Friday, March 13, 2009

The Beginning

The longest novel begins with a single word. That word is followed by another, and soon we have a whole sentence. Sentences grow into paragraphs, and after a mere few years of mental anguish, a novel appears.

The books I write are historical novels set in New Zealand, with a strong character focus. New Zealand is a place that's exotic to most of my readers. I want them to be able to picture the settings, and picture my characters within those settings. I like to start with a word picture of the scene, and it's never long before the main character makes her appearance.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the first book, "Sentence of Marriage". The year is 1881.

Beyond the farmhouse the ground fell gradually in a series of low hills and flat paddocks, bright green where they had been planted in grass and darker green where the bush remained. The Waituhi creek wound along the valley floor before it disappeared from sight behind a steep bluff. Amy reached the top of a hill and paused, caught as she always was by the beauty of the view.

And beyond the mouth of the valley was the sea. The wide sweep of the Bay of Plenty stretched to the edge of Amy’s sight in either direction, and straight in front of her ocean met sky all along the horizon, broken only by White Island with its constant puff of smoke. Today she could see the island quite clearly through the crisp winter air. The ocean looked blue and mild. Some days it was grey and threatening; but always to Amy it was fascinating. To her it meant the world outside her valley; it meant excitement and adventure, and the lure of the unknown.

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