Reply To: Student: Kathy Strobos Homework Thread

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Linnea Sinclair

writing. For (A), the change is that she’s found what she’s seeking: an evil sorcerer, who’s chasing her with a big knife, so she’s at risk of dying. Emotions: Fear of extinction or mutilation or loss of autonomy. She’s already “been found out.” All fears, don’t see a core need. I love the sense of humor and the voice in this opening. Because of the sense of humor, she seems not quite so frightened and more take-charge. I found it interesting that there’s a parallel between the (A) and (B) examples: “You’d think that the worst that could happen to me was acute embarrassment and possible death.” And “Dying should have been the worst moment of my life.” So, both promising something worse than dying. And there are a lot of questions: why was she seeking him? Will she get away? And who’s going to stop a “three-thousand-year-old evil elven sorcerer?”

One of the fun things about commercial genre fiction is that we can pen the most outrageous situations and the reader just flows with it, nodding, like–yup, I get chased by naked evil sorcerers all the time… 😉

Good note on the sense of humor = not so frightened. Because of that–and the chased by naked sorcerer–are so over the top, and well-crafted, it brings us IN. We want to know MORE. We want to have fun right along with the MC.

As I teach in my conflict classes–fiction gives us the chance to do the death-defying stuff right from the safety of our own armchairs. Fiction–as we’ll explore in a later lesson–is a promise between the reader and the writer of transport to a new and strange world (even if the ‘world’ is present day and present place, not a magical whorehouse). The opening scenes are your first (and, sadly, sometimes last) places to start the reader on that journey.


For (C)

  • There’s an intruder, and “another ship here meant big trouble”

  • Emotions: Fear of Extinction and fear of mutilation (the descriptive references to the “bloodbats” and the “coils of black conduit snaked” made it seem like her “home” was already not that friendly/welcoming a place and seems to play to the fear of mutilation). And since I don’t like bats flying around my head or snakes, that gave me a squeamish feeling. Fears dominate.

Though there are exceptions, there are certain categories of things that most humans find… icky. Awful. Frightening. Disgusting. Snakes and bats are right up there on the list for most people (readers). Anyone watch HOMETOWN (Erin & Ben)? Hubs and I are addicted to the show. Ben is this big (6’6? 300 lbs?)  burly carpenter and he’s terrified of bats. Love the episode where he finds a whole nest packed with them in the attic. He screams like a little girl… 😉

One doesn’t need to write contemporary fiction to hit on common human notes. We still have common human readers (with a few exceptions.. bwah-hah-hah!). Poke those fears when applicable. Yes, finding bats where one doesn’t expect them is a CHANGE. A change in personal safety, for starters.


Ah-hah Moments: “Suss out the pertinent core emotions that can be launched at the story’s opening.”

And I love: “Think of the beginnings as the strip-tease. The seduction. The come-hither.”

On the first ah-hah: This is often why, after the book is done, we can go back and tweak in stuff to launch at story’s start. NOW that we have the whole picture, NOW we know our MC better, NOW we know the triggers… let’s plant some triggers right away.

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//


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