In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.
In addition to publishing in various journals—most recently in Black Cat Mystery Magazine with the story “Mud Season,” the subject of her essay today—Su Kopil has become a regular contributor to some outstanding anthologies, including two anthologies produced by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, several collections connected to the Bouchercon and Malice Domestic conventions, the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Flash and Bang collection, and Carolina Crimes—a stand-out story there that earned high praise from Jeffrey Deaver. You can read more about Su’s work at her website here.
In addition to being a fine writer, she’s also a fine graphic designer—the founder and owner of Earthly Charms, which has been working with authors for nearly two decades now. Great stuff there too!
This is the third post in a series featuring contributors to the latest issue of Black Cat. Over the last two weeks, I also hosted Steve Liskow reflecting on his story “Messin’ With The Kid” and Ramona DeFelice Long on her story “Moe’s Seafood House.” Thanks to all of them for contributing, and do check out the rest of the issue, featuring Michael Bracken (the Ed Hoch of Black Cat!), Dale A. Dermatis, Julie Leo, Alan Orloff, Tais Teng, and Cynthia Ward.
Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.Kopil-Mud-Season
Thank you all for the kind words.
I love this idea of letting a question lead the reader through the story, along with the characters. So often, I feel the characters are being handed to me, instead of discovering the characters as we turn around the dark corners of a mystery. Su seems to allow the mystery to unfold and surprise through her characters’ self-discoveries and not despite them. She always seems to put characters first, even when she’s dealing them pain. That’s what makes Su’s writing visceral and powerful.
Su Kopil breaks down the suspense dynamic between writer and reader artfully. She’s aware of the wonderful balance between writing what comes from the imagination, and forming it in a way that engages a reader.
Su is spot on with suspense, character and setting being what’s required in a mystery story – and all of those ingredients shine through in the opening of ‘Mud Season’. I’d read on!
Su has the talent to know what to do and how to do it, as evidenced in these first two pages. I’m not surprised with the quality of this work, I’ve been enjoying Su’s other stories for several years. Su’s not only great to read, but Su has also helped me with my own writing immeasurably.
Thanks for chiming in, Kath and Ginny. I agree so much about introducing characters and tension and questions about those characters and the tension ahead. I can’t wait to read the rest of it myself!
Lots of questions raised and intriguing characters introduced in these first two pages. Certainly seems like Su Kopil has ‘done her job right’ as I find myself eager to read the rest of her fascinating story.
This really had me hooked and I’d love to read the whole story. It all feels very well worked out. I’m guessing one of those sisters is not what she seems but Im not sure which one!