>Flatland 04

>Being the fourth in a series charting the writing of a new fantasy detective story.

I tried a first paragraph this morning:

I woke that morning to find the city had been flattened. Literally.

It wasn’t the first time I’d slept at the office. The house got bigger when Laura died, you see. Too big for one old gumshoe to rattle around in. The work got bigger too. Big enough to live in.

Not bad. The first line was always in place, but the first thing that struck me after that was that I need to explain why my hero PI sleeps at his office. Now, this is an issue I’ve tackled previously in a novel-length manuscript, but that’s as-yet unpublished. So I’ve got to touch on it here, without labouring the point. Although, the dead wife could be a good way to introduce the PI’s loneliness and thus fuel his reactions to being thrown into an intense social situation (see previous Flatland blog entries).

The third sentence seems to throw the story back towards the past too much though. And I’m not sure the work getting bigger line fits. Let’s try:

I woke that morning to find the city had been flattened. Literally.

Mostly I sleep at the office. It’s a bad habit, but it’s served me well enough for the last ten years. When Laura died, the house got bigger. Too big for this old gumshoe.

Better. But according to the backstory, our hero didn’t become a private detective until after his wife died. What I’ve written isn’t exactly wrong chronologically, but it’s not quite on the button either. It’s also time to hard-boil it a little more. I always start these stories overwriting, then edit and rewrite in the usual way. Towards the end I’ll do at least one ‘hard-boil it’ pass, to tighten things up and give it as much of a noir feel as possible.

Which turns my opening into this:

I woke that morning to find the city had been flattened. Literally.

Mostly I sleep at the office. A bad habit, but it’s served me well enough for the last ten years. When Laura died, the house got bigger. Too big for one.

Well, that’s 43 words down. To hit the optimum length that leaves just 9,957 to go. You’ll forgive me if I don’t chronicle the entire writing process like this! Oh, and there’s every chance the final thing won’t begin like this at all (although I do like that first line – if anything stays, that will). I’m already thinking I should use the second paragraph to set up the situation (the 2D city outside the window) and save the dead wife for later.

But that’s editing. If I do too much of that now, I’ll roadblock my first draft before it’s even started. Onward!

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