Friday, June 9, 2017

June 2017 Writing Resources

1. Jennifer Crusie discusses Protagonist/Conflict/Antagonist and formulating a one-sentence story premise to keep your writing on track.

2. Over at Black Gate, Tina Jens discusses a revised character sheet to help you really get to know your characters in detail.

3. Lydia Schoch discusses The Seven Deadly Sins Of Writing, which are also worth thinking about in terms of their corresponding virtues.

For myself, I've been spending a lot of time cogitating on opening lines and opening scenes, and what kind of promises they make to my readers. I'm thinking specifically in terms of the projects that I'm working on (in no small part because one of the projects continues to frustrate me on precisely these grounds: I can't seem to find a satisfactory jump-off point).

Taking my cue from the Jennifer Crusie article above, I think my premise looks something like this:
A member of the City Watch joins forces with a renegade outlander to try to break the curse that has plunged the city into darkness, plagues, and monsters.

So my current options for opening lines look something like this:
  • Somber made his escape well before dawn on the last day of the harvest festival, when everyone by rights should have been asleep.
  • Maija had been drinking steadily for two hours when the disaster began.
  • Somber hadn't intended to do anything other than get out of the city as quickly as possible, but the boy's arm was broken and there was nobody else around.
  • Maija took three long swallows of her drink, then settled back on the bench. It was the last night of Harvest, and she was with her friends in their favorite restaurant, out on the balcony that overlooked the square. Alcohol, food, and good company were finally conspiring to help her relax.

Those are four different approaches, starting with two different characters (Maija is the Warden of the City Watch, Somber is the renegade outlander) and building from very different aspects of their personalities and situations. They offer different access points to the story. They make different promises to the reader. They set different expectations.

I think it's time to pick one, and go with it.

...And I think I'd like to write out a setup like this for at least one other current project, maybe two.


  1. Thanks for the mention. :)

    Which one of those opening lines appeals the most to you?

    All of them have their merits, but I liked the little twist at the end of "Maija had been drinking steadily for two hours when the disaster began." You don't normally expect the main character to be thrown into a disaster when they're drunk.

  2. I've often considered using a GURPS character sheet as a way of outlining characters. It allows for much more detail than a D&D based system, but the one at Blackgate looks more detailed than that. I think I'd borrow one thing from the World of Darkness though: Nature/Demeanor. One's nature is pretty much a summation of core identity while demeanor is all about the mask one presents to the world. They can be very different.

    1. I do really love the GURPS character creation system, but you're right that nature/demeanor is actually a really good jump-off point; once you have that, you can fill in everything else, and for a minor character it may be all you need.


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