Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How to Begin a Romance Novel? (Beginnings Blogfest)

Today's post is for L.G. Keltner's Beginnings Blogfest. For this blog hop, which L.G. hosts to celebrate her one-year blogiversary, she asks participants to write about some kind of beginning. Click here to check out other participants' entries. As for my entry, I'll shamelessly use it to solicit readers' opinions on how to begin my soon-to-be-a-proper romance novel, Bedeviled.

As I wrote in a previous post:
I've been thinking of Bedeviled as a supernatural thriller for quite some time but, lately, have desired to take it in more of a romantic direction—which is to say, rather than starting with the Main Character's love life at its crisis point (and having very little interaction between her and her fella except for the beginning and end of the tale), I want to tell the same crazy story while also showing the developing relationship between Madeleine (my main chick) and Gavin (her main squeeze).
The other thing about Bedeviled is that it's an "ensemble cast," which can work for a romance novel, only the heroine & hero's love story has to be the main focus of the narrative for it to fit in with the romance genre. At the moment, chapter one features several sections, each introducing the players in the novel. However, the very first section opens with the main antagonists. I think it packs a punch but wonder if I shouldn't begin with Maddie and Gavin's first meeting (which hasn't yet been written).

I'm pasting that first segment below*, but y'all don't have to read it to give me your thoughts on the matter. Does a romance novel have to begin with the featured couple or not? I look forward to your comments!

*This excerpt contains evidence of violence, nudity, a swear word, and sloppy eating habits. Reader discretion is advised.

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The current beginning excerpt from Bedeviled, by me:

The rumbling thud from within the bedchamber behind him roused Cadzick from his thoughts.  He waited, all senses straining, then heard what must have been a shoe hitting the floor.  Ardos had finished his dinner.  Time to remove the leftovers.

Cadzick reached for the French door lever, pressed down, and opened the door.  Peering in through the crack, he saw her.  Her body poured onto the hardwood, the candlelight playing along her naked flesh, her torso twisted.  He opened the door wider, stepped inside the quiet room, and shut it behind him.
 

Ardos reclined against the pillowed headboard, the sheet pulled up to his waist.  He swabbed up the blood, wiping it unhurriedly from his face, his throat and chest, his arms.  Seeing Cadzick, Ardos shot the soiled towel at him, hitting Cadzick square in the face.  It fell at Cadzick’s feet.  He ignored it.
 

“You’re just in time,” Ardos said, reaching over to the tray on the night table and plucking a peach from it.  Long, tapered fingers, gleaming white, closed around it.  He brought it to his lips, closed his eyes, and inhaled the aroma of the ripened fruit, all sensual languor.

Cadzick regarded the dead woman.  Her eyes were wide.  Blue.  Her arms alabaster, outspread.  Hands open, palms up.  Pleading.  Blood flowed freely from her, a thick pool of it settled into the cracks of polished oak.  Those stains would be the very devil to remove.  “Are you quite finished?” he asked.
 

“Quite.”  Ardos’ eyes were still closed, his ruddy lips drawn back, long incisors exposed.  His tongue glistened, salivating with anticipation of the bite, and darted out to lap teasingly at the peach fuzz.  He inhaled again, deeply, then tore into the flesh.  The nectar oozed down his wrist, catching the light from the candles all around.
 

“I’ll have this disposed of, then.”
 

“Yes.”

Cadzick approached the corpse.  He pushed against her hip with his foot, straightening her out.  With her buttocks now on the floor, Cadzick could discern the source of the blood.  Ardos had pierced her mons pubis, guzzled from the artery, and cast her off, an emptied juice box.  Cadzick looked back at Ardos, who’d just ripped off half of the dewy peach pulp with one ferocious bite.  Another finished it off.  Satisfied, Ardos tossed the pit aside.  It skipped across the dead woman’s forehead before skidding along the floor and under the ornate dresser.


“Did you...?”


“Fuck her?  Of course.”  Ardos tried to shake off the sticky nectar, then rubbed his hand along the ivory bedspread, smearing the goo around.


Cadzick shut his eyes against this, then crouched down on his haunches to inspect further.  His hand went to her lower abdomen, felt without touching.  Nothing.  It was too soon to tell.  He rose to his feet.  Ardos’ hedonism put their plans at great risk.  Would he never learn to control himself?


“Is there a problem?”  Ardos, hands wrung dry, stepped out of bed.  Tall, firm, broad.  Naked.  Erect.
 

Cadzick strove to temper his next words.  “What if she has...conceived?”

Ardos shrugged as he pulled on his silk charcoal bathrobe.  “Then she’s conceived.”


“But if she has—”


“Don’t panic,” Ardos raised a hand to silence him.  The belt on the robe tied itself as he spoke.  “Just have her buried by the shore, right by the water.  It’ll be fine.”


Cadzick’s face was mutinous.  “How do you know that?”


Ardos turned a steely glare upon him.  “It will.”  He held the other’s gaze until Cadzick looked away.  “I’ll just freshen up a bit and then we can meet with the others to brainstorm on possible opening gambits for the Elect Madeleine—ugh!


Cadzick’s eyes flew back to Ardos at the grunt.  Ardos, halfway out of the room, clutched at the doorframe, head bowed.  “What is it?”  He heard Ardos’ breathing slow, halt, and then shakily resume before the answer came, “It’s nothing.”  Then Ardos was gone.


Cadzick considered the dead woman, then mentally summoned Asaroth and Oriel.  When they appeared, he gave them their orders.


Oriel glanced at Asaroth before asking, “Why don’t you do it...Catsick?”


Cadzick’s lips turned down.  He said nothing, merely waited for them to obey him.  Another exchange of glances and they did so.  Asaroth ripped the bloody sheet from the bed, wrapped the woman in it, and took off with the body, with Oriel close behind.


Alone, Cadzick regarded the bloody floor with distaste.  He drew closer, waved a hand over it, then bent down again for a better look.  Though the pools had vanished, a drop or three of blood had sunk into the wood grain.  Those marks wouldn’t be coming out anytime soon.


*     *     *

20 comments:

  1. This scene certainly contains some sloppy eating habits. I'd hate to be stuck cleaning up after these dudes! Great description!

    I don't think a romance has to start with the main couple. It just depends on what you ultimately think works best for the story you're telling.

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  2. Terrific excerpt! I didn't want the story to stop. I'm late coming round, my friend, but I've been insane of late. Sorry! :)

    Now, as someone who writes erotica and erotic romance, I do have to say that if your main couple is not right at the beginning, one or the other must show up within the first couple of pages. You could do this as the very short first chapter or as a prologue. But you have to establish your couple right away in a romance or readers get very disappointed. However, if you write this as a paranormal/urban fantasy tale with a romantic elements then you will be fine holding off on introducing the main couple. Just my two cents. :) This is going to be a kick ass tale when it's all done.

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  3. Hmmm.... interesting dilemma. I'd say the main couple should be introduced first with their dilemma, then you can introduce the others as you need them. :-)

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  4. Well, that made me very uncomfortable. Definitely a powerful opening. It doesn't feel like a romance to me (not that I've read one lately), but I like it.

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    1. "... It doesn't feel like a romance to me..."

      That's probably the best argument for starting with the couple! :-)

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  5. I think this beginning is like nothing I've read before. I like it!

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  6. At least one person from the couple should be introduced straight away. Then the other person needs to show up pretty quick. Readers are an impatient bunch.

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  7. I second what Melissa said. Was going to write the same thing, but since she already did...I'll just nod my agreement. Great writing my friend!

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  8. I'd also like to echo the advice Melissa has given.

    I very much liked the scene you posted here. And the disclaimer before it was hilarious.

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  9. Ok. The "Sloppy eating habits" made me laugh.

    Great intro, I'll have to put Bedeviled on my watch list!

    --
    Tim Brannan
    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

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  10. I'm repeating...well...most everyone when I say that Melissa's advise is good. You could also Use this opening scene as a prologue. There's a lot of prologues out there that don't feature the main character.

    And omg, the peach symbolism! Love it.

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  11. I JUST read today on another blog that at the advice of an agent, the opening scene should always be from the main character's point of view. So I'll just throw that idea at you and run.

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  12. I'm generally not a fan of prologues, so I would suggest starting with either one or both of the MCs in the actual opening and introducing the other characters as needed.

    The opening you have here is entertaining and has me asking questions that would keep me reading. However, it doesn't say romance at all. Good punch, but if the romance is going to be the focus, this will have to be bumped back in the pages a little.

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  13. Thanks so much, all, for your feedback. Reading your comments, which make all the sense in the world, I became more and more sure that starting with Maddie and Gavin is the way to go. You're the grooviest, peeps! <3

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  14. When I wrote my story that I did see as a romance, I made the mistake of writing about 7k of story BEFORE my heroine & hero even met. So yeah, that's all changed now.

    I think this writing is great, but if you want your story to have more of the romance slant, maybe it does need to start with your main two meeting.

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  15. I actually LOVE the excerpt. It definitely drew me in BUT, having said that, I gotta agree that, if it's a romance, it should start with at least one of your MC's.

    Plus-- I've had something told to me by three agents, so I figured I'd pass it on to you. In my original opening scene, I had the MC and his best friend--Luc and Sin. Luc and Sin are talking about Luc's love interest, Auri. At one point, Luc also mentions that "Emelina" is going to kill him for being late. That made it pretty clear (to me) that Emelina was some kind of parent figure.

    Three agents all told me that I had too many names in the opening page. Luc, Sin, Auri, Emelina. I thought it was really easy to follow and very clear who everyone was, but I guess that doesn't matter. They all said the rule of thumb is not to mention more than three names in the opening scene--but they'd prefer it be kept at two.

    SO--starting with your main couple would also fix that problem, cause right now you have Cadzick, Ardos, Asaroth, Oriel and something called the Elect Madeleine--which definitely breaks their rules. :)

    Good luck with this and, again, I thought the excerpt was really cool. Definitely establishes who the bad guys are--even though I'm not convinced Cadzick IS all-bad, or if he'll remain that way. If I picked this up in a store, I'd be intrigued enough to want to find out. :)

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  16. @Trisha - Yeah, I'm definitely going to start with the couple. :-)

    @Tamara - thanks for that tip! I'd heard about folks getting confused with too many characters, but hadn't thought about an opening section needing to keep to only two or three main peeps. It's a good point! :-)

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  17. I think it depends on the overall style of the romance novel. One of my favorite romances (which might not even be considered a real romance novel by modern genre standards) is Forever Amber, which begins with the star-crossed romance of Amber's parents and Amber's birth, which costs her mother Judith her life. Just so long as the romantic leads are introduced and established fairly early on, instead of spending many pages on side characters that don't have much to do with the main storyline or couple.

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  18. you definitely set the tone!
    im not a great romantic but if darkness is what you want to give us, you hav done it!
    good luck, looks like you got some good responses!

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  19. Thanks, Carrie-Anne and Tara. I do like that bit but realize I'm gonna need to put Maddie and Gavin's meeting before it. :-)

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