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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.

Success, Mood, and Tone

Success

Day 1 of the BOOK in a MONTH system a resounding success. I completed the goal with 3014 words written.

Mood and Tone

I just realized that none of my master’s classes actually discuss the difference between mood and tone.  It is something I do without thinking, but until I looked it up so I could describe it in scene cards, I did not understand the difference between the two.

Inetteacher.com gives a good basic description (see link below) but this is something that I need to master for myself.

Inetteacher.com

Tone is the author’s attitude toward the writing (his characters, the situation) and the readers. A work of writing can have more than one tone. An example of tone could be both serious and humorous. Tone is set by the setting, choice of vocabulary and other details.

Mood is the general atmosphere created by the author’s words. It is the feeling the reader gets from reading those words. It may be the same, or it may change from situation to situation.

Dialogue – Writing the Words Characters Say.

When writing dialogue, there are certain considerations that a writer must make. Jack Smith, in the book Crafting Dynamic Dialogue, distils these considerations down to three questions that an author should answer.

  • Does it reveal character?
  • Does it reveal conflict?
  • Will it keep the reader’s interest?

If dialogue does not deliver character, conflict, and interest, it has failed and would be best cut and placed in the file of forgotten prose.  Those three considerations are primary, but there is no reason to stop there. Eventually, all stories must be edited, and good dialogue must be honed to a fine edge. Laura van den Berg uses certain revision strategies to hone here dialogue. Before changing a word, she asks, “Where is the tension?” Tension is the fulcrum of conflict, and that tension makes good dialogue stand out. Where is the arc? We discuss plot character arc, here. Good dialog m must push the arc forward. If the story does not move, it falls flat on its backside. Finally, van den Berg asks, what is the subtext? No one ever says everything. What happens under the surface of a conversation is as important as the words themselves.

Other Questions:

Am I giving away too much? A writer must know what the conversations is supposed to reveal. Don’t give away the novel in a few spoken words.

Does this conversation go somewhere? As with every other element in a story, the Conversation must be necessary. It must reveal something important, and, when possible, fill more than one purpose.

Is there too much repetition in speech? Conversations need to be condensed so that the minimum number of words are used.

Sometimes Saying Hello World Sucks…

Once again, my WordPress blog broke.
Starting again, again.