I wrote before about how my epic fantasy series starts out on a gradual build. I have thought many times of changing this opener, but on reviewing the series as a whole, the beginning suits the narrative style of the nine-book structure. Therefore, I shall warn you that if you go and read the “look inside” of The Slave from the East (yes, go and do it, for science), you will not find a mighty bang, but a gradual unfolding of the scene.
If you are writing a straightforward piece of genre fiction (by which I mean, if you have no ulterior motive in the writing—which I have in Ajalia’s books), it is often prudent to begin with something of an explosive scene.
Victor, You Don’t Know Anything About Writing, And You’re A Nobody!
I have no excuses. Someday in the not-so-distant future, readers of my books and writers seeking to emulate me (see, steal my secrets) will haunt the passages of this very blog, and they will be filled with a mixture of resentment and bloodlust.
Wow, Really? Why?
Because, dear blog-reader, they will have come to realize, over a gradual period of time, that I am doing something entirely new, and they will try, and fail, to imitate me. (This is what happens when you spend sixteen years inventing an original performance and energy-management system: you gain ardent imitators.)
So, The Bloodlust?
Yes, they will seek to leech from me any scrap of originality that they can find, but they will find, to their deep disgruntlement, that I have thought ahead of them, and planted seeds of sleeper-cell inspiration throughout my work. You see, I used to try to share my system of creativity with any and all who asked (and yes, there were people who asked).
But I found, repeatedly, and over the course of many months, that my methods, though particularly effective, did not stick to those who were not in a state of readiness. Their ground, to borrow a metaphor of the venerable Yeshua, was dry and hard. When I was present to fertilize and soften the hearer, I could work miracles of creativity, but in the absence of my physical presence (or a temporarily-lent set of directions), my pupils could do nothing on their own.
Are You Saying You’re A Fraud?
No, dear blog-consumer, I am not a fraud. I am, as they say, the Real McCoy. What I lacked was an audience of pupils, or of hearers, whose minds had been thoroughly prepared. I was speaking (metaphorically) advanced algebra to a group of mathematicians who have only recently mastered subtraction. Seeing this deplorable state of affairs, I retired, temporarily, from public life, and began to ponder. You know, like a guru who meditates on death in a dank cave for fifty years. Except I was a lot faster than that. And I didn’t live in a cave.
Where You Going With This, Victor?
I said that it is awfully prudent, in most cases, to open with a bang. I confess that I love to talk about myself, because I find myself so interesting, but in the interest of staying on topic, I shall return to the subject at hand.
Why, you may wonder, is a bang efficacious?
Think, if you will, of the ghost who opens the action in Hamlet. Here we have a few sentinels, freezing their tootsies off, and they have dragged along with them the impoverished gentleman, Horatio. A ghost, the figure of the dead king of Denmark, has been haunting the battlements, and the sentinels want an educated opinion on the phenomenon.
Here the guards and Horatio sit in the freezing cold of night, talking over the unrest in the kingdom, when, lo! a ghost appears.
Suddenly-appearing ghosts make pretty awesome bangs. So do divorces, alien invasions, enslavement, monster attacks, and EMP events. An opening bang can be an external event or an internal coalescence of will. In my first-contact cyborg novel, the opening bang is the awakening of a woman in a place she does not belong. She sees things, and hears things that she is not meant to see or hear, and this accident leads, eventually, to the disintegration of order in the universe. (It is a positive disintegration, or a joyful unravelling, if you will.)
If your story does not begin with a bang, reflect upon your reasons. In the case of Ajalia, her story is meant to be a gradual capturing of your senses; I do not want you to become excited about the story all at once. It is written as a gradual seduction. The payoffs are excellent. If you do not have ulterior motives (as I have, in the case of Ajalia’s books) to begin soft and slow, consider, if you will, the effect that a metaphorical dead king will have upon your story’s opening.
And now, for the sake of all things Shakespeare, let us meditate upon these glorious lines:
MARCELLUS. Thus twice before, and iust at this dead houre,
With Martiall stalke, hath he gone by our Watch.
HORATIO. In what particular thought to work, I know not:
But in the grosse and scope of my Opinion,
This boades some strange erruption to our State.
Hamlet is wonderful. Your books will be wonderful, too. Start with a bang, unless your story needs an easing-in; then do that instead.
You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books can be purchased here. Monday is the most beginning day of the week, so reading The Slave from the East will probably make you feel really excited about life.