Here comes scene 2!
I sincerely hope you felt something at the end of scene 1—a question, a sense of something immanent, perhaps curiosity about Deputy Andi Pelton—and even a sense of something not so good about to make Andi’s evening anything but boring. If not, my goal for the first scene wasn’t met.
But it’s short, and scene 2 introduces two of the other recurring main characters in this series: Ed Northrup, Andi’s life partner, and Grace Northrup, Ed’s adopted daughter who loves to call Andi her “step-girlfriend.” See what you think (and let me know, if you can!). Here’s Scene 2 from Standing Our Ground:
Ed pocketed his phone, uneasy. Shots fired? His worst fear was losing Andi in a violent confrontation. “Let it go,” he said to himself. “She’ll be okay.”
Grace walked past him, carrying another box. “Who’ll be okay, Northrup?”
He picked up the box he’d set down to answer the phone, following her out. “Andi just got a call at work. Shots fired.”
“Shots? My God, where?”
“In town, I suppose. But I don’t know for sure. I’m just hoping she’ll be okay.”
“She will. Andi can take care of herself.”
“Right.” He carried the box of Grace’s things out to his pickup, still jumpy. The last shots fired in Jefferson were the ones that almost killed Andi four years ago. He tried to dredge up that reverend’s name, the one who’d started it all.
Grace’s car, a used pink Volvo she’d immediately named the Pink Vulva, groaned with her belongings jammed into every corner. When Ed dropped the box onto the tailgate of his pickup, she called, “Careful with that, Northrup.”
“How’d you accumulate all this junk in just four years?” He snugged the box into the last open spot in the bed of the truck and raised the tailgate.
She studied him for a moment, calculation in her eyes. “I’ve been yours only three years and eight months.”
“Then it’s even more amazing you have so much junk.”
“Jen’s folks rented a whole trailer for, as you call it, her junk.” She sniffed. “I prefer to think of all this—” She pointed at the PV and then at his pickup. “—as beloved possessions.”
“Any more beloved possessions in the cabin?”
“Uh-uh. But would you consider letting me take a few bottles of that wine you and Andi drink so much of?”
“Ah. Would you consider first turning twenty-one?”
“Come on, Northrup. Please? I can’t buy wine for three more years. Having some in my dorm room would be a nice ice-breaker for those new friends I’m about to make.” She gave a coy smile. “Work with me here. I’m on the threshold of my new life.”
Ed took that in. Her new life. It felt too soon, after three years and eight months. “All right. One bottle for breaking the ice.”
“You’re grits and gravy, Northrup,” she sang as she dashed up the porch steps and into the house.
Ed smiled to himself: free “dad points,” and no harm done—she’d never remember the corkscrew.
He followed Grace up the porch steps, wondering who, if anybody, had been shot. In his head, he listed his patients. None of them were likely to take up arms against their particular slings and arrows, or to invite someone else to do so. Even Beatrice John, as broken and wounded as she was, wouldn’t shoot anybody. Except maybe herself. He pushed the thought away and concentrated on Andi’s shooting four years ago and the reverend who’d caused it all. As he opened the screen door, the name rushed back to him, riding a jolt of anger: Crane. The. Reverend. Loyd. Crane.
The purpose of the opening has changed over the years
It used to be that the opening of a novel could be leisurely, expansive; could focus on backstory or on a panoramic conveyance of information on the setting, the times, or the characters–long before any action begins. Openings could resemble long panning shots, showing the landscape, then slowly narrowing, closing in, seeing the protagonist’s face only after a long establishing scene. Not any more, at least not in the kind of fiction I write. Now we’re urged to enter in media res (which, of course, Aristotle recommended for drama–twenty-three hundred years ago!), in the midst of action, and not to “waste” time with backstory, rambling narrative, “introductions.” We writers are warned that agents and editors–not to mention discriminating readers–will not read past the first scene or two unless something compels them: a story question (who fired the shots? why? did anyone get hurt? what’s going to happen?), something about the protagonist (who should be in the scene) that endears or confuses (in a good story-question way) or unlocks an emotional response (will Andi get hurt? what’s this about their “unofficial marriage?), something that makes the reader want to go on, if only for another page. It will be the task of that other page to re-compel the reader to stay with it.
Did anything like that happen as you read? Was your curiosity piqued? Did you want to know more, even if at the moment that wanting was mild, just enough to go on to the next scene? I’d much appreciate knowing–good writers never stop learning, how to write better, of course, but also how readers engage with their work. You’re very welcome to help me learn by sending a comment.
See you tomorrow with scene 3!