Tag Archives: children

A Tantalizing Opening

You know how you meet someone and then you can’t remember their name later? And you keep meaning to ask, but eventually it’s too late and you’re too embarrassed to admit that you can’t remember? That’s how I feel about this blog. I got distracted and stopped posting and when I finally remembered that I HAD a blog, I realized that to start posting again meant admitting that I’d stopped in the first place. So I’m sucking it up and admitting it. Here goes:

Sorry, I got really distracted… But it was for good reasons, I promise. Reasons like a new novel. And a 4th birthday (I got carried away with the fairy theme). And my daughter’s daycare getting shut down unexpectedly. Lame. I feel especially bad about my timing as I had joined a blogfest thing and completely chumped out on it.

I went to this great conference, I got all these ideas, I decided to scrap my (mostly) completed manuscript (that I got critiqued and actually pitched and everything), and I spent a ton of time researching and fleshing out this idea for an urban fantasy that I am so, so, SO pleased with. The planets have totally aligned with this idea and I just can’t stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, with my eldest daughter NOT in school two days a week and some major teething going on with the baby, I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like. On either my project OR the blog (obviously).

So here’s a random topic that is marginally related to both my new project and to the RMFW conference. Sara Megibow from Nelson Literary Agency said that she wants to see the genre within the first few paragraphs of a novel. And I though, dang. That’s tough, especially for an urban fantasy where I want to introduce the creepy stuff slowly. I’m working on it, though – I’m trying some intimations of creepy in preparation for the actual creepy. But as I was thinking about this problem, I finally got to have a date with my husband.

You see, I have these two little kids and no baby sitters. But my mom came to visit for the aforementioned birthday party and my husband and I took the opportunity to go see a movie. Now, I know many writers are rabidly opposed to using movies as models for novels, but I feel like structure is structure. I think there’s something to be learned from any artistic genre – movies, tv, music, art, whatever. They’re all trying to communicate a story, right?

So anyway, we finally got to see “Cowboys and Aliens”, which I found delightful. And that opening scene was so perfectly aligned with Megibow’s discussion of the first pages of a novel, which I’d been thinking about anyway – a perfect storm of circumstances. I’m pretty sure the opening was in the trailer, so hopefully I’m not spoiling anything here:

The camera pans across a western landscape, complete with dusty scrub and towering orange mesas (sets location). A man sits up suddenly, dressed in grubby 19th century western clothes – complete with bloody patches (inciting incident – sets time period, characterization, and intimates the circumstances). He looks around, confused, noticing a big, weird looking metal cuff on his wrist (sets sci-fi genre – obviously there’s something more than a western going on here). Then he sees a photo of a woman in the dirt next to him and you can tell that he doesn’t know who she is. Then he kicks the butt of three mounted, armed ruffians (intriguing action). This is, what? The first minute of the movie? Amazing.

Now, I understand that you can’t convey information this quickly in a novel. It takes a lot longer to create this kind of setting in writing than in a visual medium. But still, dang. I was so impressed at how quickly the movie established everything you could want in the opening of a story – everything Sara Megibow wanted, in fact. Genre, inciting incident, setting, time frame, character, mystery, action… Again, amazing.

So the take away is about details. The judicious allocation of pertinent details can immediately submerge your reader in your world – details can establish your character, your motivations, your setting, etc. Not too many or there’s overload and tedium and slow pacing. Not too few or your reader has no connection or investment. But just enough and just the right details can set everything up while still leaving the mystery intact. Tantalizing. That’s what you want, right? Tantalizing while still building expectations for your reader.

I like the word tantalizing. It’s underutilized. And doubly appropriate when talking about Daniel Craig.

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Filed under Bloging, Conferences, Genre, Manuscript, Reflection, Writing Craft

My Children are Hungry Predators.

I changed my blog header image. Whoopty-do, right? I’ve seen that theme-provided header of leather-bound books in, like. four blogs this week and I realized that it doesn’t say much for my creativity, does it? This picture is from my honeymoon. My husband and I went on a wildlife tour of Yellowstone National Park – way more romantic than it sounds to a couple of science geeks. Yes, I found the perfect man in that he was not just OK with this as a honeymoon, he was actually really excited about it. I do love my darling little geek.

So this picture is of a tiny tributary on the Snake River, on which we took an impromptu raft trip with our tour group. What a great and inspiring place. Seriously. It was so beautiful and serene and full of amazing ecology. And what impacts me now as I remember it is how well the serenity masked the riot of life-or-death activity that lay beneath that sparkling water. To my city-attuned ears there was almost no noise in those glades and we held our breath as we watched deer graze in the silence. But I knew intellectually that there was danger in every movement for those “cute” little animals we watched through our spotting scopes. There were wolves and bears and moose, not to mention the bacteria and microorganisms lurking in that hyper-mineralized water. And immediate threats aside, those sweet little deer have to face extreme climates, poaching, habitat encroachment, tourism, starvation… But their adaptations are wild. No pun intended. They have these hard little hooves that allow them to walk in super-heated water because the hot springs of Yellowstone have vegetation for them to eat in the dead of winter. You can actually see their tracks in the algae mats of the hot springs.

So my forced metaphor of the day is that I need to adapt to my extreme environment and find time to write. It’s hazardous in here with a hyper (almost) 4 year old and a newly crawling baby. In fact, as I type the baby is trying to rip the screen off my laptop and the kid is threatening me with a green plastic toy soldier she found in our back yard. So what survival traits can I evolve to survive them as a writer? And how uncomfortable will that evolution be?

I found this article today on the SFWA Website: The Writing Parent.¬†At least I’m not alone.


Filed under Reflection, Writing Parent