I often have multiple projects going at the same time. Generally, though, one keeps rising to the top, the one I want to be perfect from the first paragraph.
The opening page of a novel can make or break a request by an agent to read more. That page must have impact. Power.
It hasn’t been my strong suit, historically. So I’m looking for “a little help from my friends.” I’m posting here the opening page of my as-yet-unnamed novel. If you started reading a book with this opening, would you want to continue on?
Kuwait/Saudi Arabia Border—1991
My Arabic was rudimentary. I understood it better than I spoke it, although even that was rough. But the most flawless Arabic wouldn’t have made this conversation with Samar easy. It was even harder than I expected.
We had just made love. It wasn’t the first time. I never meant for this to happen.
When we first arrived in Saudi Arabia during the military build-up, I had two things on my mind. Make that three things. First was surviving the war to come. Second was concluding my military commitment, preferably alive and fully intact. And last, but far from least, marrying my fiancé, Emily.
Emily and I had been a couple since our freshman year of college. We were a good match, because we had so much in common and shared so many interests. In particular, family was important to us. We defined success as doing something we enjoyed that mattered to society. Our friends joked about us, saying we sounded more like a sixties couple than one that came of age in the glitzy, yuppies decade.
But Samar stirred my soul.
“They will kill me,” Samar said quietly, eyes averted. “My brothers. I have dishonored them. They will have no choice.”
“They don’t have to know,” I replied, so naïve, so self-centered. I had not considered the clash of cultures. Had not thought about what this meant for a Saudi Arabian woman.
“They will know.” She turned away from me. “They may already know.”
“Then come to America.”
“They will not let me. And even if they agreed, the process takes so long. Years.”
I tried to turn her back to face me. She resisted.
“Then I will tell them I want to marry you.” Those words choked out. What about Emily? But how could I abandon Samar? How could I allow her to be stoned to death because of me? Because of our love? How did we get here?
“They will not allow it. You are American. You are Christian.” Silence. “I am dead,” she added quietly.
What could I do? How could I prevent a tragedy? One for which I was responsible? I had never felt so powerless.
I welcome your honest assessments. Remember, negatives won’t hurt my feelings – they will help make this better. Positives, of course, are welcome, too – I’m human, after all!
Thank you in advance!