26 July 2007

page one

To follow up on Lesley's post, I, too, am reading like crazy. I aim for a one-month turnaround at the longest, but I'm more like two months behind. (It's been a crazy summer.) I'm hoping to catch up by week's end, because, as she says, the cut-off is coming up. I want to let you know I realize how frustrating waiting on a response can be for a writer (I have one story working on three months out myself) and I'm doing my best to get back to you despite my myriad of other projects.

Last reading session, I realized I had several stories in which too much was held back in the beginning. A clever world and engaging characters will not carry an opening. By the end of page one or thereabouts, I'd better know what the story is about. As I read in groups of 5-10 stories, if someone makes me slog through an unfamiliar world with no payoff--and in the first pages this means delicious anticipation about what might happen--I reject it.

This is something I'm keeping in mind for my own writing, especially for short works: the propelling event, the crisis that sets the plot in motion, must happen on the first page. That tells you your story is starting in the right place. This is as close to a formula for writing a short story as we can get (from there, they go all wonky in different directions, which is the joy of the thing.) (And are there exceptions to this rule? Of course there are! This is a general preference.)

For example, the propelling event for the story of my delay in reading would be the last day of school in June...

1 comment:

lesleylsmith said...

I'd like to read that story! On the last day of school in June....aliens landed on your roof? Your kids turned into scary monsters? You were possessed by the ghost of Uncle Sam? :) Pray, tell.