someone told me there’s a rat out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair
New York-based sandcastle artist Calvin Seibert (previously featured here) recently traveled to Hawaii where he created more of his awesome abstract, geometric sandcastles. They’re an impressive and tantalizing distraction for those of us still surrounded by wintry weather.
Click here to view more of Calvin Siebert’s recent sand sculptures.
Stayed up all night because I think I just need mornings so that I can work so I’m resetting sleep schedule for like the seventh time uuuugghhghghgh
Might take a light nap on the couch until a parental unit gets home but otherwise I’m faring pretty well I think
Goal for the day finish personal statement for grad schools upload them all yeah
Good advice from Gail Simone on writing good opening scenes.
I get asked a fairly constant stream of questions about writing, particularly for comics, for obvious reasons.
What I find is that a lot of the teaching methods out there focus on theory, rather than practical advice. What do I do about writer’s block? How do I make characters interesting? How do I avoid cliche dialog?
These are important rubber-meets-the-road questions. They are practical problems with practical solutions.
I thought I would take a couple minutes this morning to discuss ignition. Before you drive anywhere worth going, you have to start the car.
So I am talking about the opening scene.
Keep in mind this is just what works for me, for you, it may be something else entirely.
The key word here is not explosions, it’s not fighting. The key word is ‘intrigue.’
Your opening scene has to INTRIGUE the reader to want to turn the pages. If you don’t do that, what you do for the rest of the book doesn’t matter at all, not even a bit. It might as well be blank pages. The only person who will continue reading is your mother and even she might lie about it.
You have to set a question, or a scenario, that demands an answer or a satisfaction. You have to pose a problem to the characters and to the readers, one that demands a resolution.
When I read a lot of new writers, the number one thing I see that I think is wrong is, they didn’t grab me with the first scene. Common mistakes are:
1) No sense of setting.
2) No interesting character or characters
3) An overload of exposition
4) A too-worn scenario
Any of these things will kill a book or story. Remember the Green Lantern film? How it started with a long, dry discussion of GL history? I actually watched people in the theater as their imaginations disengaged before the characters even showed up on screen. The fun things that happened later no longer mattered, they had switched off.
Your opening scene should provide some sense of tone and place. If you are careful and skilled, this is PAINLESS exposition, it simply is accepted by the reader, rather than swallowed reluctantly, like too many Flinstones chewables.
In comics, this is also a key time for your establishing shot, where you show the sense of place so clearly that the reader can fill in the background details in panels where the details are sparse. This is Comics Writing 101, but I consistently see new writers muff this bit. I can’t tell you how many comics I have looked at where I had to ask where the story was taking place. I read one that took place in a hospital, but there was no visual clue to such until halfway through the book. Don’t leave your reader with no GPS, they will abandon the motorway entirely (and yes, I am mostly done with driving metaphors).
Second, make that first scene ask a question, or posit a scenario, that the reader wants to see through to resolution. I can’t say it enough. We all love the big splashy effects shots in comics, but it is the recognizable human condition that keeps us reading. It is the well-placed teaser that makes a book a page-turner.
When I taught a workshop to some wonderful aspiring comics creator students in Norway, I presented it like this.
Imagine there is a story that starts with the main character on a quiet street at night, near a train station. He sees a young, attractive woman, wearing pastel clothes, and she’s pushing a baby carriage and cooing into it, singing a pretty lullaby, the only sound in the area. “Rock a bye, baby, on the tree top.”
That’s an opening scene.
But now imagine this. Same exact scenario, but the woman passes by the main character, and he looks in the pram, and there is no baby. It’s empty. The woman is singing a lullaby to an empty carriage.
Which compels the reader to keep going?
My best advice to someone who is really serious about creating stories people want to read is, find your empty baby carriage. Find your image, or discussion, or action, in your opening scene, that says, “I dare you to put this story down,” to the reader.
If you start well, you can do miracles. If you start badly, you are always playing catch-up.
And good luck!
my whole soul cries out for american magical realism
where are the little midwestern towns with the waving grass in summer and the deep snow in winter, towns full of young women in white and slender-wristed dead hitchikers drinking merle’s coffee
where’s john henry raising black dogs and sasquatch footprints left outside the public library and no-face charlie walking the streets at night, whistling ‘o susanna’
there should be crumbling overgrown cemeteries and diners with faded linoleum floors, and molly pitcher pours cheap beer on bingo nights and crows are good luck when you catch sight of them perched on the cart return outside of walmart and out of the corner of your eye you see coyote, laughing at you
I realize this probably isn’t a post you were looking for a response to, and I’m sorry if some of these are ones you’ve already read/don’t consider magic realism [esp. since magic realism is one of those things thats devilishly hard to define] but —
“The Witches of Athens” by Lara Elena Donnelly [the Athens in question is Athens, Ohio]
“Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” by Andy Duncan (probably almost anything by Duncan counts, tho I’ve not read v much)
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
“Anansi Meets Peter Parker at the Taco Bell on Lexington” by Douglas Kearney
“Librarians in the Branch Library of Babel” by Shaenon K. Garrity
“The Ice Princess” by Jae Brim
“Hope Chest” by Garth Nix
Beloved by Toni Morrison (Also, I think Song of Solomon qualifies too, but I haven’t read that one yet.)
“All the Young Kirks and Their Good Intentions” by Helena Bell (okay, technically, science fiction-y, technically, probably doesn’t count, but also, i would ask you to consider the fact that it also totally counts)
“The Glass Bottle Trick” by Nalo Hopkinson (tho this leans more heavily on the Southern Gothic tradition than the magic realism side of things.)
“Non-Zero Probabilities” by N.K. Jemisin
“In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages
“The Hotel Astarte” by M.K. Hobson
“Lark Till Dawn, Princess” by Barth Anderson
“Fate” by Jenise Aminoff
Honestly, probably the majority of Mojo: Conjure Stories edited by Nalo Hopkinson (which is where I read “Lark Till Dawn, Princess” and “Fate”)
“Jesus Christ in Texas” by W.E.B. Du Bois
And then stuff I’ve heard of/read about but haven’t yet to read, but am pretty sure qualifies & am fairly confident quality-wise:
“Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight” by Ursula K. Le Guin
“The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change” by Kij Johnson (which was first published in an anthology called The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales so that’s probably a good bet for some more, and looking @ the TOC there’s tons of good authors.)
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
“The Hag Queen’s Curse” by M.K. Hobson
“Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, In the City Under the Still Waters” by N.K. Jemisin
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
I can palpably feel myself leaving out some good stuff, but that’s as far as I can remember/fetch easily. It’s sort of light on novels, but hopefully it’s a start.
Oooh. Reblogging for later reading. I think the only ones on this list that I’ve read are Six Gun Snow White and Beloved.
Electronic Games, May 1982 - Women join the arcade revolution! A guide to how woman are now appearing in arcades.
I enjoy how this article is almost a teaching tale for the young nerds out there.
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