There is an old Chinese proverb that says: A bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song. This can be paraphrased to apply to writers: A writer does not write to seek an answer; a writer writes because he/she has a story to tell.
Writing a story is very much like cooking creatively. Anyone can cook chicken, fish or a roast, but to present a tasty meal, well, that takes creative talent. I’m talking the kind of meal where the aromas not only tantalize the senses, but stirs up the taste buds and sets your tummy to humming in anticipation. By the time the veggies are plated artistically alongside the main entrée and placed in front of the hungry diners, the cook instinctively knows that he/she doesn’t need that special prayer to the Kitchen God because the cook knows the meal will taste as good as it looks.
It’s the same with a good story. Reading the cover blurp may entice readers to sample a few beginning pages. And, if those first two pages doesn’t grab you by the throat, then the writer has lost that initial momentum; that initial advantage of luring readers into his story early.
Canadian crime writer, Grant McKenzie, created a throat-grabber with one of his early books, “Angel With a Bullet.” Writing under the pen name of M.C. Grant, the story is told in the first-person voice of a female journalist named Dixie. Judging from the excerpts, I immediately liked this ambitious, feisty and funny reporter who counted ex-boyfriends in lieu of sheep on those hard-to-fall-asleep nights and would, no doubt, end up working on her ex-lover’s messy murder staged like an apparent suicide. All this from the opening chapter. Doesn’t that make you want to rush out and find a copy of “Angel With a Bullet?”
James Rollins “Blood Line” is another thriller that captured my attention from the first sentence: They once called her a witch and a whore. Of course I had to read more but since it’s frowned upon to read the entire book in my favourite bookstore, I bought it.
James Patterson and Howard Roughan’s “Don’t Blink” hooked me with a delicious description of Manhattan’s Upper Eastside “Lombardo Steakhouse” and reeled me in after page one because I just knew something terrible was about to happen. And my killer instincts were right.
Writers not only have to reel in their readers, but once the readers are hooked, keep them anxiously turning the pages. That’s what the great writers do—give readers that unexpected. I like the unexpected, that special twist. Like a creative cook who can toss together crimini mushrooms, sautéed beef chunks, fresh oysters, herbs, seasoning and chopped veggies–all simmered together with a bottle of dark ale to make this hearty stew for those cold nights by a cosy fire. I didn’t know combining the unexpected could taste so good!
Books that hold you enthralled, captivates you with words, feeds your imagination are often the product of creative writers who wield a magic pen. I salute all creative writers, artists and cooks—you all deserve that celebratory glass of bubbly for producing your masterpiece.
As I said at the very beginning: A writer does not write to seek an answer; a writer writes because he/she has a story to tell–a story that needs to be told as only you can.