From the HSW President
Particularly because of looking at entries for the short story contest, I think it would be helpful to contrast two key elements of a story: setting and immediate scene. I’ve talked about immediate scene before; it’s writing that occurs in the moment. It’s a close POV where the reader is experiencing what is happening as it happens. Dialogue is usually immediate scene, unless the dialogue is recounting something that occurred off-stage, out of the sight of the reader. Usually something in the past.
Setting is that element that tells the reader when and where the story is taking place. It creates an atmosphere or context for the story.
Here’s the conflict. Traditionally, stories started out with a description of setting. In both movies and books this was called “exposition.” However, in recent years, exposition has shrunk more and more. We have shorter attention spans. We want things to get moving. We don’t want a long explanation of background.
That’s why “immediate scene” has become more important to readers and moviegoers. Audiences want to get right into the story, be immersed in it. The challenge for writers is to plunge in, yet introduce the details of setting without bogging down the scene.
Think of TV shows such as, Law and Order, CSI, Gray’s Anatomy. The show usually starts with some kind of emergency or a murder or some other crime. The audience doesn’t know the context at the start. The pieces start to get revealed as the show progresses.
How do James Bond movies start? With an action scene. In Casino Royal, the first ten minutes – the teaser – involves Bond chasing some operative in the most spectacular footrace I have ever seen. It looks like they’re in the tropics, but we don’t know where. We don’t know who the guy is who’s running from Bond. We don’t know why Bond is chasing him. This is a far cry from Dickens who would have given the dates of birth of pursued and pursuer, walked us through their grammar school days, and given the shoe size of everyone in the scene.
The teaser that launches immediate scene is now expected by audiences. When we send queries to agents, they expect immediate scene too. The slow burn is something bestselling writers can afford because they’ve already captured an audience who is more willing to give them some leeway. But if you’re starting out, stay in immediate scene as much as possible.
Literary Tour Highlights
At our December 9th meeting, we’ll announce the winner of our short story contest. This will lead into a discussion of the consistent issues that we found in just about every entry. Think of it as expanded first pages, but we’ll be taking examples of Dos and Don’ts from beginnings, middles, and ends and reviewing them with the perspective of an editor or agent. Since the contest was anonymous, the items for discussion and feedback will remain anonymous.
Book Blurb Critiques
Membership Renewal is Coming Up!
In a freakishly fortunate turn of events, I ran into an old buddy while in Edinburgh, who just happens to own the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dacre Stoker was in the U.K doing a tour on all things Dracula, Bram was born in Ireland where he started his famous novel but honed his craft in Scotland. Lucky for us, the people of Scotland have preserved his house as a museum, so I asked for a guided tour of where he wrote, From a Stoker! Yes, I was a gushing fangirl for 3 hours.
With everything I saw, smelled, and touched, you know what I found most fascinating? Next to his desk was a pile of papers under glass, all covered in doodles, yes doodles. Dogs, birds, trees, and bugs were doodled on scratch paper all over this brilliant writer’s desk. He had lists of items he needed to pick up at the market, lists of bills he needed to pay, and dates for dinner scrawled on the back of a receipt. It made me think, no matter where you are in your writing career, we daydream, we find anything to do that isn’t writing, and we doodle.
It should give us all hope that we’re not alone, even the most successful of writers can’t buckle down and get to work sometimes. Dacre thinks that it’s all part of the process, that our creative minds must wander in order to gather tidbits that make-up our imagination.
Congratulations to NaNo Writers
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