Archive for August, 2017

How to Put the Bang in Your Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Story

The Not Homework Section of This Essay.

Go to the Science Fiction section in your local book store. (They still exist.) If you can’t find them, stalk the library shelves. (Though underutilized, libraries still exist.) Your assignment, Young Writer, is to read the first three pages of five books. As you read them make two stacks. In the first stack, place those books that pull you in and demand you read more. In the second, discard the books that just don’t do the job.

Point, you ask.

The first law of telling a Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Story is, “Start with a Bang!” A bang more than just a hook, which is found in the first sentence. Your hook is the fuse for the bang. The bang is the conflict and action in those first few pages that reveal the essential core conflict of the novel. The bang is a taste of the essence of the conflict. In those first pages, you do not want to reveal the entire enchilada and lay bare the mind, soul, and chili pepper malice of your villain. Just touch it.

Let’s go old school example.

Stephen King’s It is a perfect example of the bang. The 1093-page long epic begins with the ideal hook. (Don’t like King? It’s just the first three pages.)

“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
Stephen King – It

Now that is a hook. The essential conflict in the novel between seven kids in Derry and their adult counterparts twenty-eight years later is displayed like a corpse at a wake. It begins with “The terror” setting the tone of the novel and provides a glimpse of the opening scenes situation in which a child is murdered, and his brother set on the long road of revenge.

I could almost stop here. You should be so lucky.

We see little George Denbrough playing in the rain with a boat made from newspaper and paraffin. King tells an active scene of a little boy in a yellow rain coat having a ball. The tone of horror comes through in words, and by the second page, when we read “George Denbrough ran towards his strange death” you now the kid who has plucked your heart strings is going die in a grisly, mysterious fashion.

In the first three pages, we don’t meet It (AKA Pennywise the Dancing Clown), but the sense of lurking terror, the central character, and the essential plot of a titanic conflict between seven children and trans-cosmic evil is glimpsed.

By the end of page 3, King moves into the novel’s second scene set between George and his brother Bill (Protagonist) the story of two brother’s making the newspaper boat that gets his brother murdered by the monster. The hook has been set, and the conflict glimpsed. King has delivered the bang.

Now, most of us are not Stephen King. You can take the lessons in the first three pages of the book and tell a story medieval fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera epic, gritty science fiction novel, or even a Romance (the conflict may be different, but the essential process remains the same).

Write that hook. Revel a glimpse of your conflict.

Now, go young writer, and write.