Reply To: Student: Brenda Davis Homework Thread

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#42462
Linnea Sinclair
Moderator

Pull some of your favorite books off your shelf, get out a highlighter, and NOTE where and why the opening pages grab you.

I love this idea. Here are a few of mine and I immediately see a common factor of starting in the middle of the action, with no set up. “You might want to sit down.” (prologue beginning) “Captain, we have a problem.” (Games of command) It wasn’t the first time Gillie had hazily regained consciousness flat on her back in sick bay, feeling stiff and out of sorts. And unable to account for a missing two or three hours. Pub-crawling did have its side effects. But it was the first time she’d been unable to account for a missing two or three hundred years. Not even a week of pub-crawling could explain that. (Accidental goddess) Only fools boast they have no fears. I thought of that as I pulled the blade of my dagger from the Takan guard’s throat, my hand shaking, my heart pounding in my ears, my skin cold from more than just the chill in the air. (Gabriel’s ghost)

Aw, thank you, dear one! You have no idea how much I needed to hear something nice today. (I’ve had a horrible morning with a last-minute showing [our house is for sale] by a realtor who showed up late, with no client, and then proceeded to TELL the client about every inch of my house on her PHONE–no, NOT filming. Talking… And there weren’t many good things said. It has a vaulted ceiling in the living room. I hate vaulted ceilings, it makes the walls look uneven. It has pot shelves. I hate pot shelves. I hate the kitchen island, it has two levels. There’s no back yard for your dogs…

Oh, yes, I have security cameras. I spy. So I’m sitting in a parking lot down the street, in 95-degree heat, watching/listening. We had two hours notice on the showing (supposed be to 24 hours notice). Realtor told my agent they MUST see my house, client is buying NOW… but… no client. The showing was for 1030AM. My agent called me at 9am. Hubby helped me a bit before he had to leave for the golf course, and I’m like a crazy tornado cleaning and picking up cat toys and sanitizing… I bolt from the house still in my PJs at 1020… and agent doesn’t get there until 11:15.

And proceeds to tell her client how horrible my house is. (Like… no one looked at the tons of photos on the listing online? And the Google Earth on the listing so you can SEE my entire back yard is my pool? Aargh.)

So, thank you. I really needed something nice right now.

:: Linnea takes deep breath… :: Okay, yes. Nice Linnea is back. Crazy Linnea is going off to sob in the closet for a while.

“You might want to sit down.” (prologue beginning) “Captain, we have a problem.”

Ah, GAMES OF COMMAND. Lots of backstory on how that book came about, and if anyone is interested, we can discuss that in another thread.

Yes, I think my openers are very genre-centric. Although I definitely write Science Fiction ROMANCE (book was a RITA finalist), I feel (you all can disagree) that I write to the SF/action-adventure genre in my structure and pacing. I feel best opening with A PROBLEM or a potential problem. If I can open with a threat, even better.

But–NOTE ALL–sometimes opening with a threat can seem like a cheap trick. This happens when the “threat” is just tacked on for sensationalism and has little to do with the plot or the GMC. Yes, readers can tell. We’re going to go more deeply into the writer-reader connection in an upcoming lesson, but readers hate being played for fools. They will not only NOT read you again, they’ll post nasty stuff about your books on the Internet. Unprofessional, yes, but they’re not the professionals, we are. So we have to craft at a 125% level. Yes, we do.

GAMES is a rather high-action book. I wanted readers to know that from page one. This isn’t going to be a lyrical journey through some star system. This is going to be sh*t happening.

Only fools boast they have no fears. I thought of that as I pulled the blade of my dagger from the Takan guard’s throat, my hand shaking, my heart pounding in my ears, my skin cold from more than just the chill in the air. (Gabriel’s ghost)

The same is true of GABRIEL’S GHOST. (RITA winner. Yes, shockerooni to me, too.) I opened with the female protagonist just having killed a guard. The story is high-threat, high-action.

It wasn’t the first time Gillie had hazily regained consciousness flat on her back in sick bay, feeling stiff and out of sorts. And unable to account for a missing two or three hours. Pub-crawling did have its side effects. But it was the first time she’d been unable to account for a missing two or three hundred years. Not even a week of pub-crawling could explain that. (Accidental goddess)

GODDESS, on the other hand, is much lighter in tone, truly more romance-y, and Gillie and her sidekick, Simon, don’t lack in snark.

So, yes. Study the opening scenes and chapters that really grab you. FIGURE OUT WHY. Then look at your own writing or, better, ask your crit partner to describe your story’s TONE. Is it lushly lyrical? Is it mysterious and tense? Does your story DELIVER what you opening scenes promise?

And, yes, then of course there are those things called PROLOGUES which can somewhat mess all this up. We probably should discuss those at some point, if you all raise the question… Does anyone in class write prologues?

 

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//
www.linneasinclair.com

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