Do you know where your story will take you?


IT WAS that time again.

One novel is finished and in the editing stage.

It’s gone.

It’s mostly forgotten.

This morning, I would start anew.

I never have any idea what the story is about, but I figure the opening will solve that problem for me. Wherever the opening takes me was where I will go. I’m simple that way.

So how should I open the story?

I looked out the window.

Storms had hammered their way through East Texas.

Nothing but rain.

And lightning.

And with the lightning came thunder.

So I wrote:

He walked a lonely road in the early night, and the storm clouds above him had turned the earth around him even darker than it had been. Through the pounding rain, he saw her standing beside her aging Chevrolet, looking frantically down the empty highway, pulling her yellow raincoat tighter around her shoulders. Her hands abruptly spread apart at her throat, and she crumbled to her knees, clawing at a ragged hole that had suddenly appeared just beneath the top button of her coat. He had heard the sound. He thought it was thunder. The rain fell around her and washed the blood away.

Well, I had a beginning.

It had my three basic ingredients.

A man.

A woman.

And a gun.

But the love interest was dead.

The love interest had died far too quickly.

He didn’t even know her name.

I had no idea why she had died.

I didn’t even know who killed her.

Hell, I didn’t even know who he was.

I was just a stranger in a story.

The empty road was headed somewhere.

I no longer cared where it went.

I took a deep breath.

I hit the delete button.

I began again.

He would not be on the empty road to Gum Creek at all if the heavy rains had not breached the dam, flooding the farmlands and releasing the old ghost town from its grave beneath the waters of Lake Cisco. The town had been abandoned thirty-seven years ago when the dam was built on New Caney Creek, families packed up and left, and the Corps of Engineers buried the aging downtown beneath forty-eight feet of water. No one ever expected to see Gum Creek again. But now the town had risen from its grave and its streets were dry again. Only one resident remained. He had not driven away with the rest. He may have tried. He didn’t get far. He stayed in his office at the First State Bank. But then, it was hard for a man to leave when he was chained to an empty vault with a bullet lodged in his skull.

I still don’t know who he is.

But I know where he’s going.

And I know why.

I’m even curious to to find out what he finds out.

Of course, there’s still not a love interest.

But she will come along.

She has to.

She’s more curious than I am.

The dead man in the bank?

He was her father.

But who killed him?

I have three hundred pages to find out.

It might be a pretty good ride.

Caleb Pirtle III is author of Secrets of the Dead.



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  • Caleb Pirtle

    The first and last mile are the hardest miles of any journey. The first and last page of a novel are just as hard.

  • Don Newbury

    How soon we forget! The birds, so eloquently described just hours earlier, no doubt can add to the intrigue on a page or two. Alfred Hitchcock would have made it work!…

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