July 17th, 2013

Bottle of Oregano

Go Ahead — Write This Story: Open without credits

You can learn a lot about storytelling from the movies — but some of those lessons do not apply to written works. In particular, movies have traditionally started slowly, sometimes showing scenery or general background activities, like the heroine driving a car. But what’s really happening is the showing of the opening credits, and movie-makers don’t want footage that will compete with the names of the actors and director for the viewer’s attention. In written fiction, you want to engage the reader’s attention from the first paragraph, if possible from the first sentence, maybe even from the first word.

If you need a fast-starting story idea, here are a few:

• This is a hard SF short story about the possibility that stone artifacts from a lost civilization have sentience.

• This is a traditional horror story in which the spirits of those who were dissatisfied with their final hours as mortals try to unite to find peace.

• This is a sibling rivalry story about a photojournalist documenting the Second Dustbowl who is accepted into a tribe of Wyoming Bedouin.

— Sue Burke