19 September 2017

Story Beginnings

The beginning of your story is the most crucial part. Your story beginning can capture a reader, get him/her to read your story or ...not. The most crucial reader is the editor who gets your submission. If you don't get him/her to read, you won't get others to read. Beginnings are crucial for editors because, sad to say, often editors only read the beginning of a story.

Probably the most common issue we see with stories is authors start the story too soon. Authors want to start at the beginning, but they need to start when the action starts--literally or metaphorically.
Rarely do you want to start with the protagonist being born, waking up, eating breakfast, driving somewhere, arriving at the office, answering the telephone, etc.

As an author myself, I totally understand the urge to start at the beginning. What I do is write those scenes (because I can't seem to help it) but then cut them after I've finished the first draft. I highly recommend looking at your first draft the way you imagine an editor would. What words does your story beginning need? Cut the extras.

A very effective writerly trick can be: giving a little non-chronological telling in the first paragraph of a story. This telling can really hook the reader. For example, The day I died was not a good day. I want to know what happened. Don't you? Consider a little telling.

Good luck with your story beginnings.

12 September 2017

Thank you

Here at Electric Spec we are still reveling in the awesome August 31, 2017 issue! It was a real pleasure to publish this issue and work with the authors. In case you haven't checked it out yet (impossible!) our featured stories were: "Karda Burns" by Roderick Phillips, "Ada, or, The Limits of Logic" by Robert Dawson, "All Our Goodbyes, All Our Hellos" by David Cleden, "A Familiar and Her Wizard" by Jeff Stehman, and "Paper Walls" by Matt Hollingsworth. I highly recommend all of them.
Thank you very much, Authors!
Thank you very much, cover artist Brian Malachy Quinn!

I'd like to thank our associate editors Chris Devlin, Minta Monroe, and Candi Cooper-Towler. Thank you!
I'd also like to thank the other editors Nikki Baird and Grayson Towler. Thank you!
Thank you to our tech support folks, too!

Thank you to all the aspiring authors who submitted to us for the issue. We appreciate you!
And especially, thank you, to our readers! We wouldn't exist without you! You rock!

And now we turn to the final issue of 2017...

05 September 2017

from Author Hollingsworth

Hopefully, you're still enjoying the awesome August 2017 issue of Electric Spec. To make it all the sweeter, here are some comments from author Matt Hollingsworth, relating to his story Paper Walls.

How to Write a Convincing Story About an
Unfamiliar Subject

Back in high school, I tried writing about 20’s gangsters. I did no research beyond what I’d seen in movies. I just wrote the story and turned it in to a writing workshop, ready to be showered with praises for my genius.

As you might have guessed, that wasn’t what happened.

After the group was done picking apart my inaccuracies, I sulked back home with my ego significantly deflated.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe there’s a topic you’re passionate about but are warry of after being told to “write what you know,” too many times.

So how do you write convincingly about an unfamiliar subject? Well, the short answer is to become familiar with it through research.

When I first started writing, research was a dirty word to me, probably because of school. I was scarred by long research assignments, reading old books on subjects I didn’t care about.

Fortunately, I soon discovered that research wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, I’ve started to enjoy it. Unlike school assignments, when I research a short story, I’m learning a subject I actually care about.

With research you can:

  • Add realism to your story through key details
  • Avoid glaring inaccuracies that can distract a reader (or publisher) from your story
  • Add a layer of subtlety that will draw your reader in

Here are some research strategies I use for my fiction.

Ask an expert
Obviously, this is the best tactic. Speaking to someone who knows your subject well can reveal intricacies that books or the Internet never could.

My short story Paper Walls is about a young woman with schizophrenia in a mental hospital, something outside my realm of experience.

While I didn’t know anyone with schizophrenia in particular, I did know someone with a mental illness who had spent time in a mental hospital. And when I explained my concept for the story, he got excited and wanted to talk to me about his experience. I learned a lot from him that I might not have otherwise.

Whatever your subject is, there’s a good chance you know someone who is an expert (or at least knows more about it than you do).

Don’t just read the technical material
While talking to someone is preferable, it’s not always an option. And for that we have the treasure-trove of knowledge that is the Internet.

Unfortunately, one common mistake people make is to simply read technical articles on their subject and ignore the emotional elements.

While the psychological/medical articles about schizophrenia were useful, they didn’t really tell me what it feels like to have schizophrenia. Fortunately, I found a treasure trove of essays and videos by people with the illness talking about their experiences.

Listening to other people’s emotions makes it easier for you to put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel in their situation.

Relate to events in your real life
While I’ve not been to a mental hospital, I have been to therapy and I have had trouble opening up to people, so I decided to make these sources of conflict in Paper Walls.

Think about something you’ve experienced that might give you a window into your subject.

Maybe your story is about an son and his estranged father. You might be very close to your father, but surely at some point you’ve been mad at him. Take that emotion and extrapolate outwards. Put yourself into your research and consider how you might feel.

Write an unfamiliar subject by becoming familiar
With the internet, instant communication, and libraries on every corner, we have access to more information than any other authors in history.

Using research, you can write convincingly about even the most unfamiliar subject.
Read more at https://jmhollingsworthblog.wordpress.com/.

Thanks, Matt!

31 August 2017


The Awesome August 2017 issue Electric Spec is live! Thank you, all!

aug 2017 cover
Cover image by Brian Malachy Quinn

29 August 2017

from Author Stehman

We're excited to share some comments from author Jeff Stehman about his upcoming tale "A Familiar and Her Wizard."

I'm a member of the Codex Writers Group, and as with most of my flash fiction, this story was written for one of our internal contests. We're given 54 hours to write a story based on at least one of five prompts. We're not allowed to do any writing on a contest story before the prompts are given, but we can contemplate what kind of story we'd like to write. In this case, I got myself in a whimsical "wizard's tower" mood.

When the prompts were posted, "Who is the satellite?" jumped out at me. The question implies two characters (at least in flash fiction). Who else is in a wizard's tower? A familiar. What kind of relationship could a wizard and familiar have such that it's unclear who is the satellite? Oh, yes, this could get whimsical.

Usually we're well into day two of a contest before I have enough of a story in my head to start writing, but this one gelled quickly, and I was typing words within a few hours.

Another prompt was the delicious "How dark can you go?" While I didn't embrace that one, it did inspire me to add a hint of sinister to Maggie. She obviously loves her wizard, but by the end we know there's more to her than cuddles and sunbeam naps. If only we knew what that more was...

Thanks, Jeff! Very interesting!

24 August 2017

from Author Phillips

Author Roderick Phillips gives us some enticing hints about his upcoming fantasy "Karda Burns."
I speculate on the nature of gratuitous evil, and also on the loneliness--for elf and man--of being lost in one way or another in the often harsh urban landscape. The story takes place almost entirely in darkness, shot through with emotions colored the pensive blue of reflection and the electric blue of pain and ferocity.
Thanks, Roderick! Very interesting!

Be sure to check out this story and the rest of the Electric Spec issue on August 31, 2017!

22 August 2017

from Author Dawson

We're excited to present some remarks from author Robert Dawson about his upcoming story "Ada: Or, The Limits of Logic."

As everybody knows, Ada Byron (later Lovelace) designed software for Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine, or at any rate wrote about it. But, as just about everybody knows, the Engine never got built. How frustrating! Her life went downhill, with uncooperative racehorses reputedly making things worse. She died of cancer in her thirties.

One of my goals in writing "Ada: Or, The Limits of Logic" was to imagine her as a romantic heroine - that didn't take a great deal of imagination. Another was to imagine a world big enough to allow her to do the great things that she probably dreamed of - swashbuckling, and with plenty of opportunities for women. And a third was to root it in reality as well as I could.

Ada's own family background needed little work. Her father, Lord Byron, really did flee the country after a series of scandals - and probably was the father of his half-sister's child. She had an affair with a tutor at seventeen, and tried to elope with him.

It's easy to imagine the man she did marry a couple years later -- William, Baron King -- as some "tenth transmitter of a foolish face" and intellectually far below her. Au contraire: I was fascinated to learn that, later in life, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honor that was not given out lightly even to the nobility. A few years after their marriage, he was created "Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ockham." "Lovelace" was after an extinct title that had been in Ada's family, but why the insignificant village of Ockham in Surrey? The apparent tip of the hat (or coronet) to the philosopher and logician William of Ockham (1287–1347), the inventor of the principle known as "Occam's Razor", seems too good to be a coincidence, and does suggest some interest in logic. William, in my story, is a combination of the anonymous tutor and Ada's eventual husband.

As for Martha, Mr. Rumbolt, and the redoubtable Mrs. King - I couldn't find them, so I had to make them up myself. I hope you like all of them.

Thanks, Robert! Very interesting!