First Paragraph

2006 Forest FireI’ve finished the fourth or fifth draft of the first chapter of Carbon Run. The book opens with a house fire. Here’s the first paragraph:

The flames destroyed everything. Bill Penn and his 15-year-old daughter Anne screamed at the fire. Penn ordered Anne to move the truck away from the house so it wouldn’t catch from the heat. Paint bubbled off the hood like a volcanic mud pot. Anne dialed 9-1-1 on her cell, and Penn got a hose on the house, but the old irrigation pump couldn’t put enough water on the inferno. Mist from the nozzle soaked Penn’s t-shirt, overalls and dark hair. Steam hissed from the rockery by the front porch. The solar-powered pump gave out, and the water stream quit. The cistern, already low, emptied. The needles on the ponderosa pine woods around the house browned.

The first paragraph, indeed the first sentence, is often the most important in any piece of fiction. I think the first sentence is a bit weak. What do you think?

I inserted the photo of the forest fire because one starts in the next paragraph and sets up the main conflict. It’s said that forest fires will increase as a result of global warming. Have you ever seen a forest fire? What’s it like?

2 thoughts on “First Paragraph

  1. In 1975 the Tujunga fire struck in southern California, my wife to be and I went there to help evacuate our friends horses. The fire burned along the ridge, then the winds changed and drove it right up the valley towards us. We decided to stay with the horses at the ranch and fight it there. Fortunately our friends had kept their property properly cleared, and had a good pump for watering the roofs of the barn and ranch. Horse manure burns so I spent most of the aftenoon putting out manure fires on the five acre property. I will never forget the sound of the fire as it rushed up the mountain side into the forested area behind the ranch house. Oak trees literaly exploded into a million pieces. One minute there would be a tree that was burning, then next a huge explosion of flames that sounded like a stick of dynomite going off followed by the showering of flaming debris raining down in the surrounding area. The ranch and all the horses were saved, but the entire area was denuded of vegitation.

    The following year my wife and I were living in Northern California when we heard that rains had caused massive mud slides and that Hansen dam had broken wiping out much of the area. Our friends horses survived the fire the previous year, then all but two were killed in their corrals by the sudden mudslides which left no time to evacuate.

    The fires in California this last summer were much worse than what I experienced in 1975. You are correct climate change is resulting in less soil moisture and more stressed vegetation. The rains that are now falling are more intense and the dry soil can’t absorb the water – resulting in flash flooding. I fear the rains that are currently falling will result in even greater damage from mudslides than occurred from the fire itself.

    Good Luck with your writting

    John Banta
    author- Extreme Weather Hits Home, Protecting Your Buildings From Climate Change.


  2. Hi John,

    Sorry to take so long to approve your comment. I’ve been flat on my back with the flu, and haven’t written a word. I’ve been reading a very good, very objective book on global warming: “The Rough Guide to Climate Change,” by Robert Henson. It notes that fire losses in the Alaska tundra (including forests) have risen ten-fold “in the last few decades.” Climate change is also implicated in the bark beetle infestations in western North America. The forests are definitely changing.



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