The First Moment

The Writer's Playbook

My second book in the Roger Viceroy series, The Counsel of the Cunning, launches November 9th. It’s one of those moments for a writer that evoke a suite of emotions – thrilling, exciting, and captivating to name a few. With a little luck (and a lot of book marketing), that same day can evoke similar emotions for the reader. Certainly, once you have a following and, if fortune shines, a massive following, each book’s debut is an emotional moment for both writer and reader.

It’s that “debut” word that I’d like to focus on. 

In the context of a book, the debut is the prologue or Chapter 1. It’s the doorway to enter the world created by the author. In the mystery/thriller/suspense genres, the invitation to enter and read on is a curtain-raising whoosh to a scene that should yank you in and not let go.

As you may be able to tell, I’m a huge proponent of the opening chapter being loaded with intrigue right out of the gate. My job as an author is to instantly get your attention. If that doesn’t happen until some number of chapters later, my percentage rate of losing a reader climbs quickly. 

Perhaps my inspiration is from movies I’ve experienced that open with a bang. Think of any James Bond movie, or the first Raiders of the Lost Ark movie where it opens to Harrison Ford on the final leg of a treasure hunt and the screen immediately fills with mystery, danger, high stakes, and Indiana Jones barely escaping death. You couldn’t help but want to see the rest of the movie.

I approach my books the same way. In the first book, Give Place to Wrath, the opening chapter deals specifically and completely with a bombing at a posh golf course on a casual weekday morning, written in a way as through the lens of the perpetrator. In the second, well, let’s just say the set-up involves a bit of flashback, a kidnapping, and an intriguing finish to the chapter alluding to something deeper going on, a plot referenced of evil intent, and far more involved than what was written.

We all remember our firsts in life. There’s a reason for that. It’s an emotional experience. A well-written opening chapter should induce the same result.