I recently read Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi. The heroine runs a small film company that’s called Tied to the Tracks. When asked “why that name?” she answered, “Our view of all things is that everybody finds themselves tied to the tracks at some point or another, and that’s where the story is.”
I so agree. Before reading this book, I started to read another one that was well written with interesting characters – but about one-quarter through, I stopped reading. There was never a tied-to-the-track scene. It was too bland for me. Too sweet with no bite. As a reader, I want to see the main characters tied to the track. As a writer, that’s what I want to give the reader.
Interesting stories need conflict. They need trouble. Just think of old fairy tales. Or even nursery rhymes. Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Then Humpty fell and broke into pieces. And Jack and Jill went up a hill – and then Jack fell down the hill and broke his crown. And what did Jill do? She came tumbling after him. More trouble!
A favorite childhood book for many of us is about a train that’s having a rough time making it up the mountain because its engine is too small. But, wait! Maybe if the engine thinks it will make it up the mountain, over and over, never giving up, then it will make it.
The Little Engine That Could had a better ending than Humpty’s story, but would you have loved the book if the engine had been bigger? If the engine wasn’t worried that it might not make it? And look at the consequences! If the train doesn’t make it up the mountain, all the children on the other side of the mountain won’t get their Christmas toys.
If it had been easy for the little train engine, would you have learned the lesson that if you refuse to give up and put your heart and soul into it, you can make impossible things happen? And the first time you heard that story, would you have listened so intently to the person reading it to you? Hardly daring to breathe until you knew the train was cresting over the hill? And when it happened, weren’t you bursting with happiness?
In A Love & Murder Christmas, a pooka in the form of a black cat appears in the hero’s daughter’s bedroom. This spurs the hero to contact the heroine, who had been his late wife’s best friend. But that’s not the first scene. The first scene is in the point of view of a secondary character talking to the heroine. Here it is:
Beads of sweat popped out on Darryl’s neck and face and inside the folds of fat. It was the first Monday of October, and Lauren had called the Finney Insurance Agency every first Monday since Paul Finney had gone missing, more than four and a half years ago.
Darryl hated first Mondays.
See? Trouble is coming. Only three paragraphs in, Darryl knows it. And so does the reader.
What’s one of your favorite “tied to the tracks” moments? Either as a reader or a writer?