16.32: First Page Fundamentals—THE KILLING FLOOR, by Lee Childs

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

In this episode we explore the first page of The Killing Floor, by Lee Childs, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of The Killing Floor, for reference.

I was arrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town.

The diner was small, but bright and clean. Brand-new, built to resemble a converted railroad car. Narrow, with a long lunch counter on one side and a kitchen bumped out back. Booths lining the opposite wall. A doorway where the center booth would be.

I was in a booth, at a window, reading somebody’s abandoned newspaper about the campaign for a president I didn’t vote for last time and wasn’t going to vote for this time. Outside, the rain had stopped but the glass was still pebbled with bright drops. I saw the police cruisers pull into the gravel lot. They were moving fast and crunched to a stop. Light bars flashing and popping. Red and blue light in the raindrops on my window. Doors burst open, policemen jumped out. Two from each car, weapons ready. Two revolvers, two shotguns. This was heavy stuff. One revolver and one shotgun ran to the back. One of each rushed the door.


Ghost Station, by Dan Wells

Write an introduction that focuses on the character’s view of the world

3 thoughts on “16.32: First Page Fundamentals—THE KILLING FLOOR, by Lee Childs”

  1. As has been noted in previous episodes, there two main writing styles, outlining and discovery writing.

    Child is one of the purest examples to be found of a discovery writer. His previous professional experience honed his visual sensibility. So he writes by constructing dramatic scenes. The arrest in the opening of “Killing Floor” is a classic example. He imagines a scene, puts Reacher into it, and then asks “what dramatic thing could happen here”. Once the scene plays out, he asks “where would Reacher go next?” In the case of “Killing Floor” Reacher has no choice in the matter. He is going to jail. And so it proceeds the rest of the way through the book. This process is well described in “Reacher Said Nothing” by Andy Martin.

    Sticking with the same or similar genre, John Grisham is an outliner. He has described his process in various talks and interviews over the years. He starts with a main idea, a “legitimate” law firm that is actually a front for the mob in “The Firm”, for instance. He adds a couple of subsidiary ideas to flesh things out. Then he constructs a serious of one paragraph chapter descriptions. When he has enough chapters, he has a book. He can write each chapter pretty much independently. He knows the starting situation, a couple of key things that have to happen, and the ending situation. The rest is a matter of coming up with enough detail to fill the chapter out. The only restriction is that the detail doesn’t contradict something elsewhere in the chapter outline.

  2. This week, the quarrelsome quartet, Dongwon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard return for another round of first page fun. This time with The Killing Floor by Lee Childs. A thriller, introducing the character, using foreshadowing, flashback, imagery… Plenty to read about in the transcript available now in the archives.

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