished to let the cool of the forest envelop him. His path suddenly easier, Sam followed his intuition as he looked for Fenix.

But his thoughts, as he moved ever deeper into the silence, were on Natalie: the way her utter exhaustion had vanished in the excitement of discovery, the dirt on her chin, herself covered in grass and flushed from exertion. She’d looked marvelous, and a pang of loss suddenly struck through Sam. It wasn’t fair. Now that he knew he was going to live long enough to have the time for a relationship, he wasn’t “allowed” to have one.

As you can see, I am breaking my rule of trying to start with dialog, but the action in the first paragraph is taking place as the reader reads it, not in the past. We don’t see what happened a few hours ago until the second paragraph, and even that is tied back to the present with Sam’s pang of loss being actively felt, followed by his thoughts.

I also give you a good grounding in what the day is like, and that it is in fact, day. There needs to be at least one reminder every page until it’s well set. (sun, shadow, birds song, etc.) I remind you he’s in flip-flops, and therefore his slow movements are because of twigs and sticks. I don’t really have to tell you about them because anyone who’s been walking in the woods with flip-flops knows.

And most important, when he gets past them and moves faster, the reader will naturally relax, pulling them deeper into Sam’s character. Manipulating the reader this way is tricky, but wow, it has a lot of impact when done well. What I’ve got here is kind of middling, but it’s there.

Your turn!


Filed under Drama Box

Chapter Eight. Show me your first lines!

Hope you all had a productive weekend and have something to share. If you’re going to DragonCon, my tentative schedule is up at the website. Events

I’m up to chapter Eight, and back in Natalie’s POV. It’s the first chapter of a new day, which necessitates a bit more finesse. I can’t just jump right in with action as I like to without first telling the reader that this is a new day, either by hinting that it will be at the end of the last chapter, or putting enough clues in the beginning of this one that it’s easy to figure out.

Nat is alone, which makes it hard to get dialog in there. To get around that, I have her think something instead, and then the phone rings. Starting with a ringing phone is actually a no-no, but since the call is not a “life-changing moment” or being used for tension, I can get away with it.

Nat punched in the guest key code at the gate, her attention lifting to the fifteen-foot stone wall that surrounded the entire multi-acre compound as the black ironwork slid back and granted her access. She couldn’t help but notice that the mature trees had been trimmed away from the wall with nothing overhanging. To keep things in, or things out? she wondered as she drove through, her Jeep’s tires popping on the road’s gravel before hitting the smoother, new pavement of the long, winding drive.

Her phone hummed, and seeing it was Larry, she scrambled for it. “Hi, Larry,” she blurted before he could say anything. “You can not cancel on me today. I have to have that tree out this morning.”

So, I’ve showed you mine. Show me yours!

P.S. The bunny is tiny. He still has his white star!



Filed under Drama Box

29 days to DragonCon, and counting

29DaysI’ve only named one of the dragons I’m taking to the con, because the other I’m giving to the auction. She’s got four toes on each hand, and glorious gold wings, and someone will be taking her home after she spent her first summer soaking up the vibes in my office, listening to the click clack of keys and splashing of the fountain.

I’m up to chapter six in my summer WIP, SKINS. My page count is at 55, and I’m a little embarrassed to still be introducing characters, but it is here that we finally meet Victoria, one of antagonists and a ghost from Fenix’s past.

Again, I break my goal of trying to start with dialog. We’re in a ways into the story, and that gives me a little more flexibility, and dialog begins in the one after this. It is admittedly description heavy, but I’m describing something that no one has ever seen, and I’m hopeful that keeps the reader refreshed and reading even as I drop in hints as to where we are. I’ve also used a technique where I start the paragraph with one feeling, (a lyrical description with long sentences that float) and ending it with a vulgar word to shock the reader and wake him or her up, not with the word itself, but in that it follows such lyrical sentences. This technique also gives the reader a good indication of the character herself, lyrical, but inclined to be blunt.


The right shade of blue didn’t exist in her palette, no matter how much or little red she mixed in. Victoria knew to the bottom of her soul what color an updraft had, but duplicating it with earth-based pigments was impossible. The swirls of differentiating air masses over London were stunning from her high-rise office, from the cool river holding a hint of sinking red to the breath-stealing, almost transparent white streaming up from the sun-soaked buildings. That she couldn’t properly capture it was an ever-present thorn. Frowning, Victoria added a tinge of white to make it passable, but as she layered it on the canvas, she still thought it looked like shit.

There you have it. Now show me the first paragraph of the chapter you’re working on. I’ve been enjoying seeing your work!



Filed under Drama Box

Chapter five, first paragraphs, Show Me!

I hope all you weekend warriors had some time to spend in your “other universe” and got some words on the paper. I’ve been enjoying seeing little slices of your work this past couple of weeks, so I hope you keep pushing forward along with me.

Today I’m posting the first few lines of chapter five in my WIP, SKINS. I’m back in Fenix’s POV, and it is a slow start. I originally had a one-line of dialog to begin it, but the setting is a little unusual, and I felt that dropping back and bracketing it with a little description help the reader get settled faster.

Chapter Five – SKINS

Debbie had been right. Her assistant knew what she was doing, the woman’s fingers working his foot with a firm, professional strength. Even so, Fenix could not seem to relax and let go. Yes, she was good, but she wasn’t Debbie.

“Are you sure you don’t want any music, Mr. Fenix?” she asked, and Fenix stifled a sigh, muffled as he lay face down on the massage table with his head in the cradle. Not only wasn’t she Debbie but she would not shut up.

Your turn!

And when you’re done, check out my list of fav fantasy reads at Goodreads! How many have you read?



Filed under Drama Box

How’s your summer writing going?


I’m up to chapter four in my WIP (SKINS), and because I miss my writer’s critique group, I’ve opened up the blog for you guys to share your own first paragraph on a chapter by chapter basis. Hopefully we will keep each other motivated until we get our rough drafts done.

I have been so impressed with the skill showing in the first lines that you have been sharing with me. It only goes to prove my thought that there is no wrong way to write, except perhaps not to. I hope you keep it up! And because I know summer is busy, don’t hesitate to post when you can, and don’t sweat it when you can’t. 🙂 This is supposed to be fun, right?

Chapter four brings me back to Nat’s POV. It’s not one of my more exciting first-paragraphs, but it does tie back to my first paragraph of chapter three where Fenix thought about “her being down in the kitchen” and here we not only see “her,” but hear in her own POV about “her leaving the kitchen.”

I’m hopeful that this tie between the two chapters is enough to give it some oomph. Admittedly, it’s not that effective, but we are a ways in. On the plus side, I tried to start with an active action instead of passive, got a reference to the season, weather, and her job in there to help reset the world/scene, and a bit of curiosity-based tension with the noises from the woods ceasing when she showed up and a promise to stay out.

Chapter four

Nat’s gaze kept returning the nearby woods as she walked the site and placed her flags for a rough reference: red for perennials, blue for annuals, and orange for woody plants. It was quiet in there now, apart from the buzzing rattle of an early cicada, but there’d been all manner of snaps and pops of breaking branches when she’d emerged blinking and cool from the kitchen with a generic plan in hand. It was all Nat could do to not cross the drive and step under its cool umbrella to investigate, regardless of her promise to keep herself and crew out of there.

Share away! Quick, like bunnies!


Filed under Drama Box

Chapter three, first lines

Chapter three, first lines!

In SKINS, I’m up to chapter three, where I settle down after a bit of action, slowing to flesh out two of the main characters. Sam and Fenix have known each other for about five years, and they share a secret. It’s hard to have two straight men living together and not have everyone think they’re a couple, so I’m hopeful that I’ve managed to capture a feeling of shared danger or goal, something like I felt from the move, Gattaca, (Which I adore.)

“Are you even listening to me?”

Sam’s question pulled Fenix’s attention away from the red tie he was holding up to his shoulder in question, his focus deepening in the long dressing mirror to find Sam behind him. As was his habit Sam was sitting comfortably in the embroidered barrel chair set beside the window. A tiny cup of tea cooled beside him, the old koi pond and fallen tree neatly framed by the open window. The muggy heat rolling in was pleasant, but his frown wouldn’t go away. She was downstairs in the kitchen–he knew it.

So, share your first paragraph of chapter three and keep this summer writing train going.


Filed under Drama Box

Second chapter, first lines

EDIT: 7/24

I have closed the comments only because I don’t want to miss anyone’s posts and have them think I’m ignoring them. I’ll have a new post on Tuesday, the 25th for more of your first-lines.

It was so encouraging seeing all your first-chapter, first lines on Wednesday. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one sitting alone at a desk trying to herd those literary cats. You guys have some great ideas. Today, I’m going to open the blog up for more as I keep this first-line madness going.

After a hellacious afternoon yesterday, I’ve got the first few lines of chapter two of SKINS to share, and if you have more of your work ready for visual consumption, post it! I think it’s fascinating, and a good exercise, to see how much of a story comes through from just those first lines.

In genre fiction, chapter two doesn’t have to be as attention getting as chapter one, and you can see that as the focus turns from action/dialog to a little more scene setting. In my case, chapter two introduces the three main characters in a setting I will be using over and over. (Chapter one introduced the “sparkle element,” the thing that makes the story unique, the secret that I slowly reveal through the first third of the book to keep you interested.) Again, I’ve started with dialog just because I tend to be description heavy in the first three pages of any chapter, and I need something to break it up.

If you want to make an exercise out of this show-and-tell experiment, give me two versions of your opening chapter two: the first as you have it, and the second rewritten using dialog if your original lacks it, or pure description, if your original has dialog. See what happens. (But please, limit this exercise to no more than five lines of text. 🙂

Original chapter two, first few lines from SKINS

“Gosh darn tower is still down,” Nat muttered, squinting at the faded screen in annoyance. Her body was angled so her shadow would fall across it, but the morning sun was so intense, it made little difference.

rewritten without dialog, expanding on sensations and place setting:

The heat of the sun on her back was intense, and Nat squinted at the sun-bleached phone screen in annoyance as the little beachball of death spun. Either she was in a dead zone, or last night’s storm had taken out the towers.

The first has more action, the second more back story and connection to the previous chapter, both work. Interestingly, though, the first feels more connected, as if just the act of speaking makes a deeper connection.

Your turn! Show and tell!


Filed under Drama Box