Many of us have heard “start your story in the middle of the action, or the height of the conflict.”
David Lavender suggests “start at the height of desire.”
You need not worry about being dull if you can present within the first few hundred words a definite character in the grip of a definite emotion.
“But introducing a character and his motives to an audience must be done deftly and without explanation. For example, if setting up a boy-loves-girl story, Lavender says, ‘I must show the boy immediately engaged in wanting the girl. I must do it with unobtrusive little touches. I must bring it out through the way he acts and what he says, being at all times careful not to let the reader guess that he is having something explained to him.'” — Nicki Porter, August 2015 The Writer magazine
When he regained consciousness, he was lying face down in a rubbish-filled alley. It was dark, muggy, raining hard, and music filled the air. He staggered, trying to find his feet, and leaned back against a graffiti covered wall trying to protect his shoulder. He felt his collar bone; it had dislocated. Blood swamped his head. He felt he might be falling into unconsciousness. With blurred vision, one eye swollen closed, he picked out the shapes of three teenage boys standing under a streetlamp. He patted his pocket for his spectacles. They were smashed. The indistinct images appeared to be playing steel drums, and he heard the rhythmic tap of steel-tipped shoes on a metal grate. He moved, agonizingly, protecting his shoulder, toward the lit area, still semi-conscious from a wound to his scalp. Blood had congealed and matted his gray hair. He kept one hand against the wall to prevent himself from sinking to his knees until he reached the corner of the street. Once there, he slumped onto his haunches and flattened his back against the wall. The rhythmic tapping faded to quiet as he clutched at his chest.
The engine note of the executive jet changed as it began its descent through clear blue Brazillian skies. That sudden change stirred Katie Robinson from an uneasy slumber brought on by exhaustion after twenty hours flying, with just an hour on the ground in Panama to refuel.
Justin Magnus turned on his headset. “Santos Dumont Approach, Golf-Oscar-Lima is descending from four-five-zero to two-five-zero.”
“Roger, Golf-Oscar- Lima, continue the approach. The wind is at four, visibility clear.” The reply was crisp, official, and with a Portuguese accent.
“Continue with the approach,” Justin confirmed. “This is it, Katie. Give your belt a tug,” he said, looking over, offering a reassuring smile.
The second leg of the flight had been uneventful; both were glad it was coming to a close. A cross wind buffeted the small jet, causing Katie’s knuckles to lose their color. It had not been her first flight, but it was the first time she’d flown with the famous Justin Magnus, Vice President of Magnus Oceanic. And it was certainly the first time she’d watched the landing approach from the cockpit. Justin Magnus sounded different. He seemed, well somehow more professional and under different circumstances she would have been impressed, but she’d come to know him through a series of faults and knew too well his reputation for fooling around. He was, in almost every circumstance, an arrogant son of a bitch with a well of charm.
“Santos Dumont approach: Golf-Oscar-Lima on the ILS for zero-two-left. Speed two-sixty knots,” Justin confirmed.
“Roger, contact tower on 122.8. Good Day,” came the reply into his headset.
Out the left window, Sugar Loaf Mountain dominated the scenery.
Justin flicked the radio dial a couple of notches. “Santos Tower, good evening, Golf-Oscar-Lima is over the inner marker. Speed two-six-zero, slowing to one-ninety, on the center line for zero-two-left.”
“Roger, Golf-Oscar-Lima, you are cleared to land, zero-two-left.”
“Cleared to land,” he repeated. He reached for a lever with hisn right hand. There followed a mechanical whirring of flaps being lowered.
The Gulf Stream slipped its wings through light sea mist, then kissed the steamy tarmac with a rubbery smack and rolled down the runway.
“You think you’re going to find your father in Santos? It’s a big place,” Katie asked, feeling the tension in her shoulders ease.
“Well, it’s the last point of reference.” He was interrupted momentarily.
“Golf-Oscar-Lima, wheels down at 17.22. Expedite right, follow on the greens. Contact ground on 123.4. Good Day.”
Justin responded to the Portuguese accent and steered the jet along the green lights. The ground shimmered with the early evening’s heat.
“Reference?” Katie queried.
“Dad was kidnaped off the Oban ferry. When the police searched it, a couple of days later, they found a handkerchief with his embroidered initials. The police asked if I knew what the ink marks might be? It didn’t immediately come to me. The truth is I wasn’t sure. The more I looked, the less sure I was. But then, for some reason, I started to imagine him writing those marks. I came up with the initials: SDU.”
“We’re here, Katie. SDU is the code for Santos Dumont Airport.”
“It’s also the initials of the ‘Special Duties Unit’ an elite Chinese paramilitary tactical unit of the Chinese police force.”
“Yes,” she answered.
In the past, Katie had felt sorry for Justin, for herself, and for the world. She knew her feelings had been true, denying them, however, was the only way to protect her secret. For the few months, they’d dated, just a fun relationship. She’d ached to tell him all she felt, but knew, deep down, he was a cavalier. If she were to have dared herself to love him, and he failed her, she would fall apart.
After leaving the airport, the two traveled in a cab ten miles down the coast, to the Copacabana Palace. They checked in then separated to their respective rooms to freshen up. Meeting again for dinner.
Justin Magnus had first met four years earlier. He was looking for someone with editorial experience to edit his books. Frank Lassiter, his father’s editorial assistant had retired but referred Katherine Robinson as someone to consider. She had agreed to meet at his home in Marin County, but she wasn’t prepared to meet with him until she’d done her research and read his books. She also wanted to understand more about the very public wars between him and his famous father, Dr. Richard Magnus.
It had turned eight o’clock when Katie left the hotel room and headed toward the restaurant. Justin, seated at the outside bar, didn’t at first notice her approaching. When he did, the hem of her light-blue cotton dress chased and fluttered in the cooling sea breeze, occasionally billowing to reveal a glimpse of thigh. Katie Robinson glowed with sensual awareness. There were cliffs behind them, seabirds wading in moonlight, and the ocean calling out, but she was not about to let herself fall for this man all over again. Justin stood, courteously, and summoned the attention of the barman. Her appearance, the way she walked, the hair that fell on her back, all reminders of a time when their working relationship had become something else. Something they had since lost. They’d never had sex. It wasn’t that she didn’t want intimacy, but the man she would eventually allow to come that close would know her secret.
Justin had seldom felt her beauty the way his chest pumped at seeing her approach. She was beautiful, stunning really. A softly tanned California beauty, elegant in her dress style, modest in showing herself, her shape, leaving just enough bare skin to interest, not flaunt.
mcullen Post author
Interesting, Kelly.Intriguing. Definitely a mystery worth exploring . . . for both writer and reader.
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