More on "finding the right pitch"
Published: January 27, 2006
|In the Writer at Work column in the March 2006 issue of The Writer, Susan Breen discusses how to find the right pitch for a novel's opening paragraph. She discusses another opening in the following Before and After sidebar.|
Before and After
The original opening of my short story "Triplet" was triggered by a house I saw one afternoon as I was driving past an apple field. I was intrigued by who would want to build such a large house in the middle of nowhere, and I wondered how it might look to someone who lived there.
My opening, however, was bland and gave no clue of what the story was going to be about.
There was a new house going up on the Dooley apple field and I couldn't figure out who was going to live in it. It was larger than most of the houses around here, but it didn't seem like a comfortable sort of house.
In the opening paragraph as it finally appeared on anderbo.com, the house is still there, but I changed the language to improve two areas: to make the narrator's voice much stronger and more unique, and to give the reader a better sense of the conflict that will drive the story--that the woman who narrates the story felt trapped in this town.
Rafael had been in town for about a week. He was putting the trim on the new house that was going up in the middle of Dooley's old apple orchard. That house was the most monumental thing to hit our town since my sisters and I were babies. It jutted up out of the flat, green landscape like something triumphant. It wasn't shaped like a regular house, but had odd turns and bends to it that made me think of knees and joints. It looked like it could get up and walk; hell, it looked like it would chase me down Route 52, and I often looked in my rearview mirror, expecting to see that house jiggling with exertion, waving its eaves and shouting. "Watch out! Watch out!"