Wednesday, April 13, 2005


So once again, I find myself in the all-too-familiar position as the Champion of Lost Causes. Well, OK, that's a little melodramatic. The responses to my Openings post do show how much individual tastes and perceptions vary.

I agree, Michelle. Blood and violence are pretty commonplace these days. Using them as a hook to grab a reader's attention is singularly ineffective. There has to be something deeper.

As a long-time horror reader/writer, I am probably more inured to blood and gore than many other people. In the horror genre, that's really kind of expected. It's almost part of the scenery, unless it's just too over-the-top with senseless violence and sadism. In this case, the violence is certainly extreme, at least in the first part of the chapter, and hangs over the rest of the chapter like a pregnant thunderhead looking for the right victim, and the expectation of violence carries over into the second scene. That suspense is one of the reasons I want to keep reading.

Debra, the biggest reason I want to keep going is exactly the same reason that you don't. As someone with a connection to childhood trauma, the impact that this scene has on the protagonist's later life intrigues me. Does he think and feel in a way I can relate to? How does he deal with the horror and "survivor guilt"? In the second scene, there is a suggestion of violent potential in his encounter with his wife and kid. I don't want him to be the violent one. I want him to have made at least a little progress away from that. But I can't be sure. That draws me on. People have their dark sides. This guy's has to be darker than most.

One of the things I really like about this opening is the way he uses all the characters senses. His ears hurt, he sees the blood, hears the sound the knife makes. Then there is the touch of realism of the boy trying to distance himself emotionally from the horror. He sees a body, but is able to keep the fact that it's his mother at arm's length. He hears the sound and thinks about canteloupe and supper. That's a very realistic defensive maneuver. He wants to keep the blood separate so someone can "fix" it later. All these things are signs of a mind overwhelmed by the trauma. All these things will come back to contribute to his problems later on.

Finally, and crucially, I want to know how and why he survived. I identify with this boy. I feel for him. I want to know about him. For me, the novel has an effective hook.

But then, I'm famous for being weird.


At 6:32 PM, Blogger Demented M said...

I loved that pregnant thundercloud comment--that was great.

Do you have an agent yet or something submitted?

I saw you had a story up on Harrow recently--good for you.

Anyway, that opening while well written, would've required a strong blurb to keep me reading. I would need to have some idea of the premise and be interested in it to continue on. Perhaps I'm not cut out to read horror!

And yes the universe is SO out to get me.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Carter said...

Thanks. I love it when those phrases just pop out.

No agent (YET!!!). I'm deeply involved in working on my first novel. Having a little trouble getting a handle on the opening, hence my interest in Like Death.

I do have some short stories submitted right now. I keep a log of them at

Thanks for the nice thoughts. We Universe-abused have to stick together.


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