Thursday, January 27, 2011

You Tease!

In my last post, I commented on some of the difficulties that authors face when writing a series. Thinking about the difficulties in writing series led me to ponder on the popularity of “teaser” chapters. These teaser chapters are often included at the end of a book, and usually are the first chapter of the next novel in the series. I’m impressed when authors manage to do this, because I’m a procrastinator and can’t imagine being far enough ahead to have a completed chapter available for publishing in advance. Usually I enjoy these teaser chapters and look forward to the next book in the series, but there are two OUTSTANDING teaser chapters that have always impressed me. What’s striking about these two well written chapters is that they evoked very different responses at the time of reading, yet clearly achieved their purpose in encouraging me to read the next novel in the series. I could not wait for the following books to come out, and I believe both chapters are excellent examples of how to write a first chapter of a novel.

Patricia Briggs is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I cannot recommend her highly enough. Her novels are well crafted and her characters inspire intense feelings of loyalty in her readers (this reader being no exception). Her Mercedes Thompson series is a wonderful series, but I really enjoy her Alpha and Omega series, which is written in the same fictional world and around the same time as the Mercedes Thompson books. Currently the Alpha and Omega series features a novella (“Alpha and Omega”) and two novels (Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground). The heroine of this series, Anna Latham Cornick, was attacked and changed into a werewolf. Her werewolf pack in Chicago brutalized her to keep her under control, but the hero, Charles Cornick, rescues her and the two become mates. What makes the series so fascinating is the strength of character and mental toughness that Anna displays. She could easily be just another victim, but she is “tough as shoe leather,” as her mate describes her in Hunting Ground.

Normally Ms. Briggs doesn’t release teaser chapters with her novels, but after reading Cry Wolf, I went to her webpage, where I found she had posted the first chapter of the second novel in the series, Hunting Ground. If I taught creative writing, I would include this first chapter as an outstanding example of how to keep the reader guessing while immediately drawing her in. The chapter begins with an unnamed “she” who is stalking an angry man, apparently to kill him, but we soon realize that the “she” is Anna in wolf form and the angry man is her mate Charles. He’s been arguing with his father, and about to lose his temper. Charles is the enforcer for all werewolves and losing his temper would mean someone would get hurt. Anna’s “attack” is an attempt to get him to play and relax. After reading this chapter on Ms. Briggs’ webpage, I could not wait for the next installment of her series, and I re-read that chapter over and over.

Ilona Andrews is another of my favorite paranormal authors. Ilona Andrews is actually the pseudonym of a husband and wife team, Andrew and Ilona Gordon, and they write the Kate Daniels and The Edge series of urban fantasy. Both series are excellent, but my favorite is the Kate Daniels series, partly because it takes place in Atlanta, my home town. Kate Daniels is a mercenary in an Atlanta where magic has suddenly returned and destroyed much of the technology we take for granted. She has a love-hate relationship with the shifters (think werewolves but with lots of different animals) and a definite “hate” relationship with the People, the group that controls the vampires in the area. Kate is snarky and obnoxious but also cares about her friends and looks after them in ways that often get her into trouble.

The teaser chapter that I find so intriguing is for the fourth book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Bleeds. This chapter was included in On the Edge when it was published, and it made me so mad I almost refused to read the fourth book. The third book of the series had ended with Curran, the alpha of all the shifters in Atlanta winning a bet with Kate that she would cook him dinner in her undies. In the teaser chapter, Kate has cooked the dinner, applied make-up, and fixed her hair, only to be stood up by Curran. When she calls to find out where he is, she is told to direct all future inquiries to the security chief. I loved how the authors had developed the sexual tension between Kate and Curran in the previous books, and I was really peeved that the authors were breaking them up. Of course, I absolutely had to see how the authors resolved this situation, and ended up reading the book, which is the entire point of having teaser chapters! Magic Bleeds is longer than many of the other books in the series, and the length really pays off in character development and intensity of action. This book is the fourth in what is supposed to be a series of seven, and we learn just enough about the characters and their pasts to question how the rest of the series will resolve different issues. Really well done of the authors, because it keeps the readers invested in the characters, which makes us buy future books!

I’ve since read numerous teaser chapters, but I’ve yet to read one that comes close to intriguing me the way the one for Hunting Ground did and I certainly haven’t had one evoke such a visceral reaction as the teaser for Magic Bleeds. I can’t wait to read the future installments of both these series.

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