Opening Paragraphs of the Novel

When I start the story, I do a few establishing shots to set the time and place. Structurally, I am taking the reader from the general to the specific, first introducing the land and finally introducing the main character.

All four of these shots take place shortly before dawn. First we see a few pink streaks tinting the underbellies of clouds in the eastern sky. We follow this hint of color to the walls of the holy city. We continue to follow it to the walls of the Temple. Then to the walls of the Roman fortress that adjoins it. All of these lead us to the room in the fortress, where we are introduced to our main character who is getting ready for work.

Here is how the opening of the novel reads.


Dawn came as a pale brush of pink across the eastern sky. It came quietly, without flourish, but it came quickly, giving dimension to the featureless landscape and color to the somber collection of grays left over from the night.

         Jerusalem caught something of that pink in the stone walls that surrounded the city, something of it in the walls of the Temple, and something of it in the walls of the Fortress of Antonia that adjoined it.

         In a room in that fortress, a centurion dressed for the day’s duties . . .


And, if you haven’t been to the holy city, here is a video clip to give you a better sense of what this looks like. I have been there three times over the years, and the way the stone work catches the pre-dawn colors is truly arresting.


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