Where to start on WIP Wednesday

When I write, I have trouble starting at the beginning, because I have to find it first. In life, all beginnings continue from an earlier story, and all ends transmute into a later story. But in fiction, we need to start each book and each chapter at the beginning. At that point in time and space where at least one of the characters we care about is revealing their story, and making it matter to us.

Dear fellow authors, share a beginning with me and the blog readers, if you would. Something from a current work in progress. The start of a chapter or perhaps the start of the whole book. Mine is from The Realm of Silence, and it is the first scene in the book. At least, it is at the moment. Anything could happen in edit.

Stamford, England

1812

Gil Rutledge sat in the small garden to the side of the Crown and Eagle, and frowned at the spread provided for him to break his fast. Grilled trout with white butter sauce, soft-boiled eggs, grilled kidney, sausages, mashed potatoes, bacon, a beef pie, two different kinds of breads (one lightly toasted), bread rolls, a selection of preserves, and a dish of stewed peaches, all cooked to perfection and none of it appealing.

Two days with his sister, Madelina, had left old guilt sitting heavy on his stomach, choking his throat and souring his digestion. And the errand he was on did not improve matters.

He cut a corner off a slice of toast and loaded it with bits of bacon and a spoonful of egg. He was too old a campaigner to allow loss of appetite to stop him from refuelling. He washed the mouthful down with a sip from his coffee. It was the one part of the meal Moffat had not trusted to the inn kitchen. His soldier-servant insisted on preparing it himself, since he knew how Gil like it.

No. Not his soldier-servant. Not any more. His valet, butler, factotum. Manservant. Yes, his manservant.

Gil raised the mug to the shade of his despised older brother. “This is the worst trick you’ve played on me yet,” he muttered. The viscount’s death had landed the estranged exile with a title he never wanted, a bankrupt estate, a sister-in-law and her two frail little daughters left to his guardianship but fled from his home, and an endless snarl of legal and financial problems. And then there were Gil’s mother and his sisters.

Lena had at least consented to see him; had assured him that she no longer blamed him for her tragedies. Her forgiveness did not absolve him. He should have found another solution; should have explained better; should have kept a closer watch.

With a sigh, he took another sip, and loaded his fork again. The sooner he managed to swallow some of this food, the sooner he could be on the road.

Beyond the fence that bordered the garden, carriages were collecting their passengers from the front of the inn. Stamford was on the Great North Road, and a hub to half of England, with roads leading in every direction. As Gil stoically soldiered his way through breakfast, he watched idly, amusing himself by imagining errands and destinations.

Until one glimpsed face had him sitting forward. Surely that was Amelia Cunningham, the goddess’s eldest daughter? No. This girl was older, almost an adult though still dressed as a schoolgirl.

He frowned, trying to work out how old little Amy must be by now. He had last seen her at the beginning of 1808, just before he was posted overseas, first to Gibraltar and then to the Peninsular wars. He remembered, because that was the day he parted with the best horse a man had ever owned. More than four years ago. The goddess had been a widow these past two years and Amy must be— what? Good Lord. She would be sixteen by now.

He craned his head, trying to see under the spreading hat that shielded the girl’s face, but she climbed into a yellow post chaise with a companion — a tall stripling boy of about the same age. And the woman who followed them was definitely not the goddess; not unless she had lost all her curves, shrunk a good six inches, dyed her golden hair black, and traded her fashionable attire for a governess’s dull and shapeless garb.

No. That was not Susan Cunningham, so the girl could not have been Amy.

The door closed, the post boy mounted, the chaise headed north, and Gil went back to his repast.

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Beginnings in WIP Wednesday

I typed THE END twice yesterday: once on the novel A Raging Madness and once on the short story for my February newsletter. I hope today to finish the slightly longer short story I’m writing as a party prize, but meanwhile, I’ve edited the short story and written an entirely new beginning.

Novels show a journey: the beginning and the end might mirror one another, but they show the distance travelled. In short stories, we see a mere glimpse of the journey, and the focus is on one transformative moment for the main character. Since I mostly write romance, the focus is usually on making the relationship, and therefore the love, believable. So my beginning needs to kick us into the story quickly, and my end needs to tie the last knot neatly, preferably linking back to the beginning.

And the original beginning of ‘A souvenir from Scotland‘ just didn’t work.

This week, I’m inviting you to share a few paragraphs of beginning from your work in progress (novel, novella, or short story). The beginning of the work, if you will, or the beginning of a chapter if you prefer.

Here’s mine. (If you’d like to know what happens next, the full story will be a gift in my February newsletter):

York, 23 December 1815

Her brother was home. Megan Walsh almost rushed straight out into the evening air when her husband told her he had passed Ned’s place and seen lights on the floor that Ned rented, but Thomas persuaded her to wait for morning, and she managed it, just, though she read the cryptic note Ned had sent another twenty times before at last it was a sufficiently civilised hour to go calling.

Yes, the landlady agreed, Mr Broderick was home, and Mrs Walsh would never guess…

But Megan hadn’t waited, hurrying up the stairs to knock on Ned’s door. He opened it himself, and she threw herself on him.

“Ned! I was so worried when you were a fortnight overdue and then I got your note. What a note, Ned. ‘On my way home. I have a surprise for you; something I found in Scotland. You told me I needed one, and you were right.’ I have racked my brains, Ned, and I cannot think what you mean.”

Ned took her arm, and led her through into the sitting room, and Thomas trailed behind. But they both stopped short when they found it was already occupied.

A small dark-haired woman, neatly dressed in a slightly old-fashioned gown, sat sipping tea by the fire, and she stood when they entered, looking wary.

“Ariadne, may I present my dear sister and her husband, Mr and Mrs Thomas Walsh? Megan, Thomas, please meet Mrs Broderick. Megan, I took your advice and got myself a wife.”

Ned looked so proud, and the woman so nervous, that Megan swallowed the sharply worded comment that came first to her tongue and instead just said, “How?”

 

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