Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Druid Made Me Do It

From Lori: Please weclome back a talented paranormal writer with a wickedly skewed view of life, my good friend Natale Stenzel.

(Well, actually, ‘Pandora’s Box made me do it,’ since Druid’s a sequel and PB sets up the opening, but see, that’s not my book title. And I’m shameless that way. And getting way ahead of myself.)

Hi everyone, and thanks so much for having me here at The Otherworld Diner today! It’s great to be back. Hope I’m dressed okay? You don’t require shoes, do you? (I’m only barely civilized.)

From what Lori told me and what I’ve read on previous posts, it looks like hooks and openers are the theme this week. As it happens, that works for me, too. Well, that and it’s hard to come up with my own topic in between sneezes and snorts. I’ll try to keep the summer cold slime on my side of the screen – my apologies.

Here’s my opening for The Druid Made Me Do It, (Dorchester Love Spell, August 2008), the second book in my series of funny paranormal romances:

“You, Janelle Corrington, will be Robin Goodfellow’s guardian on Earth.”

And, actually, that’s not just the opener but also the premise for the whole book: To satisfy karma and Druid justice, hunky but penitent bad boy Kane (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) must make amends to everyone he’s harmed in the past – including Dr. Janelle Corrington, his new and reluctant guardian. How does a Druid convince a human doctor to take on guardianship of the guy who devastated her years ago? Why, he offers compensation in the form of a gift she cannot refuse: the power to heal with just a touch. Not that this gift is without its own drawbacks . . . and temptations.

I’ll admit I’m partial to dialogue openers, but then, I’m a dialogue junky. My first drafts basically resemble a bunch of talking heads in need of bodies, props and setting. For me, though, it’s easy enough to insert the narrative parts later, but dialogue . . . Well, when the dialogue is flowing, when the characters are talking in my head faster than I can type, who am I to silence them? I can be unwise at times, but (I hope) never that stupid. Sometimes it feels like I’m just taking dictation. But those are the good days, you know?

Openings honestly terrify me unless they emerge immediately and completely. I have to not think about them and just dive into the story, hoping for the best. Otherwise, that blank screen stays blank. So I write something – anything -- just to get started. Sometimes I nail the first line immediately; other times I have to go back and change it later. That’s when it can get ugly; we’re talking copious tears, cursing and bloodshed as I work, rework, set aside, reconsider, toss aside and start over . . . before the final version of that first line finds its way onto the page. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but really only about the bloodshed part.

For Pandora’s Box (Dorchester Love Spell , February 2008), the first book in my series, I started with a blog entry by my heroine. She basically retells the Pandora’s box myth, adding her unorthodox perspective on the subject, and hints at how it relates to her own situation.

Then, I go to chapter one and begin (again) with dialogue:

“I inherited a rock? Some distant relative I’ve never met willed me a rock? You can’t be serious.” Was that supposed to be an insult? Mina wondered. You’ve been a bad little descendent, Mina, so here, accept this rock as a sign of my eternal contempt . . .

And, sure, that particular rock – her inheritance – turns out to be Pandemina Dorothy Avery’s very own rock box of trouble.

For my March 2009 release, Between a Rock and a Heart Place (third book in the series), I begin with stand-alone quotes by my hero and heroine. They’re taken completely out of context but are a deliberate study in contrast and set up my characters in opposition to each other. I’d quote them here, but they haven’t been edited yet (and may very well suck).

I do think – as I’ve seen mentioned here in other postings – that leading with dialogue can be and often is abused. However, I think dialogue is one of my greatest strengths as a writer and I think it’s generally best to lead with your strengths if you can. You know, put your best foot forward?

So tell me . . . how do you get that curser moving across the first page? Can you toss something temporary up there as you plow through your rough draft, or must it be perfect before you can move on? What tricks work for you? How do you use your strengths?

Natale Stenzel


  1. Great post Natale. I adored Riordan from Pandora's Box and now I can't wait to start Robin's story. Probably will as soon as I finish this blog post since that delicious cover with those 6-pack abs is within arm's reach of me right now and the kids are still sleeping. *G*

  2. Kind of a tantalizing cover, isn't it?*g*

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Riordan. I had so much fun with him and he could be so bad at times. I hope the next book lives up to expectations (and, um, abs*g*). Thanks, Lori!

    P.S. Robin gets annoyed if you call him Robin. He was christened 'Kane' and old wives' tales renamed him Robin Goodfellow. Gossip can be so cruel, you know? Especially when you're a legend.

  3. Enjoyed your post Natale. So you. :) I can't wait to read The Druid Made Me Do It. Love your title. Amazinly hot cover!
    First story lines. I rarely hit it from the start and often revise the first line numerous times before the book is done. Enjoy your summer and may your sales zoom! ^5

    Diana Cosby

  4. The book looks fantastic and funny -- a great combination. Thanks for hanging out here with us today, Natale. Come back anytime!

    Jody W.

  5. Aw, thanks, Diana:). Nice to know I'm not the only one agonizing over that first line of the story. It's like first impressions; you only get one shot at it and it's so hard to tell when you're making a good one:P.

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope TX is being kind to you:).

  6. Thanks, Jody -- for the kind words and the welcome:).

  7. Natale wrote:
    P.S. Robin gets annoyed if you call him Robin. He was christened 'Kane' and old wives' tales renamed him Robin Goodfellow. Gossip can be so cruel, you know? Especially when you're a legend.

    Oops. My bad. Hope he wasn't too offended. *G*

  8. No worries -- Janelle's been known to call him much worse*eg*.

  9. Thanks so much for stopping by. Could I interest you in a slice of our award winning pie?

    I loved your openings! In fact, your books sound wonderful. I'll be putting your books on my ever-growing "must read" list. (too many books, too little time, sigh).

    By the way, your writing process sounds much like my own. I too take dictation from my characters, then fill in the rest later.

    Thanks again for stopping by. Could I get you some coffee to go with that pie?

  10. Oh Natale, I LUV dialogue as well. And you process sounds similar to mine so I'm you "hear" rather than "see" your characters/story? I do. Which is why I write better in silence. Better to hear the voices.

    Thanks for visiting.


  11. Thanks for the post, Natale. You made some excellent points which have me rethinking the opener for my current WIP. I think I just thought of a better first line.