Authors J.B. Stevens and David Moloney discuss the opening for How to Take the Fall.
The First Line is a recurring column by J.B. Stevens. Mystery Tribune readers (you) get an inside look at what goes through the author’s mind as they craft their opening.
For the column, an author presents the initial sentence of their story. Then J.B. writes his impression of the passage. Next, the author discusses what their intent was with the line. To keep it interesting, J.B. writes his section before looking at the author’s description. Finally, you decide: Did the author achieve their goal?
In this edition, we’re checking out How to Take the Fall by David Moloney. David is the author of Barker House (2020, Bloomsbury) and a professor of creative writing. How to Take the Fall is Moloney’s current project—it is unpublished.
How to take the Fall — the opening line:
The bus-stop children outside his window are loud and before he opens his eyes, though he’s been awake for a good while, he can tell there are more today than usual.
This is a bit longer than the other openers submitted to my column, but I like it. As this is a crime/mystery/suspense-based column, anytime kids and bus stops come up my nerves tingle. Furthermore, the narrator has an internal sense/count of how many kids at the stop is a “normal” amount.
I wonder if something bad is going to happen involving the kids. The narrator knows how many should be there, so he knows how many could go missing… Maybe? I’m not sure, but I’d like to find out.
This one gave me some good story questions and a solid dose of dread.
What David was trying to achieve:
I was trying to show the change of seasons with this opening line. Spring has arrived though the protagonist is in a waiting period. He’s been suspended from work while under investigation for embezzlement. He’s been awake but doesn’t want to start his day. He’s avoiding his crime and its inevitable outcome.
After reading what the author was trying to achieve, I missed it. With that said, I like the pacing and structure of the line, a lot. I would read more of this book.
The online archive of J.B. Stevens’ First Line Column is available here.