Susan Rae, Romantic Suspense Author

Romance and Suspense…The Best of Both Worlds!

“Chapter One” : Two Of The Most Intimidating Yet Exhilarating Words To Type Onto A Blank Page

Chapter One 

Yes, the words can be quite intimidating, practically blinking on and off at you from the otherwise blank page.  And yet, at the same time, they can be quite exhilarating.  Characters, setting, story, all waiting, eager to be let loose.  Do you type the words, “Chapter One” and then pause for an interminable length of time and stare at the screen while you try to figure out where to begin, or do you type them and then rush forward as the story flows from your fingers?

The trick is to load up on the exhilaration side of the scale before you write, so it slams the scale down in that direction and doesn’t let the intimidation factor take hold.   How do I do that, you ask?  With very deliberate pre-writing.

Pre-writing, getting to know your characters and your story before you write the book.  I start a notebook, where each character, both protagonists and antagonists, hero, heroine, evil doers and even secondary characters get a page.  I jot down their likes and dislikes, their backstories, their ghosts.  For the hero and heroine, I discover how they are alike, and how they are different, and what makes them click together.  What is it that makes these two particular characters come together and create that chemistry between them that they wouldn’t have with any other person?  What is it about the other person that drives them crazy and yet makes them love them, too, and what needs/wants of the other person are in conflict with the needs/wants of each self.

At this point, I do a chart with all my major characters, showing how they feel about themselves and every other character in the book.   I thank our own Chicago North RWA member, Patricia Pinianski, for this “trick”.  I took an RWA Killer Instinct course she gave and learned this one.  It is amazing, because it is at this point that I start hearing the characters talking to one-another and I begin to visualize the specific scenes where the characters will be together in the story.  And this is where the characters begin to nag me to get on with the book.

But I am not ready yet.  I jot those scenes/conversations down in the notebook and move on to the Plot Grid.  Because I am currently writing romantic suspense, I generally have an idea of the beginning and the end of the story, but I feel I need to know the major plot points along the way, the major twists and turns in the suspense line as well as the romance line before I begin to write the novel.  I find this is a huge help to avoid the intimidation, otherwise known as writer’s block, that can seep in when I get deeper into the writing of the novel.  I get these progressions onto a chart with the headings ACT I, II, and III, and list the major beats in each act and the turning points that take the story from one act into the other.  Again, thanks to Patricia for this.  That’s not to say that all this is cut in stone, but it’s a great start.

By now, I also have quite a collection of clippings from news articles that relate to my hero and heroine and suspense storyline.  Pictures are tacked up to a peg board in my office, where I can glance up at them for inspiration.

And now, even as I try to put off the writing to avoid the intimidation of the blank page, the characters are screaming at me to get on with it.  Get their story out.

So here it goes:

“Chapter One”

Lieutenant Joseph Anthony DeLuca, Jr. of the Chicago Police Department Detective Division knelt beside the victim and pulled back the black tarp to expose the head and bloodied torso.  His gut clenched.  This never got easy, but this guy was a cop, one of their own, and it irked him even more.  Another senseless killing in the city of Chicago.  

From the preliminary investigation, according to his detective, the officer was shot in the chest, twice, after responding to a call for backup at the robbery of a convenience store.  The officer was running toward the front door when one of the “suspects” ran out. That guy was dead now, too.    

Sorry, that’s it for now!  Gotta keep filling up those blank pages in the manuscript. 🙂

While you’re waiting for the rest of the novel, TRUE BLUE, DeLuca Family 3, please check out books one and two in the series, Heartbeats and ICE blue

Happy Reading!


Copyright © 2013 by Susan Rae

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