Magazines & Anthologies
Rampant Loon Media LLC
Our Beloved Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Follow us on Facebook!


Read them free on Kindle Unlimited!





Blog Archive

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Critical Thinking

Lights, Camera, ACTION

Don't you hate it when "they're" right? I've heard over and over that sci fi readers want to start in the middle of the action. They don't want description of the setting. They don't want character development. They want action.

I first heard this in Jeff Gerke's long list of tips for writers. In tip #35, "Avoid Mistakes in Your Sample Chapters," he has this to say:


Sample Chapters Pitfall #2: Lack of an Engaging Hook (a.k.a. Not Starting with Action)

This is similar to the previous pitfall but extends beyond the first line. You've got to hook me with your first line, true, but you've got to set the hook and then reel me in with the scene that follows.

When I say "start with action," I don't mean you have to blow something up. It doesn't have to be an action sequence, per se. It just needs to be something interesting to the reader. Engaging.

It should involve someone doing something. Making a decision or executing a plan or having a realization or committing a crime. The opening scene is a great time to establish your villain and the stakes of your story, and to get the ticking time-bomb going.


This is certainly demonstrated in one of the first books to come out of his publishing house, Marcher Lord Press, called Hero, Second Class. The entire prologue is a fight scene.

Mr. Gerke isn't alone in his advice. I had a novel rejected twice in part because it took too long to get to the action.

How did I react to this news? By stomping my foot, saying they didn't know what they were talking about, and sticking out my lower lip so far it actually did get stuck that way.

A couple of months later, I looked at it again. Maybe they were right. My intent was to develop the character of the lead enough that you'd know her and care about her once she was in danger. Could that be done with fewer words?

You decide. I posted both the original chapter and the shortened version on the drop.io rewrite site. Consider: only Petra and Seren appear later in the book. Which do you think works better? Do you have a first chapter that could be tightened up? If you need help with where to cut, stick it on the rewrite drop.io.

Kersley Fitzgerald would like to say "Happy 15th Anniversary" to Maj Tom, but he doesn't read this site. Guess she'll have to--oh, crap! I forgot to get him a card. Gotta go.
blog comments powered by Disqus