There’s a thing going around the interwebs, credited to author Marc Laidlaw, who came up with a handy suggestion for improving the opening of just about any book.
Basically, after the first sentence — or, I’d say, at the first possible opening — insert the sentence, “And then the murders began.”
I thought I’d give it a try with a few favorite children’s books:
The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving again. Spitballs stuck to the ceiling. Paper planes whizzed through the air. And then the murders began.
At the foot of an old, old wharf lived the cutest little tugboat you ever saw. And then the murders began.
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live. But every time Mr. Mallard saw what looked like a nice place, Mrs. Mallard said it was no good. And then the murders began.
Leo couldn’t do anything right. He couldn’t read. He couldn’t write. He couldn’t draw. And then the murders began.
Fun, right? You can try it home.
Of course, as any law-abiding, egotistical, self-obsessed author, I couldn’t resist seeing what opportunities I may have missed with my own books.
My mother pushes me out the door, and I don’t know why. “I don’t want to go,” I tell her. And then the murders began.
Two weeks before Morgan Mallen threw herself off the water tower, I might have typed a message on her social media page that said, “Just die! Die! Die! No one cares about you anyway!” And then the murders began.
Sam Reiser’s bed was pushed against a second-story window that overlooked a stand of cherry trees. The trees on this June morning were filled with birds, chirping like lunatic alarm clocks. And then the murders began.
The first time Eric Hayes ever saw him, David Hallenback was running, if you could call it that, running in a halting, choppy-stepped, stumpy-legged shamble, slowing down to look back over his shoulder, stumbling forward, pausing to catch his breath, then lurching forward again.
He was running from, not to, and not running, but fleeing.
And then the murders began.
“Wait up, Jigsaw!” Ralphie Jordan cried out. “My bike chain slipped off!” And then the murders began. (Macmillan, August 2017)
Carter Novack pulled hard on the school front doors. And then the murders began.
There I was, lying on my bed on another sticky summer afternoon, examining my reflection in a hand mirror. I pondered the first day of seventh grade, just four days away, and gazed at my decomposing face. And then the murders began. (Macmillan, October 2017)