|Commentary, Chapter 1|
|Monday, 28 May 2007|
Based on things I've been asked at writer's conferences and questions from others, here are some answers. Fortunately, the internet enables authors to share information as freely as we want. Personally, I think doing it this way beats having an FAQ section. (No actual human being should have an "FAQ" section. I mean, it's not like you're here to order office supplies from me or something.)
So take a break from the grind, read on, and discover how a story gets sketched... - JL
First things first, I’ll answer the question, “How did you come up with the idea for the book?”
I remember sitting on an airplane one summer at Denver International Airport waiting to take off. I’m not sure where I was going, but it was a solo trip. It was one of those times where they just leave you waiting forever and don’t tell you anything. Like, “Gee folks, we’re sorry, we have no idea what we’re doing and this plane won’t be taking off for a long, long time. Yes, it was silly to board you all like that when we really weren’t ready. Feel free to do something productive, ‘cause it’s gonna be awhile.”
I think the airline was United, but I’m not positive. As I was staring out the window. my mind wandered. I got the idea of a group of teen friends in a small town who conspire to commit horror-movie-style murders. Then a mystery unfolds because it’s almost impossible to know who all was involved and who wasn’t, who’s protecting whom, and if the wrong person is going to take the fall for everything. I think the first character I envisioned was Cameron. And I knew he would have to turn in a way (and for reasons) the other characters wouldn’t be expecting. The whole friends turning on friends aspect struck me as ripe storytelling fodder, particularly if I could surround that plot element with suspenseful scenes.
If someone would’ve have asked me about it right then and there, I would have said it was a short story. That’s how it started out in my head. Regardless, I guess I should thank United for not taking off when they were supposed to.
My first goal for Dark Friday was to begin the story in medias res (“in the middle of the action”). It’s a storytelling technique that’s used in many books and movies.
Once I had the rough idea for the beginning of the story — the immediate aftermath from a night of horrific attacks that shock and overwhelm a small town — I started brainstorming for an image that could embody that idea. And so I started asking questions:
What if I have the top cop in the town rushing all over the place trying to get a handle on an obviously-out-of-control situation?
Which lead to…
What if I brought the reader into the police car with the cop as he’s racing around town trying to put a stop to it?
What if I put readers in the driver’s seat just as the cop hears a final homicide report come over his radio?
And walla. You have your beginning to the story.
Let me say this at the outset: I’m not a paintballer, and I’ve never actually played. Dark Friday was a fairly well-developed story before I ever even considered this element. I, as the author, and you, the reader, owe this image to my two brothers.
One summer I was at a sporting goods store, just standing around doing nothing, waiting for my brothers to buy some waterskiing equipment. It seemed like the transaction was taking forever. Near where I was standing, the store had a paintball mask displayed on the wall at almost my exact eye level. I’m standing there trying to ignore it, and I realize this thing is creepy and it's bothering me. I’m like “Why do they make those things look so insidious?” I tried to be cool and look away, but it seemed like the thing kept looking at me. Now, the “creep ante” is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, obviously. But I’m thinking, hey, I’m no pansy and this is bothering me. Maybe I should have the guys in my book wear these?
When I originally conceived this story, some of my characters were going to don hockey masks (which actually makes some sense considering how big of fans they are of the Friday the 13th films). The more I thought about it, though, the more I didn’t want critics and readers to dismiss the book out-of-hand simply because of hockey mask imagery.
As a writer, I want to do things I haven’t seen done before. I also seek to create imagery that is visual and visceral. So out went the hockey masks from Dark Friday and in went paintball masks, which worked better for a lot of storytelling reasons.
Basically, this entire element of my book came to life because the Scheels in Coralville, Iowa, understaffed the waterskiing-gear aisle one Saturday.
Continuing with the in medias res approach, here we have the fleeing girl. We just don’t know exactly why she’s fleeing yet. I thought about not writing this section from the girl’s point of view, since she’s a character that doesn’t have any more scenes for quite awhile (for reasons that will be made obvious). But I wanted her reaction, and want readers to feel her sense of panic and fear. I’m trying to show the reaction then fill in the “whys” later.
This is one of those scenes that pretty much turned out exactly how I originally envisioned it in my head. I’m particularly fond of the last few lines.
There is, in fact, a Lebanon Cemetery near Jasonville, though it is fudging a bit geographically to say that someone would jog through town and end up there.
Approximately three miles south of Jasonville on highway 59 in Midland, Indiana, is a church (Lebanon Baptist). Across the highway lies...Lebanon Cemetery.
Both my editor and writer friends who reviewed Dark Friday when it was a manuscript really liked this paragraph, in particular.
Tyre’s Tomb: I spent some time in New Orleans (well before the city was hit with Hurricane Katrina) and was intrigued by the cemeteries there. Everything is above ground, and graveyards are filled with mausoleums, because New Orleans is below sea level. Yeah, I know, if you think about that one awhile…ick. Anyway, this got me noticing how some graveyards in the Midwest will occasionally include a mausoleum or two. I think an early “crypt scene” makes for a good suspenseful atmospheric. The truth is there isn’t really a Tyre’s Tomb in Jasonville.
I took the name “Tyre” from the Bible. It’s an ancient city that still exists in Lebanon off the Mediterranean coast. (Yep: Lebanon Cemetery and Tyre’s Tomb; that was intentional.) If you’ve ever heard of the color “Tyrian purple,” it’s a hue traditionally worn by nobility that originated in Tyre. It’s pretty sexy…if you like your purples.
Again, I love these last few lines; the mistrust from Hope toward Casey right now running wild. What does he know? Why can’t he say anything? What is going through his head? Later, when the reader meets Casey and gets in his head, there are some clues about why he’s hesitating here. What he’s thinking.
My vibe is that the first chapter ends just the way it needed to. I hope it gets people’s attention and makes them want to know more. Of course I’m biased, but I enjoy it as a reader.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 31 May 2010 )|
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