Award-winning horror author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro lets us glimpse into her writing process.
As I discuss in Fine-Tuning Fiction, it is part of a story’s structure to hook the reader early and keep the reader involved in the tale as long as possible. This is what the “Presence” does, the establishment of the what-where-when-ness of it all, so that the whos in it may be reinforced by their environment. Usually this needs to be accomplished in the first paragraph of the story or chapter—which is a discreet unit within a larger story—there by shock, or by seduction. It can also help you avoid the dreaded Expostulatory Lump by giving needed information up front as part of setting the scene.
This is the opening paragraph of Part III, Chapter 1 of my current writing project, the 27th Saint-Germain book, Sustenance. [Story-text in italics, my commentary in bold.]
A light spring mizzle was falling, looking like a dusting of minute diamonds in the shine of the streetlamp.This tells the reader that it’s a misty night in mid-May.Across the Seine and a short way ahead of them, the Louvre appeared to be a painted backdrop, its image flattened by mist and the night. In Paris.There was almost no wind on this cool, late evening, though the damp was adding a chill to the air; sidewalks and streets shone black, and the river glinted silver where the spill of lamplight struck it; a barge headed upriver was leaving a frothy, spangled wake behind.The night is cool. The river is beautiful but also a bit threatening.It was almost midnight and the streets were nearly empty of traffic; only the two-toned whoop of an ambulance a block away gave any reminder that this was a large, active city, not a forgotten, abandoned relic of a metropolis. It is 1950 and there are still reminders of World War II around Paris.