Saturday, September 27, 2014

Make Back Story the hook

I came back to a short story I read in Strange Horizons. The opening paragraphs really stuck with me. 

Interesting how the writer Rich Larson starts with 'back story' and piles on the adjectives - two things the learner writer is told to avoid. 

The back story works for me because it raises questions : Why has Cedric come to work at this place? Why did he run away from his father and then his girl friend? What went wrong with his relationship? What happened before he arrived at the rig?

Rich uses vivid poetic language that paints an alien and dark scene.

Back story works when there are gaps in the facts provided - and those gaps intrigue the reader.

In Baltic waters, gnashed by dark waves, there stood an old oil platform on rusted legs. It was populated as rigs always are, by coarse men young and strong whose faces soon overgrew with bristle and bloat. Cedric was one of these.
He’d fled his father in New Zealand, then a pregnant girlfriend in Perth, arriving on the rig with insomniac eyes and an inchoate smile and a bank account in need of filling. In the pocket of his dull blue coverall, he carried an old Kindle with a spider-webbed screen and a Polaroid photograph of Violet when she was still slim and still laughed.
His days were filled by the slow geometry of pipefitting, the bone-deep clank of machinery, the shrieks and swoops of soot-stained gulls. At night, when the running lights cast wavery orange on the black water and a sea-breeze scoured at the omnipresent stench of oil, Cedric thought the rig was not so bad. At night he read Moby Dick and anything else vaguely nautical. At night, Violet was blurred beautiful by the webcam window, distended curve of her stomach cropped neatly away, and he nearly loved her again.
Some nights, Cedric stayed up top for hours to watch the starless sky and the ink-black sea. Dregs from this or that leak shimmered around the derrick’s legs. Scabs of tangled plastic bobbed between them. Some nights, Cedric thought he saw a shape moving in the water, but he knew all fish had fled long ago.

Strange Horizons Fiction: The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy, by Rich Larson:

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Flash Fiction Challenge: One Amazing Sentence « terribleminds: chuck wendig

This week's challenge from Terribleminds - write one amazing sentence.

I've discovered that revenge is a dish you should serve when it's still hot.

Flash Fiction Challenge: One Amazing Sentence « terribleminds: chuck wendig:

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Friday, June 13, 2014


I keep coming back to the flash about the girl who suddenly realises (finally admits?) her boy friend doesn't love her. I've got loads of writing 'doodles', some moments I like, but nothing to show in an interesting way, that things have changed.

I'm in love with the story title - Now I just need to find an actual story to attach it to.

In all my drafts the girl is seeing stuff and reacting internally. Then there's this moment of shock and revelation. And then what? She can't just turn to her boy friend and say "today I realised your guru is a sleazy little creep, a fake. He's as fake as our relationship. I don't want to be with you anymore."

Problem - How to show a series of small moments that lead up to her waking up to reality?  

Maybe end it with the girl still clinging to illusion, the same way her BF continues to cling to a guru who is obviously fake. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Writing The Perfect Scene: Advanced Fiction Writing Tips

Writing The Perfect Scene: Advanced Fiction Writing Tips:

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The Writing Café - HUGE list of writing links to revisit

The Writing Café:

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Third person and deep POV

Been trawling the net, desperate to find a copy of Fallen, a short story by Alicia Gifford. One of the most perfect pieces of flash fiction I've ever read. 

Note to Self - when you fall in love with a piece of fiction, make a COPY.  Don't just paste in a link to the old magazine issue and assume you'll be able to find the story 2 years later.


This morning I found and read another piece by Gifford - After the Fire

Liked the way Gifford doesn't always use dialogue marks or tags, the way it added to a deep 3rd person POV, a feeling of momentum.

I've also seen writers strip away marks and tags when there's only a few lines of dialogue - so the dialogue doesn't take on more significance than it should

Want to experiment with this for draft no. 1057 of the WIP.

He reaches for the bong and knocks it over so that the stinky water empties onto his sofa. Just then the phone rings and it's his brother David on the caller ID.Fuck! But he picks up as he heads to the kitchen for a towel.
Has Tante Risa called you? David asks.
No. Why?
Oh, David says. God, she's supposed to call you.
Lenny has to steel himself. He can't help it. He accepts that his brother is gay, but does he have to talk all mincey like that? Is it required?
Anyway, David says, Mother has to go to an assisted living place. It's time.
The kitchen towels are wadded on the floor in a mildewed stink. The last paper towel slides off the roll. He grabs some dirty underwear from the laundry hamper and goes to mop up the bong water while David tells him how their mother wandered to the 7-Eleven half-naked and that the cops had to detain her like that until they located him.
You left her home alone?
Anna was taking a little siesta. I think she drinks.
There's one more swallow left of tequila, and a bottle of Manischewitz cherry wine in his cupboard. He slugs down the tequila and tears at the seal of the wine bottle while David tells him he's checked into a number of places and it would cost them each about $2,500 a month.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Prompt from Terribleminds

Prompt from Check Wendig - 'Come up with a great opening line' Maybe one day I'll come up with great opening lines.


Every morning the Genie begged her to make a wish, but Rhonda couldn't decide, couldn't choose.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Short story - starting

Found some simple advice about short story structure. Lets try this with the 'house' story: 
  1. Dramatic start (scene)
  2. Decisive sequel
  3. Surprising middle (scene)
  4. Satisfying end (scene)
Note - sequels are less than half the length of scenes 

Hmm - only 1 sequel in a short story? And does the opening need to be 'dramatic' - maybe it needs to be compelling (raises questions, intrigues you) without necessarily being jaw dropping dramatic.

Must check out some short fiction and see how many times I can tick the 4 boxes.

The house story -

For inspiration I'll construct the opening around the prologue from a military sci-fi novel. I see a powerful alien bad guy confronting a human engineer. 

And I'll write out some cool moments based on the true story. Focus on conflict and writing dialogue to try and find the characters. Then shuffle stuff around to find connections - see which part of the story a scene or moment belongs to.

Sudden inspiration this morning about using the symbol of the tattoo. In the ending the engineer reveals his own tattoo - shows he's switched sides. And I can see how to raise the stakes - the defeat of the Bad Alien means the future will be different for other races   :   )

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Strange Horizons Fiction: The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter, by Damien Angelica Walters

Another fantastic story on Strangehorizons. I should make a donation to this wonderful magazine this year.

Great use of First person POV / Present tense. I like the edgy humour, the beautiful tight wording. The way the dialogue brings characters to life. The stunning TITLE for this story. How could you read the words 'The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter' and NOT want to read on?

I checked the author's website and was surprised to find some other work that sits in the Horror camp. A couple of other pieces I read were a lot darker than this. Then again, there's a dark and interesting undertow in this story.

Strange Horizons Fiction: The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter, by Damien Angelica Walters:

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