The following is an all new story — a Lost Tale of sorts — set in the world of the Watchers of the Light that was first revealed in Among the Shadows. Readers of AtS will have met Milena before. Those who have not are about to learn why the Darkness fears her. Enjoy…
Moby Dick. The Hobbit. A Tale of Two Cities.
All have classic beginnings, ones many readers know by heart. And therein lies one of the great challenges of writing: The beginning. The hook. Finding a way to convince people to continue past the first sentence in your Moby Dick length epic in this soundbite world
So are there hard and fast rules to help your catchy first sentence to not turn away readers? There are many recommendations that can keep your first lines from sounding clichéd, as Joe Konrath lists in “How Not to Start a Story.”
After reading his article you may, like I did, start pulling books off the shelf and seeing how many examples of rule violations you discover. There are always exceptions, but many of his points concern avoiding clichés and not boring the reader. Creative writing should be, well, creative. However, be careful to not throw the baby out with bathwater.
Take the “no prologues” rule that many swear by. It isn’t that prologues are bad book structure, rather it’s that many people don’t know how to write one correctly. The Prologue, like a Chapter 1, must kick off your narrative, but it does so while adding some additional layers. Quite often, it’s part of the story that is out of time sequence with what follows. The connections should be clear in the chapter that follows the prologue, or it isn’t a prologue. This, combined with the fact that the prologue must also launch the story, makes execution a little more difficult for the writer. The payoff can be worth it, especially if you also include elements that foreshadow plot points deep in your narrative.
Typically readers could care less how you label your chapters, but a writer can use this old school, traditional structure to set something apart. It’s a subliminal way to place something in your reader’s mind. Ultimately, if your Prologue works as a Chapter 1, it probably isn’t a prologue.
A good one, though, may help pull your reader into your Hobbit hole from word one and not let go.
As Tim Ferriss wrote a few months ago:
Now, the bad news: no one “trick” will do the job. Marketing isn’t about hacks.
As renowned venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says: “There is no silver bullet. We’re going to have to use a whole lot of lead ones.”
There are a few hard and fast rules, but there is one you may have heard that isn’t true. It goes like this: “You have to get your advertisement in front of someone X times before they notice it, X more times before they click on it, and X more times before they buy it.”
Baloney. #FakeRule. If it takes that long, one of the following is wrong:
A. You aren’t getting your book (or other product) in front of your market: The people that are actually interested in the genre you are writing.
B. Your ad isn’t good, or not connecting with people (or maybe, especially if you’re an author, you don’t get branding).
C. A combination of A. and B.
I have wrote about how everyone has access to marketing tools on-line, and everyone is using them, so you are competing with thousands for potential readers. At the end of the day, however, the above points still apply. Many have seen the promises of easy, cheap ads on Facebook and forget how advertising works.
It comes down to money. Continue reading
The mysterious Nan Madol is in the news, due to attention from a television show. These ruins of a forgotten city on the island of Pohnpei have long been the center of myth and legend. In one of the opening scenes of Awakening, sequel to Among the Shadows, Ethan, Milena and Kyra, are vacationing on the ancient isle, but they find something unexpected in an empty tomb. A brief excerpt from the forthcoming Awakening…
Next to Ethan, Milena put her hands on the boulder. She closed her eyes, and cleared her mind with the box breathing she learned when training with her katanas. The energy began to surge within and she felt it intertwine with Ethan’s.
“On three. One…two…three.”
She opened her eyes, lit green from within, her husband’s burned blue.
“It’s moving!” Kyra yelled…With a little help from gravity, and more from their strength, they rolled the boulder out of the way…
Kyra turned the light on the darkness, chasing it away. “There are steps going down into another chamber.”
“Let me have one of those.” Kyra handed her father his flashlight and he started down. As soon as Ethan reached the last step, the light reflected off a crystal pyramid, twice the width of the boulder, but no taller. It sat dead center in the room, nearly filling it. The low ceiling added to the claustrophobia as Milena and Kyra joined Ethan. Krya approached the pyramid and reached out her hand.
“No, wait!” Milena yelled, running for her a moment too late.
Kyra’s palm pressed on the crystal and light swirled within it, illuminating the room. The walls shimmered and vanished. The tomb, the ruins, the island — all of it — had been replaced by a dusty, vast plain under a blazing sky. Haze obscured the jungle covered hills rising in the distance. Shadows passed over the ground.
Kyra looked into the sky and screamed.
Read how their adventure began in Among the Shadows and look for Awakening coming in 2018.
…The most difficult test of the author isn’t his mastery of time or dialogue, his gift for action or character, his ability to suggest verisimilitude in a few strokes, but his ability to get back into the book each day. You have to enter its world. It demands a certain level of concentration to do so. You have to train yourself to that concentration. The easier it is to get there, the better off you’ll be, day in and day out. In fact, if you skip a day, much less a week, the anxiety you unload on yourself doesn’t increase arithmetically but exponentially. If it’s hard after one day, it’ll be hard squared, then cubed, ultimately hard infinite-ed. And that’s only by Wednesday!
Want to maintain your writing momentum? Then put off the research:
You can do the research later. You cannot use “more research” as a crutch to justify your sloth. You are selling narrative not background. The most important truths you tell involve what you know about human behavior, not what color the Obersturmbannfuhrer’s epaulets are. If you don’t know it, just bull on through and keep going. Make it up. Jam it with placeholders. It’s OK. At that stage you need momentum, not precision. That’s why it’s a first draft; that’s why there’ll be a second draft.
So sit down and write until you reach the two most important words:
Writers often draw us into the worlds and characters that burst from their imaginations. These “made-up” worlds are reason for some to shun this or that genre because they are imaginary. The truth, though, is that authors aren’t writing imaginary stories. Alister McGrath, in his biography of C.S. Lewis, explains:
Narnia is imaginative, not an imaginary, world. Lewis was quite clear that a distinction had to be drawn between those ideas. The “imaginary” is something that has been falsely imagined, having no counterpart in reality. Lewis regards such an invented reality as opening the way to delusion. The “imaginative” is something produced by the human mind as it tries to respond to something greater than itself…to “communicate more Reality to us.”
Lewis would use his imaginative world to explore serious themes like “origins of evil, nature of faith, and the human desire for God” — not unlike most writers have grand ideas of deep thoughts woven through their narrative.
Quite often their starting point to accomplish this is surprisingly very simple. Narnia started with “an image of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood.” Tolkien scrawled on a paper, “In a hole in he ground there lived a hobbit,” after the idea popped in his head and he “did not know why” it had. From these humble origins, grand tales came to life.
What lives in your imagination, ready to inspire, entertain and challenge?