‘A novel that opens well has gained its own momentum,’ is my credo. So I try to give my best shot at the opening line. It so happened one morning the line came unbidden, that was in itself remarkable. I knew I was onto something. I read the line as though it were a magical formula. I might have read some ten times varying my tempo while clearly enunciating it syllable for syllable. The line came by itself, did it not? So I was dealing with a genie within. How can you write anything worthwhile without some pact with your inner self?
I read the line once again as though I was looking at my own reflection in the clear water of consciousness.
‘ A- died one morning not leaving instructions what to do with him.’
I was in a dilemma. My writing had some plus points but to be fair it didn’t wake the dead. Here was my protagonist dead! How to keep my writing going? I wrestled with it for a week and then fielded my readers for a suggestion. In a week I had a- plenty to choose from. They all were settled on one point: ‘Late A- could have some flashbacks’. I would have gone along with it but I remembered all his flashbacks were tied up with my other novels.
Another week passed and yet I was stuck with a dead man, my hero in my hand. My ego as a writer of pulp fiction was beginning to smell. So I called in my wife whose down to earth advice could always be relied on.
My wife suggested with a laugh. ‘A- could not have died without a love life of sorts. Why not give A- a love interest and take the readers to follow her for some 50 pages?
I brightened up and a few hints were meanwhile kicking me on the shin. So I asked,’Name?’
‘Call her Daisy.’
‘ Why would I want to call her that name?
Because you love Lil Abner and you wanted to write Samson and Daisy a take off on the Bible story. Only I talked you out of it. Here name Daisy will fit here.
Daisy was a good hunch and my wife knew all readers loved girls to be luscious and in a pulp fiction Daisy was as good as Delilah in the Scriptures. I put off my wife saying I need time to think over. There was too much of my wife in the story and I didn’t like it. So I said one morning her suggestion would not do. She wanted to know why. ‘The book would move but not me.’
She knew me well so she left me a clear field.
Now I was left with late A- and it was an embarrassment. Vulture of a literary agent was hovering about. I had to make A- settle on something. Cremate him or bury him, whatever. The air was stifling!
Luckily my son the mortician dropped in for the weekend and he sensed something awful was in the air especially around the hearth. He insisted that he be told,’man to man, as he put it. ‘Every time you write the air gets a little twitchy’ as he put it.
I told him of the novel that refuses to get up and go.
My son gave a whoppee and assured me it was so easy to handle. ‘We will embalm A-, ‘ Ignoring my gasp he said chuckling over his ingenuity he said,’I shall give you solid fifty pages blow by blow account to give the book its verity. The way I looked at him must have given him a boost that he said like a professional critic, ‘A book that has specific gravity shall be read Pop’, he was certain My boy had a point there. My fatherly pride was roused. Seeing me mellowed he said how his mother was let down by not having a love interest in the new work.
I didn’t think my writing had raked up some underground hiatus and no one had idea if it were germane to writing or about human relationships. I let him talk and he said in the end, ‘Give A- a love interest. What is pulp fiction without a gunmoll? We can insert a flashback to delineate her character. ‘May be we can bump her off while she is trying to lay hands on the earthly possessions of A-’ My son was confident of another thirty page filling in the police procedures of victims coming to violent ends. He closed his peroration by saying that ‘no one wants your imagination pop. They have a keyhole interest in what goes on between sheets. this is what best sellers cater to.’
In the end he was seeing infinite possibilitis with disposing A- and it was getting on my nerves. I cut him short. ‘Bad,son, It would leave me no option but give title ‘Book of the dead.’
On Monday morning a sudden flash of inspiration hit me. I decided to write the interior thoughts of A- as he lay there dead. ‘It would ring true!’
I added my second line: ‘Am I dead as nails?’A- asked even as rigor mortis set in.’ I showed it and my wife looked at me rather strangely. When pressed for an opinion she said I was being facetious with death..
I thought with a writer’s block I was merely transferring my interior life on to A-. Luckily my daughter the grammarian was present. So I asked for her opinion. My wife was relieved that burden of killing my work of imagination was taken from her hands.
My daughter read it slowly and said,’dead as nails, hmm’ She looked at me and said as though she was born to correct the slovenly speech around her,’dead as nail – subject singular, so nail.’
‘I never knew the dead cared for grammar; for that matter writing his interor life as a subject fit for pulp fiction.’
I thought I would leave the story untold. All that my interior life could come up on its own was not good enough for me.
‘ A- died one morning not leaving instructions what to do with him. Am I dead as nails?A- asked even as rigor mortis set in.’
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