Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the month “October, 2014”

Writing Prompt: 10-31-2014

Origin“Robinson Crusoe,” by Donato GiancolaI do not know this artist or his other work, so if you decide to look him up, I would advice caution.

Feeling inspired? Tell his story. You can leave a response in the comments or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Advertisements

The Grand NaNo Post

The Grand NaNo Post

“Ah,” most of you say, “I wondered when she would write a post about it.” 

You should never have worried, readers. Of course I shall write a post about my beloved NaNoWriMo! The fact that it grows dangerously near to November means nothing.

Actually, my post comes so late because I have very little to say. For the benefit of those who don’t know what it is, I have come to summarize. For those of you who do know, and will be doing it, I come to offer my support and encouragement.

I also come to make a few announcements about what shall be happening on the blog during November.

But first, for those who don’t know of the Grand National Novel Writing Month:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

Or so says their website. In truth, those three sentences hardly scratch the surface of what NaNoWriMo is. Perhaps it’s professionalism that keeps them from it, but in any case, it’s up to us, the participants, to really say what NaNoWriMo is all about.

It’s about thirty days of caffeine, frozen fingers as the weather gets colder, and more time with your novel that most of us will get in any other thirty days.

It’s about writing one word at a time, pounding them out even when we don’t feel like it, because we have a deadline to meet. It’s also about writing whole scenes, chapters, sections, novels, at once.

It’s about learning how to write, through practice. Well, it’s about learning how to get the first draft out, anyway.

It’s about gathering in groups of people to Word War until the sound of a timer is perpetually ringing in your ears. 

It’s about learning to fall in love with your novel, even as you crash into bed exhausted each night.

It’s about remembering what it feels like to be a writer.

Helpful Tools During NaNoWrimo

Write or Die. (Well, not literally, but that would produce a lot of words, wouldn’t it?)

Write or Die is a program that pulls up a blank text box for you to write in. You set your time goal or word goal, and you cannot do anything else until you reach it. I’m afraid I cannot give you much information about the new version, because I always go back to the old one, which I find to be less filled with distractions. However, I think you can get all the information from the websites.

The New Write or Die

The Old Write or Die

Word Wars 

Word Wars can be set up whenever or wherever. Two or more writers pick an amount of time and race each other: whoever gets the most words wins, though most people don’t really care about who wins. The quick sprints are incredibly helpful for reaching daily word goals.

I have heard that Go Teen Writers will be setting up a Word War during November, though I’m afraid I don’t know for sure.

There’s a group board for Word Wars on Pinterest where you can set up Word Wars with people. You can join the board if you comment saying you would like to, and I don’t think anyone would mind if you just joined in one of the Word Wars without being a part of the board.

You can set up a Word War with whomever you would like, basically wherever you would like. All you need is another person who would like to join!

You can also send me a NaNoMail if you would like, and if I’m around I can Word War with you. My NaNo profile is here.

A Baby Names Website

Because occasionally, we’ll suddenly realize that there’s a character who needs to join the grand quest, or briefly step in to say something. Personally, I use babynames.com most of the time. You can search for names, search for meanings, search for nationalities, search for first and last letters, and search for syllable length. You’ll find the place to search on the left sidebar. Of course, using, “(((???)))” or “Mr. [Somebodyorother]” always works if you don’t have time to find a name, too.

Music and a Good Pair of Headphones. 

Find them now. You’ll most likely want them at some point in the month, even if you don’t usually listen to music while you write.

Other Tips

Keep coffee (or tea, or something hot) easily accessible.

They say don’t edit, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably end up doing just a little bit of editing. Like, say, typos. I’m going to go against the NaNoWriMo catch phrase and say, that’s okay. Don’t over-edit, but if the typos are driving you crazy, right click, click the correct option, move on. Don’t pull your hair out over it.

Back up your novel every~single~day. I cannot stress this enough. You really don’t want to have your computer crash half-way through NaNo and realize that you’ve just lost your novel.

Get up, run around, find something active to do every once in a while.

Know where you’re supposed to be every day. Don’t panic too much if you miss a day, but keep updating your novel and watch as your word count keeps going up. They put the “stats” page on there for a reason. Use it. It’s incredibly helpful.

Connect with other writers you know, if you can. Doing it as a community makes it ten times better.

And, about the blog…

I’m going to be trying for 70,000 words this NaNo (though maybe not officially… So, shhh), and I realized that I wouldn’t have time to make the goal and write anything good for you here, so—

(No, don’t worry. The blog won’t be going on another hiatus.)

—I asked four awesome people to guest post on the blog this November. All published authors, all with excellent work, they’ll all be bringing excellent writing advice to you. You should definitely be looking forward to these next four Wednesdays.

Unfortunately, the Character Interviews will be paused for the month of November. They’ll make a return in December though.

Well, readers? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? What are you writing about? Make use of the comment box!

Writing Prompt: 10-24-2014

Origin“I Surrender,” by Mauricio Igor. I do not know this artist—in fact, I didn’t even look at his other pictures, which I normally do. So beware, be cautious, and all of the other things that start with be.

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

 

 

The Worst Thing They Can Do Is Say No

The Worst They Can Do Is Say No

At some point or other, we all suffer from the bane of a writer’s existence: nerves.

We question whether or not we’re good enough, whether or not our writing is good enough, and whether or not we’ll ever make it to publication. While I haven’t yet started querrying agents or publishers, I’ve submitted my work to various different places, from contests to critique groups, and found that nerves tend to act up whenever we need them to be silent. “They shan’t like it…” Our nerves whisper to us; sometimes they even go as far as to say, “They’ll hate it… Don’t even submit it… It’s terrible…” 

Perhaps it is terrible; I don’t know. Some of my pieces have certainly been cringe-worthy over the past several years, but that’s not the point of this article.

At one time in the life of a dedicated writer,  he or she reaches the point where they’re ready for publication. Whether this writer decides to find an agent and then a publisher, or decides to find a publisher that doesn’t require an agent, the writer at one point must decide that he or she is either going to let their skill, the skill they’ve worked so hard on, go to waste; or he or she must decide to start pursuing publication.

If they decide they want to go with the second option, that’s when they start to get nervous.

Yet, hopefully, this writer will continue on, for they know the reason behind the work that they’re doing. They want to be published. They want to have their work released to the public, and they’re willing to work toward that goal. Right now, their work is unpublished, but they hope and dream that someday, it will be published.

But… They’re nervous. To the point where their hands shake and they re-read the email they’re going to send to the potential agent or publisher eighty times, at least. At last, though, they send the email.

And when the writer receives the reply, it is with regrets that the recipient of their email cannot, at this moment, publish their work.

Undaunted—well, maybe a little bit daunted, but not too much—they do it again.

And the reply is the same.

By this point, the writer is starting to be discouraged. And as he or she receives more rejections, the nerves turn into doubts: “Why bother sending it? They won’t want to publish me.” 

Dear discouraged author, do not allow yourself to be weighted down with past rejections. The very reason you’re querying these people is because you want to be published. You are unpublished now; these people, these agents and publishers, can do two things. They can publish you, or you can remain unpublished.

They can’t take anything away from you. If they send you a rejection, you are no less published than you were before;  in fact, you now have one less agent or publisher to worry about querying, so you have gained something.

The worst thing that they can do is say no. 

They cannot take away anything. You have lost nothing, and they cannot do anything worse than not give you something. You are no worse off than you were before, so when rejections come, you can dust off your hands and start again. You have nothing to lose. You do have something to gain.

Writing Prompt: 10-17-2014

We'll all be hanged

Origin: “We’ll all be Hanged” by the ever-helpful Microsoft Paint and my keyboard.

Feeling inspired? Write something from this! You and leave it in the comments here, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments. I cannot wait to see what you’ll come up with!

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Just as a side note, this weekend I shall be away from my customary location, leaving on Friday morning (hopefully this scheduled post will post on Friday afternoon) and not returning here until Monday. I may be late in approving or responding to comments, but when I get back, worry not; I shall get to them. Keep commenting in my absence!

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge Responses: Antagonists

Get to Know Your Characters ChallengeToday is Thursday, readers—Thursday the 16th. As promised, the Get to Know Your Characters: Antagonist closes today, with some exceptional pieces of work from a couple of different writers. Do go check out their work, and I’m sure they would love to have you comment!

First Blood, by Michael Hollingworth

Prompt Chosen: Write about the first time your villain killed or ordered the death of someone.

So Easy, by Beckah (Ghost Ryter)

Prompt Chosen: Write about the first time your villain killed or ordered the death of someone.

Untitled, by Katie Grace

Prompt Chosen: Your antagonist is between three and ten. Write something that represents their life at that point.


I decided to write something with my villain from IOTW. It brought up a slightly awkward question of what exactly to call him; he gave my protagonist four choices when she first asked his name. Eventually I decided to call him what he’s called in the novel for the sake of continuity, but at one point in the story he refers to himself by another one of his names. The majority of the time he’s called Rais, but in his thoughts, he calls himself Rashad.  Before you reach this point and give me the look, know that it wasn’t an accident.

This was a very interesting thing for me to write. Since IOTW is in first person, I never had the chance to go this far into my villain’s point of view prior to this. Though he’s changed slightly between this time and the novel, it was nice to be able to get a feel for his character. 

The prompt I chose:

  • Write about when your antagonist moved into his place of current residence.

Darkness.

Nothing but darkness as far as Rais could see. Slowly, he lifted himself upon bleeding hands, raising himself onto his knees, though nothing was beneath him to support his weight.

“No,” he whispered, the word punctuated by his heartbeat thudding in his ears. “No, it didn’t happen. It. Didn’t.”

Not even an echo drifted back to him. He remained completely and entirely alone.

His thoughts chased themselves around in his head, none quite becoming comprehensible, all of them filled with the desperation he tried to push back within himself.

…it should have worked…

   … he must have been dying…

    …not wrong… I could not have been…

   …Why?…

   Carefully, Rais climbed to his feet, allowing his eyes to slide shut so they would not continue straining to see. He knew there would be no light. His whole body screamed pain at him and he could feel the damp of blood and sweat, but he remained on his feet. Rais inhaled slowly through his nose and let it out through his mouth, shaping his face into the smile he had become so used to wearing.

He could do this. He knew he could manage, if only he could stay calm.

If time had been even vaguely measurable, standing there for a long moment might perhaps have worked. As it was, Rais was more aware of the lack of time than of the steady breathing in-breathing-out pattern, and abruptly he collapsed onto his knees again, beating at nothing with his fists as the desperation welled up inside of himself.

“No!” He shouted. “No, I did not fail!”

The silence did not even have the decency to answer as it would have in a world.

Slowly, Rais allowed himself to sink down lower onto the ground. His heart slammed against his ribcage and the silence magnified the sound of his breathing until it seemed almost deafening.

Light. Rais scrambled to his feet, his entire body shaking. He needed light.

Peeling his eyelids open, he stared out into the complete darkness surrounding him. He could see nothing, no matter how hard his eyes strained.

You must know how to do this, he said, mentally adopting his slightly patronizing tone to speak to himself. Think, Rashad.

  Rais closed his eyes again, balling his hands into fists and ignoring the pain that shot up his arms. Light danced across the inside of his eyelids, teasing him with it’s lack of existence. Slowly the correct words came to his mind, and though it made his gut twist further into a knot, he whispered them.

“In case you ever have to form a half-world,” he had been taught. “This is how you go about it. One step at a time, eh? Keep it easy, though. No cementing. Keep it changeable. Your world, eh? Your commands oughta keep working whenever you give ’em.”

    He could feel the energy draining out of his body, but he kept his eyes squeezed shut, forcing himself to continue. It would work—it had to.

They thought they could imprison him. Idiots—he could do this. He could bend the prison to his own will.

Light flashed through his closed eyelids, staining them red as blood. He opened his eyes, gasping for breath as he saw the sun, the complete, glorious desert sun, beginning to rise on the horizon.

Perhaps it was fake—he didn’t know for sure, but he could see light. It was all that mattered.

Rais collapsed, the entirety of his energy spent, but he did not close his eyes; he remained staring up into the sun that belonged in the early morning desert sky. It already gave off enough heat to bake anything that happened to fall beneath the rays of light, but Rais did not care.

“You did not succeed,” he whispered, his lips scarcely moving. “I will not stay here. I will save it.”

He closed his eyes, letting the light that shone from nothing and onto nothing wash over him, his lips now moving soundlessly as he let the exhaustion and the effects of the injuries take over. “You cannot stop me from saving the desert.”

 

 

 

To the Bitter End

To the Bitter End l Red Lettering

Last week, we went over Three Ways to Not Start a Novel. The most logical next step would be to move on to the actual writing of the story, the things to do or to not do when we are ready to step into the main part of the story.

Because this would be the most logical step, the most obvious thing to happen here would be to not do it. Instead of the middle, let’s pretend we’ve had enough time to learn all about the main part of the novel; now we’re ready to learn about the end of the novel.

The end of the novel is perhaps one of the most important parts of the novel. The beginning is important because it is the doorway into your novel; the end is important because it is the doorway out. As we’re stepping out the door, the things that go on then and there will shape our whole memory of the book when we look back on it. It’s the last thing we see and one of the most clear things we’ll remember.

We don’t want our readers to hate the end of the book. Sometimes we want our readers to be sad at the end of our books; to sit there with a half-smile on their faces, holding the book tightly as they remember the great adventure they went through, and to feel disappointed that it’s over. Yet anger and sadness are different. By the time your reader has reached the end of the book, they’ve spent time on the book. By simply the fact that they’ve made it that far shows that they decided at one point to keep reading, to make it to the end with these characters. By the time they reach the end of the book, they’re ready for a great conclusion—and we don’t really want to disappoint them.

“To the bitter end!” Say the readers, and while hopefully they would be willing to go with the character even if the end did get bitter for the character, hopefully the way the story ends doesn’t end up being so bitter for the readers that they vow to never read any more of your books—and be serious about it.

Things to Avoid

Upon thinking of things to avoid or things to do when ending novels, I’m afraid that the first things that enter my head are those to avoid. So, as we did with the beginnings, we shall go over three ways to not end stories.

The dream. Dreams are splendid. I like dreams. Dreams come back again and again in IOTW as part of the plot. But waking up from a dream is not a good ending. At the moment, I can’t think of any time when I actually read a book like this, but I thought I ought to make that clear. If ever there is a moment when you are tempted to end your novel with, “And then she woke up—it had all been a dream!” Please, please do not. When we reach the end, we’ve invested emotional energy in your characters, ended up wanting to know how the story ends, and if authors try to wind it up with the it was all a dream line, we feel cheated. We will spend the next half-hour banging our head on the desk.

Someone Else Saves the Day. This one, I have seen done. When it came to the climax, the two main characters who we had all grown to love throughout the book ended up staying off to the side while a random, newly introduced character saved the day. By the time I had finished the novel I was left with a blank look and an irritation with the writer. We read the novel not because of the plot. We read because of the characters, most specifically the main characters. Even with the most splendid, thrilling plots, the author has failed if we don’t care what happens to the character. We want to see the character do whatever they’re supposed to do, learn whatever they’re supposed to learn, and come away triumphant.

When another character is introduced simply to save the day, we don’t find what we’re looking for. Even when the main character still ends up doing whatever they’re supposed to do, ect., it makes the story seem awkward and the plot seem disconnected from the characters. This is not what we, as authors, are aiming for.

The Saccharine-Sweet Ending. “And then, everything falls into place. The character saves the day and comes away with minor (if any) injuries, everything’s splendid, the danger’s taken care of, hip-hip-hooray.” We want to see grit. We want to see struggle; we might even want to see the character reach the point when all hope is lost. We want to have all of the adventure, all of the drama, all of the danger of the whole story magnified just before the ending, so that when it ends, when the character is victorious, it doesn’t ring hollow.

Things to Attempt

Let your reader go with your character the whole way, until the threat is vanquished. Let the character learn what they’re supposed to learn; let them do what they need to do to save the world. Make it hard. Make it count.

And then bring it to a conclusion. I know that some of you like cliffhanger endings, but every time I read one, I can’t say I enjoy it, and not because I’m anxious for the next one to come out. Cliffhangers, to me, feel like cheap excuses for not actually concluding the story. If you would like to draw one novel entirely together again, and then end on a cliffhanger note, do have at it, but please, conclude your book.

It’s slightly more difficult to provide examples on how to end books, as that would be the best way to give out spoilers in the world… So I simply let you go out. Find the endings that you liked. Find the ones that touched you, the ones you loved, the ones you felt were done incredibly well. Your assignment for this week is to go out and figure out what makes you like an ending. You can post it in the comments, if you’d like.


 

Note: Tomorrow is the end of the Get to Know Your Characters Challenge: Antagonist. If you’re going to participate, please remember to post it on your blog today or early tomorrow, and pass me the link to your blog through email or in a comment here.

Character Interview: Shawn

Happy Tuesday, readers! I know this post is being published awfully late… I had something of a busy day. However, as it’s still Tuesday, I have the pleasure of presenting to you Shawn, from Faith Song’s work-in-progress, Son of a King.

Character Interview - Shawn

ARE NOBLES BORN, OR MADE?
Shawn, born the son of a King and destined to rule the Land of Dragons after his Father’s death, has never had cause to doubt the supremacy of his father’s word. Yet when he discovers two elves—spies, no doubt—captured and facing torture in the King’s dungeon, Shawn is forced to reconsider whether he will support his father the King in all he does—or suffer the consequences of treason.

Hello, Shawn, and welcome to Red Lettering! It’s not often that we get a Prince and a dragon. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Shawn: *takes a deep breath, slowly* Yeah, a prince. *shakes his head* There really isn’t much to tell. I’m a dragon… But you said that already. *shrugs* I’m eleven summers. My mother died when I was eight, leaving me as my father’s only child. *pauses* And heir.

Ah, so you’re a crown prince as well? How nice. Where did you grow up?

Shawn: I grew up in Shyam. It’s the capital city in Ryoto. *pauses* There is one giant city made from black stone. Actually, it’s made out of a mountain. Then there are some smaller cities around Shyam, and farther out, some villages.

And past that, there are others, yes? Other kinds of people? You appear to have some interesting species in your world. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it could get a little bit confusing to us humans growing up on a human-populated planet. Could you tell us something about them?

Shawn:*smiles a little* Well… First off, there’s dragons. We’re a sort of winged serpent at night, and at daytime, we look almost like humans. Most of the dragons in Sham have dark hair and red eyes and kind of golden tinted skin. Then we have the unicorns. *frowns a little bit, shrugging* Dragons don’t get along with unicorns since the war. And there’s elves, who stay to themselves, usually. There’s said to be griffins in other worlds, but I’ve never seen one.

Aye, and said to be walking trees in some worlds, but who can really be sure? Maybe some day, you’ll find out more of these different creatures; maybe even griffins. What was your dream as a young child? How has that dream changed since then?

Shawn: *is silent for a few seconds, then speaks slowly* I used to dream about being a great warrior king, like my father. *pauses* I think now I’m more interested in being a peaceful King. I’ve never really thought about not being king.

Perhaps you should. Life is full of surprises. Just as a quite random question, do you like to dance?

Shawn: *uncertainly* I—I don’t know. I’ve never tried.

Never tried dancing? Now, there’s a problem that must be amended. Immediately. Go hire a dancing tutor. Now I’m afraid we must move to a more serious question… Do you think there is anyone you would die to save?

Shawn: *thinks for a moment; then, slowly* My father. Maybe my teacher. *shrugs slowly* I’ve never thought about it before.

Start thinking, lad. Start thinking. What do your dreams usually look like?

Shawn: *quietly* That depends on whether they’re nightmares or not.

Ah, I understand. Though I’m afraid that doesn’t really count as an answer; perhaps, some day, we’ll come back to it. Not today, though. Do you think you would have what it takes to be King?

Shawn:*nods, then pauses* I think so. I’ve trained for it my whole life. I couldn’t be king now, but when I’m older.

All right. That’s all the time we have for today, but remember—Sorry, wrong story. Thank you for coming today, Shawn. Maybe one day you’ll be a great, peaceful King…but maybe you’ll be something better.

Faith SongFaith Song is a fourteen year old aspiring author with a passion for GOD, words, and dragons. She lives just outside a small town in the Central United States with eight of her ten siblings and her two parents, the best family in all the worlds. She blogs at http://storyoffire.wordpress.com/

Writing Prompt: 10-10-2014

Origin“We need… No, I need you” by Vyrhelle. I do not know this artist or her other work, so if you decide to look her up, use caution.

Well, readers? Tell this story. I can’t wait to hear what you all come up with! You can post your writing pieces in the comment section here, or move the prompt to your own blog and post a link in the comments.

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Three Ways to Not Start a Novel

3 Ways to Not Start a Novel

Scattered all over the internet are a half-million ways to not begin a novel. When I looked them up a little while ago,  I could not help but think that—though I’m sure they’re all splendid, logical reasons—it would be more than slightly discouraging for a beginning writer to look through the eight lists entitled “100 Worst Ways to Start a Novel.” It was not that there was so many of them (though I do think that can be a bit overwhelming at times) as much as how they went about presenting their information. “Don’t do this. Don’t do this. I hate this. Don’t do this. This is terrible.” The sites that gave reasons why it’s a bad idea to begin your novel like that were few and far between.

Even fewer are the ones that say how to do it correctly.

While these are far from official publisher or agent-type openings to avoid, these are three things at the beginning of stories that bother me as both a writer and a reader.

It was— Wait. Stop there. You were expecting “It was a dark and stormy night,” weren’t you? Oh. Well, if you insist, we’ll get to that next. For now, though, let’s discuss the two words it was that are so frequent in the beginning of books. The to-be verb paired with the ever-mysterious it seems to be one of the most common beginning to beginning authors’ beginning novels. This, more than any others, is one of the openings that will make me moan and set the book aside.

Normally, it’s best to remove the to-be verb as much as possible (“are,” “is,” “was,” “will be,” and “were,” are all to-be verbs) when we are telling a story; there is almost always a stronger way of saying whatever you are trying to say. For example: “She was running,” or “She ran.” Do note, though, that this does not apply to dialogue. We want our characters to be speaking as normal people would.

Since it’s best to remove the to-be verb, keeping it out of the first sentence, which is the doorway into your novel, is a good idea.

Google defines the word “it” as “used to refer to a thing previously mentioned or easily identified.” As the first word of your sentence, first sentence in the novel, you can’t possibly have previously referred to something. The word it has now become a fairly meaningless word in this context. Remove it, and replace it with the thing you’re speaking of. If you’re talking of the morning air? Talk about the morning air, not a mysterious it which we know nothing of.

“It was a dark and stormy night.” Since we’ve already been over the “it was,” let us not speak of it again, but instead tackle this sentence as a whole. To put it quite simply, this is practically the most cliché beginning to any story. Once upon a time, the words were original.

That was a very long time ago.

Again, ignoring the it was, we come to “a dark.” Most nights—at least where I come from—are dark. I wonder if it’s different in the rest of the world.  That taken care of, we’re left with “and stormy night.” These days,  it’s not suggested that you start your novel with a storm at all, though it’s not strictly forbidden. If you must start it with a storm, try for perhaps a more original introduction to the storm.

The Main Character is in (slightly random) Mortal Danger. This sort of opening is one that usually only receives a blank look, though I sometimes feel vaguely bad about it, what with all the trouble the characters are going through to make it exciting.

At the moment, though, we don’t particularly care if the character dies. I’m afraid ’tis so, heartless though it might seem; if the character died, we would slowly blink, say, “That was odd,” and not be overly concerned about it, because at this point we don’t know the character. Perhaps there have been a few stories where abruptly dropping us into dramatic, life-or-death situations have been well done, but I imagine that if I ever were to find a book, I would keep reading not because I was concerned about this character whose name I did not even know, but because of the mystery behind it.

The main problem with this type of beginning, though, is that when it’s coming from beginning writers, I often see meaningless danger. It’s very exciting drama, but it doesn’t tie in with the rest of the story. That, combined with the fact that we wouldn’t mind if the character decided to go and die, makes for an irritating beginning to a novel.

How, then, do we do it? 

“Mark Royce arrived at the latest African crisis by way of a United Nations Chopper.”

“Rare Earth,” Davis Bunn.

While I’m not entirely sure his style is my favorite, Davis Bunn’s first sentence in Rare Earth, impressed me with all the information it held. In this first sentence, we are introduced to the main character— Marc Royce, discovered where he was—Africa (and the fact that there is a crisis there), and how he arrived—by a United Nations Helicopter.

From this one sentence, we gain a large amount of information; more information, perhaps, then we needed in the first sentence, but it was helpful information nonetheless.

“Hill House, though abandoned, had remained unscathed during the years of the Dragon’s occupation.”

“Veiled Rose,” Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

From this first sentence of Veiled Rose, we gain information not about the main character, but about the story. We learn from this that Hill House has been abandoned, and that there has been a Dragon occupation in the past couple of years. We learn a bit about the setting from the style of the writing and have a peek into the world we’re about to enter.

“Great and golden, like an enormous, newly minted doubloon, the Caribbean sun presided over the waterfront.”

“The Angel’s Command,” Brian Jacques.

Here, we learn not only a bit of the location, but also perhaps the time period and a bit about the character. We find that we’re at a waterfront on the Caribbean in the time of doubloons; and that the character automatically compares the sun with doubloons.

In conclusion: (No, I wasn’t randomly putting those first sentences of books in here just for the sake of doing so.) The first sentence is the first step into your world. Make it count.

All of the best first sentences, those that stick us straight into the story, tell us something relevant. It’s splendid sometimes when your world is cold, but unless this will be a real, large part of the story, perhaps it wouldn’t be the best option for a first sentence. Whether it’s something about the setting, something about the character, something about the upcoming plot, tell us something that’s worth hearing.  This is our first impression into your novel. Tell us something that, even if we don’t realize it at the time, will matter as we go through the novel.

What is your favorite type of first sentence? What is the first sentence of your story?

Post Navigation