LIVE TO TELL - READ-ALONG SEGMENT 4

CHAPTERS 13 - 15

At this point in the story, the pace has picked up considerably. Not coincidentally, I wrote this section in a matter of days, as opposed to the weeks/months it took me to get to this point. The beginning of a novel is always the most painstaking part to write, and I’m much more productive once I’ve hit my stride. Having spent less time creating these scenes, they are less familiar to me than the earlier scenes, which I wrote and rewrote so many times I know them word for word even now. Looking at this particular section again a year later, I feel almost as if I’m reading someone else’s work.

Here, we see a tender side of Ryan, the moody teenager—he’s a sweet big brother to Sadie. This is definitely drawn from real life. Both my own boys are very good with their younger cousins, and my older son is a great babysitter and loves kids so much he’s going to be a C-I-T this summer. I’m sure they aren’t secretly wishing for a little sister (and if they are, well, good luck with that!)—but if they did have one, I know they would look out for her the way Ryan does Sadie.

Shopping on West Broadway is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon in New York, so the scene on page. 239 with Caroline and her mom again reflects a familiar city setting for me.

The pool scene in which Lauren finds herself drawn to Sam Henning is a pivotal one to the plot and to her character’s development. I had to walk a fine line here and in the later interaction between Sam and Lauren at the supermarket, as you will realize when you get to the novel’s end (if you haven’t already figured it out), so the narrative and dialogue were somewhat tricky to write.

Because we will revisit Mike Fantoni—as well as the Boston diner where Elsa meets him, and Mike’s neighborhood, and even Joey the butcher—in SCARED TO DEATH, I did go back and tweak these scenes after I had started writing the sequel. The first time around, I didn’t know exactly where I was headed, but once I did, it became necessary to make some adjustments to the dialogue and internal narrative. I also had to keep going back to reread them as I wrote the sequel so that I could get all the details exactly true to the initial setup.

Strained marital relationships are a theme in this book, and in this section, I wanted the ongoing tension between Marin and Garvey and between Elsa and Brett to reflect that. Some marriages are strong enough to withstand everyday stress—Lauren’s wasn’t. Meanwhile, some marriages are subject to extraordinary stress—Marin & Garvey’s, Elsa & Brett’s—that makes it even more difficult to stay together. Will they? Time will tell. I think the reader can relate to the characters’ own uncertainty in this regard.

Any mom who’s ever regretted bringing a child along on a grocery shopping trip will relate to the scene where Lauren wheels Sadie through the store. And so will anyone who’s ever had a bad day and avoided going to a local store because they don’t feel like running into someone, which is pretty much inevitable in a small town. The Janet Wasserman character isn’t drawn from anyone specific in my own life, but she’s a composite of people I have known, and people my friends have known.

At the end of chapter 15, we reach the point where the suspense plot is starting to really heat up. This is the point in any novel where all the groundwork the author has laid starts to really pay off. Narrative would slow down the flow, and now is not the time for it. That’s why it’s important for the characters and their world to be well drawn through the first two thirds of the book. Their actions now are clearly motivated and don’t demand excess explanation, because we know who they are and what they want.

Stay tuned for the final chapters!

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Comment by John on March 15, 2010 at 2:26pm
You're right--the action really does pick up in these chapters, and I found myself in a (good) reading frenzy by the final chapters! Also, I found the interaction between Lauren and Sam to be very well written. It really did have me wondering how that relationship would play out. As for the sub-plot with Elsa and Brett...I can't wait to see how that continues to unravel itself in SCARED TO DEATH! The dynamics of the relationships are very interesting and well drawn in this book...

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