Anatomy Of An Ever-Changing First Line


Correction: I went and changed that first line yet again!   Scroll down to see it.. 2/28


I’ve got a new novel, Grave Men, and as I try to find it a home, I figured I’d share a little content and a little process with folks who stumble across this blog.

Enjoy, Ian

In an effort to polish my manuscript, I’ve agonized over every character, every detail, every line. And often I’ve looked at the first line and wondered if I’ve found a good way to start this genre-crossing monster of a novel, which I affectionately refer to as my midlife crisis paranormal detective novel. Yikes!

The first line of a short story can be a microcosm of meaning and nuance. Clues to character and conflict abound. Ironies present themselves. Tone and purpose can be established. Or in a few cases red herrings are tossed into the pond for readers to chase. But with this novel I decided to focus mostly on the character of my crusty detective, Babineaux.

I settled on the short sentence, “Babineaux yawned big.”

It’s an image of a content middle-aged man. Once full of angst and anger, once violent and unfocused, Babineaux is now a sleepy bureaucrat, waiting on a pharmacist to deliver his meds so he can enjoy a lazy summer day.

With a single suggestive name, he is the novel’s exile, its wanderer, its searcher, and at times its dragon. His yawn is a sign that he is waking up from a twenty-year slumber. And even though waking dragons tend to be dangerous, the “big” is also a compliment, a sign that the large man with the diminutive attached to his name, has finally grown to the right proportions and that, perhaps, he is now ready for the case being thrown at him.

To learn a little more about Babineaux’s dark quest and how far it will pull him back into his uncertain past, go to my author site and check out the first few scenes of Grave Men.


Okay the new first line is…

Babineaux had spent the entire morning lining up details and checking his grammar, and now that the pharmacist had finally located his meds, he was going drop his report at the Post Office and go for a long drive.

Honestly, I don’t know which is catchier, figure it’s a matter of preference.  But with this new start I sacrifice the idea that he’s big and focus more on the part of his job he loves, writing up investigative reports, and his desire to get away from his work.  What are those meds you ask? The answer to that question is one of the novel’s little mysteries–and there are many–so enjoy.



A Poem: The U

In another universe my son tells me to go screw myself
I throw a drinking glass at him and my wife
Doesn’t do anything because she left three months
Earlier and doesn’t give a crap if we kill each other.

In another universe my son gets a college scholarship
Because he wrote an essay about his father and
His mother and how they taught him to value
Kindness over intelligence.

In another universe I am an actor, walking on a
Famous stage playing a teacher and knowing
That if I stand just this way and tilt my head just that
Way that people will cry.

In another universe I am a teacher, acting in
Front a class and knowing that if I break down
The idea of the maple tree and show
Them where to drive in the tap, that they too

May slide from one world to another, fight
Parents and not get hurt, learn that families
Are the best education, and know that the spotlight
Is both a blessing and a curse.

Election Year Politics: A Poem

We honor hard work and honesty

No name calling no insults

No distorting the facts to serve your

Swerve your disturb your base

Replace the sour face with one of grace

Deface the monuments of your foes

Or step on toes because who knows

Better than you or me what it

Means to be free in 2016

A mean season a time of treason

The jib the jab the bloody rag

The ring the bout the bitter lout

The fix the flash the eyelid gash

The toothy smile the wailing child

The grin the lie we are so sly

We honor hard work and honesty

But only see our friends in need

the plant the seed the discontent

Sown with so much ill intent,

Watered with pride a two year deride

Of him and her that cat don’t purr

That face this race

this thing you sing

You chant you curse

You call the hearse

For this is a world of us and them

And power is the last frontier

You hear you cry you yell

You starve you beg you sell

you doubt you strive

you think you see

a ring of gold our destiny.