The refinement of an old idea

I write about spies, washed out, worn out, or thrown out.

It’s always in the back of my mind, sometimes fuelled by a piece in the paper that has a sense of conspiracy about it, and from there, an idea starts turning into words that need to find their way to paper.

Then, if that’s the extent of the first draft, sometimes it goes into the ‘I will come back to this later’ folder and, sometimes, it’s gone and forgotten.

Until I wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, an old story with a new idea fills my head, and I have to get it down.

Then, it will bother me over the next few days, until I give it the attention it’s calling out for.  This will often lead to more writing, but planning leading to a synopsis.

The first sentence of a novel is always the hardest. Like I guess many others, I sit and ponder what I’m going to write, whether it will be relevant, whether it will pull the reader into my world, and cause them to read on.

And that’s the objective, to capture the reader’s imagination and want to see what’s going to happen next.

The problem is, we have to set the scene.

Or do we?

Do we need to cover the who, what, where, and when criteria in that first sentence? Can we just start with the edge-of-the-seat suspense, like,

The first bullet hit the concrete wall about six inches above my head with a resounding thwack that scared the living daylights out of me. The second, sent on its way within a fraction of a second of the first found its mark, the edge of my shoulder, slicing through the material, and creasing skin and flesh. There was blood and then panic.

Milliseconds later my brain registered the near-miss and sent the instruction: get down you idiot.

I hit the ground just as another bullet slammed into the concrete where my head had just been.

It can use some more work, fewer commas, and perhaps shorter, sharper sentences to convey the urgency and danger.

Perhaps we could paint a picture of the main character.

He tentatively has the name Jackson Galsworthy. He has always aspired to be a ‘secret agent’ or ‘spy’ and but through luck more than anything else, he was given his opportunity. The problem is he failed his first test and failure means washing out of the program.

What had ‘they’ said? When the shit hits the fan, you need to be calm, cool, and collected. He’d been anything but.

Maybe we’ll flesh the character out as we go along.

OK, I just had another thought for an opening,

Light snow was still falling, past the stage where each flake dissolved as it hit the ground, and now starting to gather in white patches.

It was cold, very cold, and even with the three layers I still shivered.

What surprised me was the silence, but, of course, it was a graveyard beside an ancient church, and everyone who had attended the funeral service had left.

It was a short service for the few that came, and a shorter burial. No one seemed keen to hang around, not with the evening darkness and the snow setting in.

I stood, not far from the filled grave looking at it, but not looking at it. Was I expecting it’s occupant to rise again? Was I expecting forgiveness? I certainly didn’t deserve it.

The truth is, I was responsible for this person’s death, making a mistake a more seasoned professional might not, and the reason why I was shown the door. I had been given very simple instructions; protect this man at all costs.

It was going to be a simple extraction, go in, get the target, and get out before anyone noticed.

A pity then I was the only one who got that memo.

It’s a start, but with the TV going on in the background, Chester complaining about something, and the weeds in the yard are getting higher, there’s too much else going to consider this even a start.

It’s an idea.  Perhaps I can expand on it later.

© Charles Heath 2020-2023

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