Things come to me in driblets. and when the driblets come I have to work hard to make them into something coherent.
HALLIE: Taking off on a question that Mike Draper posted on Mystery Writers of America's listserv (EMWA) last week: Suppose a chapter of your book has just ended with your hero being told that a friend is dead and the authorities are saying it's suicide. How would you open the next chapter?
Does the room spin? Does your character dissolve into a tearful puddle? Is your character angry that, once again, her drama queen friend has made herself the center of attention... I know, I know, it all depends on the relationship between the two characters.
Here's one possible next-chapter opening:"At least now I wouldn't have to shoot her myself."
Anyone else want to take a few potshots at this??
HANK: How about: "Stella was murdered. Absolutely. No way she'd kill herself before the last episode of Project Runway. Plus, I knew she just paid off her Visa bill. If she were going to kill herself, why bother to write a check?"
Okay, I know I'm the fun-light one. Let me think of something else. Darker. Back soon.
HALLIE: See, this exercise is actually a kind of Rorschach.
RO: My character, Paula Holliday is a wisecracker, and if it was not a friend I can definitely hear her saying something like "Suicide? If it was, it was the only thing she ever did herself. Her servants had servants." But a friend...ooh, that's a bit different. My plucky protagonist would probably refuse to believe the death was suicide, would find the bad guys and beat the crap out of them.
JAN: Protagonist X would immediately charge over to the police/doctor/mother of the deceased friend to find out what she drank/inhaled/injected and whether the champagne/crack/steroid came from a suspicious source.Later, after Protagonist X obtained some stimulating, yet frustratingly ambiguous clue that could lead her in any number of directions, she'd see something on the drive home that reminded her of her deceased friend. Protagonist X then has a vivid, meaningful memory. She doesn't quite collapse, but emotes deeply, yet in an intelligent way that allows her to maintain control of the car, so she doesn't tragically veer off the road, way too early in the novel, and end up as a fatality before chapter three.
HALLIE: Okay, I wanna read that book. Especially the *emotes deeply yet intelligently but not tragically* part.
HANK: Said I'd be back. Hallie, I think this is a fascinating exercise. On the face of it, it seems like an off-the-wall idea. But I now think it's actually very, as you say, revealing. I've been experimenting all weekend (between reheating stuffing and deciding how long is too long to keep sweet potatoes) with openings for the next chapter.
And some I write (in my head) don't seem like me. The dark, writhing-in-pain ones, or the bitter self-blaming ones. The ones I COULD write are questioning, certainly, like:
"I tried to list all the reasons Stella would kill herself. Just like Stella did. She made lists, for everything, while she was alive. Maybe, somewhere, she left one last careful roster of pros and cons."
I could also go the conspiracy route. "I dashed for the kitchen.For my recycling bin. I suppose I could have gone on line, but all I could remember was where the article had been on the newspaper page. I had to see how it looked. I knew I had read articles about two other suicides of thirty-something single women, just in the last week. That seemed like too many."
And looking at those ideas, I guess you can tell I'm a reporter.
HALLIE: I can see it now - BREAKING NEWS: The first serial suicide novel!
So, folks, please chime in with your response to this challenge: Suppose a chapter of your book has just ended with your hero being told that a friend is dead and the authorities are saying it's suicide. How would you open the next chapter??