Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Week in the Fire

Last week I presented the second draft of Altercation to my review group. I am so stoked by their reviews because, though they weren't raving and glorious, they have given me a definite direction for draft#3.

Things they like:
1) The detective. Nice voice.
2) The girls' relationship with each other.
3) The hook of the kidnapping case

Things they didn't like:
1) setting. No descriptions.
2) Too many fragments in thoughts.
3) A bit confusing. What are the cases, anyway?
4) Not as strong a hook in chapter 1b.

The first three objections in the things they didn't like are easily rectified. #4, not quite so. I'm struggling with this, how to make the book suspenseful right off the bat. Because, kind of like in the sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Altercation starts out where all is well. The girls have been rescued. It's kind of a play by play of life in government custody, before everything goes wrong in about chapter 7. If I start the book in chapter 7, with everything going wrong, I know my readers will roll their eyes and wonder how on earth this could happen--again.

Kind of like in Catching Fire. If we had jumped right back into the same setting as The Hunger Games, we would have said, "Lame." (Maybe some of us did anyway.)

So, even though none of you have read the book, what do you suggest to help make it a page turner? I'm starting draft #3 today.


Stephanie Faris said...

Good practice for your future. My agent and I have been passing revisions back and forth for the past two months. I've found my critique group time really prepared me well for this.

David J. West said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David J. West said...

My personal suggestion for a hook.

Think about movies-what is done right off the bat in mystery suspense movies to intrigue you? It doesnt have to be your people where all is well-how about cuttng to the inciting incedent that is going to cause the problem/conflict? or if you have to save that because I haven't read anything and don't know-how about an exciting thing with the villian/antagonist doing something especially bad-terrifying-mysterious to hook the reader.
Just my 2 bits

Simon C. Larter said...

You know those idyllic scenes in horror or suspense movies where everything's just so nice, and everyone's happy and cheerful, but you just know something terrible is going to happen? Like when the soundtrack hits a minor key note? That's the kind of atmosphere I'd be looking for, I think.

How that plays out in fiction? I'd guess foreshadowing, hints from the agents keeping the girls in custody that things aren't all fixed yet, little things that don't feel quite right, or that might seem out of place in happyland. Are there any minor crises that you could write into Ch.2 or Ch.3? Something to keep the reader interested, then give them a false sense of security before slamming 'em with Ch.7?

Just some random thoughts. Good luck on the revisions!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

David and Simon, great suggestion. I'm brainstorming minor crises as we speak. :)

Jordan said...

More tension. More conflict. I like to use The Incredibles as an example—it keeps your interest for the first half hour even though there's no adventure because there's conflict.

Beyond that, there are a lot of ways to ramp up the tension within a scene. I cam up with 37 ways a while ago ( http://jordanmccollum.com/2009/09/create-tension/ ), and Camy Tang has articles on increasing the overall tension in a story ( http://research-writing-techniques.suite101.com/article.cfm/increase_the_tension_of_a_scene ) and increasing the tension in every line ( http://research-writing-techniques.suite101.com/article.cfm/increase_the_tension_of_a_scene ).

(Hey—Blogger let me cut and paste in an embedded comment box! Woot!!)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

great suggestions, Jordan! Thanks!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

It sounds like you have some great suggestions,Tamara. I like the idea of some minor crises, too. :)

Heather Sunseri said...

I like the suggestions here. James Scott Bell says the beginnings of our books need a "distubance." Have you read his book Plot and Structure? He suggests an intial disturbance that "creates reader interest." This is not yet the main plot, but something that shows the reader that something interesting is coming.

Good luck!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Have you read Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol? I love how it started. It hooks you tight in the first two pages. You have to keep reading just to see what happens.

Check it out. It might help give you some ideas. I like a murder right from the start or something spine tingling like that. Would love to read it!

Elisa said...

hmmm... did the villain's pov get cut? I can't remember. If not, you might consider starting out with some of his evil plotting thoughts, just for that tension of knowing he's out there even though all seems well.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Elisa--yes, the villain's POV did get cut! And that was totally the opening chapter of the book. Maybe that's why I'm struggling! But I've got some ideas, it's going to take some reworking, but I'll see what I can do.

Voidwalker said...

In regards to starting the book out suspenseful:

If the beginning of this story starts out safely and 'alls well,' have you considered starting the book out by playing out the last suspsensful moments of the book before? (if I understood you correctly, this is a sequel right?)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

that's something to consider, Voidwalker. thanks!

sanjeet said...

Like when the soundtrack hits a minor key note? That's the kind of atmosphere I'd be looking for, I think.
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