SHELF LIFE: Cutting To The Chase
Wives are great things, especially when it comes to pointing out your mistakes. Last year, my little Julie came to me and pointed to my books and said, “Notice the similarity?”
I stared at my titles and saw the obvious straight away—their sheer awesomeness. Apparently, that wasn’t what she meant. She told me to describe them. I did, then I groaned, then I went to mope in a corner.
Hand on heart, I do my best to be original, to think ahead, to see the big picture, but sometimes I’ll drop the ball. In this particular case, I managed to drop the ball several times.
So what’s my big mistake—car chases.
My first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, opens with the hero being run off the road. My second novel, PAYING THE PIPER, opens with the hero racing across San Francisco after hearing his son has been kidnapped. My third book, WE ALL FALL DOWN, novel opens with joy riders chasing after a man only to watch him commit suicide. TERMINATED broke the cycle with a job evaluation interview. Then I do fall off the wagon again with THE FALL GUY and ROAD RASH which do feature cars at the beginning but don’t have chases though.
Yes, I am a car nut and we live in a car centric world, but it wasn’t my intention to open all my books with some sort of car motif. It kind of just happened. Blame it on my subconscious.
In my defense, my first three books may have come out in that order but they weren’t written in that order. ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN might have been my first book, but WE ALL FALL DOWN was my second book, while PAYING THE PIPER was my fifth. NO SHOW and a couple of other unpublished books were in between these three and none of them featured car chases, so don’t go thinking I’m a one trick pony. Really…don’t. I am good at this writing thing. Just give me a chance.
The irony of ironies (in an Alanis Morrissette, ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife kind of a way) is that both of the Aidy Westlake motor racing books which would be totally legitimate in beginning with a car chase don’t! Looking at the subsequent story lines I have planned, none of those begin with a car chase either. That isn’t by design. It just is. :-/
When it comes to the opening of one of my books, I have one rule—start with a bang. Throw the readers into the action with little or no preamble and make the opening dramatic—physically or emotionally or both. That means cutting to the chase. Maybe I took this chase point a little too much to heart. I hope you’ll forgive me. J