Early this week I had the chance to visit the surprisingly humble grave of my Broccoli Writer. Even just thinking of him cleaned up some of my recent prose. Sadly, I was not the one to give him the flowers or to write him a nice French note you can glimpse on the right border of this shot.
I really appreciate all of the comments you left me last week regarding my novel opening. Honestly, you gave me a lot to think about.
I haven't quite settled on the opening yet, but I wrote a new version of it. My book has two story lines, one when the protagonist, Bao, is a man and one when he is a boy. I had always started the book with him as a man, but I thought it could work to have the first chapter be about boyhood, about the last day when Bao and his brother Daeng (the antagonist) got along with each other.
Here's my original opening paragraph:
A gunshot roars through the Chiang Mai bungalow. The flash of light catches Daeng Phamduong's smug, fat face. He tumbles out of his teak recliner, making it skid across the polished floorboards. He has been hit in the side. He tries to cover the gash with one of his meaty hands, but the blood comes out between his fingers. A lung has been punctured. Its collapse is like a knot, massive and tightening, in his chest.
Here's my new trial paragraph:
The dirt is perfect. A light powder blankets more densely-packed soil underneath. It stays settled down, even when the boys jump on it to feel for its spring. They are poor boys in this fishing town of Ra-nong. Their feet are bare. Their T-shirts are thin. The soccer ball is worn to the threads.
I haven't made any final decisions. The original paragraph sets up a pattern of violence that will come up again twice in the book. It's one slice of bread in a violence sandwich.
The new paragraph gives a better sense of the general tone of the book, so it might help to orient readers sooner. The new paragraph also allows some of Bao's happier moments to come out before his life goes downhill, which is the rest of the book.
P.S. Feel free to post your own writing samples in the comments at any time. If anyone wants to submit a sample with a question as a main post for discussion, let me know. I think it would be great to use the blog as a workshop space.