Anatomy Of An Ever-Changing First Line

Correction: I went and changed that first line yet again!   Scroll down to see it.. 7/10/18


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(s)…

There was no email for Babineaux. At fifty-five he was an investigator who needed a postmark and a paper trail, an oversized bureaucrat who thoroughly enjoyed lining up details and checking grammar, old school, like his bifocals, his big gray beard, and the night-mist blue Mustang he’d roll out of his garage once the snow had melted and it had rained at least twice. He was patient, too, didn’t mind waiting in line at the Post Office to mail his reports. Didn’t get annoyed either when the lady pharmacist butchered his name and took forever to track down his meds.



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.

To Henry, The Birth of Sorrow

Sneaking away from fourth grade

across the playing field

to the convenience store where

shelves of candy—all child-height and

shiny—lead you from mischief

into deceit. Your father

once ran out the double doors

and hid in a shady spot where books

and teachers could not reach him. You

have learned to ignore consequence,

to call being good by many

other names. Your father

used to drop worksheets on the floor

beneath his desk and wander home

with a clean conscience.


You, Henry, are indeed, my son, and

I am scared that you will get a C on

a report card four years from

now and, assume, just as I did, that time           

neither plods nor sprints, that teachers

neither care nor hate, that parents

will always forgive and childhood is

the playground where sorrows are planted far

too deep to ever cause us harm.