Tag Archives: plot

Story Threads and Resonance

17 Oct

by Susan Dennard

~~

Note:

This post has been UPDATED

and re-posted on

Pub(lishing) Crawl!

~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. Her debut novel, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

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Differents Types of Romance, or My Love For You Can’t Be Labeled

21 Sep

by Susan Dennard
~~

When it comes to romance in YA (or really any novel), how the romantically-involved characters first meet is dictated very much by the type of romance you want to create. For example, what’s wrong with this picture:

Scene 1: Boy meets girl. They meet eyes; their hearts skip a beat. He comes over and is ridiculously swoon-worthy.

Scene 2: Boy picks on girl. She retorts with her own insults, and soon they’re quarreling.

Yeah, those two scenes sound like two different kinds of romance, don’t they? Scene 1 fits with #1 below, and scene 2 is more of a #2 from the list.

We may think our love is indefinable and vast and SO WONDERFUL it can’t be squeezed into a label, but…the truth is, like most plots, there is a little bit of formula to romance.*

*Note: romance–like any plot–doesn’t have to follow a formula. It just often does because those formulas WORK. Formulas give the reader expectations, and expectations heighten the tension by transforming the question from, “Is their the potential for love?” to “WHEN WHEN WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN? Just KISS already!” The plot keeps the characters apart when we know they belong together, and that builds a natural tension into the story.

Here are just a few examples of romantic plot lines and what’s needed when the characters first meet:

1. Love-at-first-sight? Then you’ll want some visceral reactions that show the heroine/hero’s initial reactions. Sex appeal, yes, but not explicitly so. A heroine might find her mouth dry and her stomach fluttery, and she might think about how good looking the hero is. Or maybe she’s just wondering why she is so compelled to speak to/see/be near this guy… She doesn’t know, but the reader does! (Ex: Hereafter by Tara Hudson)

2. It could be an “I HATE YOU” to “You’re not so bad” to “I luuurve you” romance. Then, the hero & heroine will probably get off on the wrong foot, immediately argue, and then kinda want to kill each other. Personally, I’m a fan of these romances (oh, Mr. Darcy, how I love thee!), and Something Strange and Deadly has some of this. The visceral reactions/attraction will come later, and that pesky hate thing is a great barrier to the final admission of feelings. (Ex: Star Wars, Han Solo and Princess Leia—best romance EVER!)

3. Maybe it’s a friendship-to-love romance. In that case, we’ll see the hero/heroine as Just A Friend, and we’ll move through the story as the MC figures out his/her true feelings. Again, the visceral reactions/attraction will develop as the story goes along. (Ex: The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting)

4. It could also be a long term crush turned to love if the MC has always loved the hero/heroine, or vice versa. When we first see the love interest, we also first see how the MC feels. If the MC desperately wants to kiss the boy, then the reader wants her to too–and we’ve gotta keep turning pages until it happens. (Ex: You Wish Mandy Hubbard, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

5. Or it could just be a slow, natural relationship. The characters meet, find each other attractive perhaps, and their romance grows from there. The meet up will have just a slight element of attraction or maybe none at all until a few scenes later. (Ex: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand)

What other romance meet-ups can you come up with? Please share!

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Show versus Tell: Macro-, Micro-, and When to Use It

29 Jun

by Susan Dennard

~~

Note:

This post has been UPDATED

and re-posted on

Pub(lishing) Crawl!

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Scenes–what are they in novels, and how do you write them?

16 Feb

by Susan Dennard

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Scenes: the building blocks of your novel.  Some people make one chapter equal one scene; others (such as myself) prefer to cram a few scenes into each chapter.

Scenes are the natural breaking points in your story.  A place for your reader to run to the bathroom, take a breather, or (what every author wants) flip anxiously to the next page!

Typically when you’re typing your manuscript, you separate scenes as follows:

end scene 1

#

begin scene 2

There are, of course, other ways to do it (such as *** or an empty line), but the #-method is the one I follow.

A scene can be as long as you need it, but keep in mind that shorter scenes keep your audience’s attention more easily.

Transitioning

Normally you begin a scene with a transition that describes the time, the place, the characters present and any necessary summary of what happened between scenes.  The transitions is there to ground the reader in the new scene. For example, here’s a transition from The Spirit-Hunters (a scene that was ultimately cut, by the way). In the scene before, which happened in the morning, the main character got into a rather stinky predicament with some walking corpses.

#

As usual, I had to bribe Mary to help.  But, a lost pair of gloves was easier to explain than a foul walking dress. Fortunately, Mary had been so pleased by her payment, she hadn’t bothered to inquire about how the dress had reached its current state.

That afternoon, when I met Mama in the drawing room for tea, I found that, rather than distress over the prior evening’s failed séance and horrible events, she beamed with delight.  In fact, she was so pleased she failed to notice my disheveled hair or missing parasol.

Now we know how much time has passed since the previous scene, what the main character did between scenes, where she is in the new scene, and what other characters are present in the new scene.

Developing the Plot

For a passage of text to qualify as a scene, something important must happen. And that something must contribute to the plot!

You could have a one sentence scene:

#

Far from the mess in Atlanta–in fact, directly on the opposite side of the globe–Padmini was diagnosed with the first cases of the zombie flu virus.

#

Or you could have scenes that extend twenty pages (though, I recommend against this!  Remember reader attention spans–people want natural breaks). Just make sure that every event in the scene is critical to the plot!

One way to test if you have an actual scene is to remove it from the novel.  Does the story work without it?  If so, then you don’t have a scene, and you should just go ahead and cut that text!  But if the story no longer exists without that passage, then you’ve successfully written a scene!

Ending on a Hook

If you finish a scene with something riveting, you compel your reader to instantly turn the page.  You know those books you finish in one sitting because you just CAN’T put them down?  Well, that’s what you want to create, and a key component to un-put-downable-ness is the hook.

Cliffhangers can be effective hooks to end a scene with, but if you write too many cliffhangers, you wind up annoying the reader.

Other hooks include:

  • a funny, witty, or clever sentence
  • funny, witty, or clever dialogue
  • revealing Very Important Information
  • an unexpected twist that takes the story in a new direction
  • a decision or plan

The best way to learn scene mechanics is to READ.  Notice what published writers include in their scenes.  Notice how they reveal the plot, how they use scenes to show character and setting, how they write transitions, and how they hook you to keep reading.

So tell me, is there anything else you consider critical to a scene?  And can you think of any other hooks?

Taking Tips from the Movies and TV

24 Jan

by Susan Dennard

~~

One thing you’ve probably heard in your writing-career is that it’s important to read.  Perhaps people have told you how to “read like a writer” by analyzing characterization, scene, syntax, and all the other stuff that goes into a novel.

Well, reading can take time, and dissecting can take even more time.  But the same things you see in a book you can see in a movie.  The key is to watch a movie like a writer.  Seems obvious, right?

It occurred to me while I was watching The Walking Dead. You may or may not like the show (there is some definite Cheese Factor and plot unbelievability), but there are a few things I think the creators do really well that keep viewers coming back for more episodes.  And these things got me thinking…

There are a some common elements in all popular stories, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you can easily spot them and use them yourself!

**Sorta spoilers below for The Walking Dead and Pride & Prejudice…  I try to be vague, but some things might be revealing.  Sorry.**

1) Within the first 15 minutes of the first episode of The Walking Dead, I was invested in the story and attached to the hero, Rick.  Why?  Because Rick showed immediately that he was 1) brave (he’s a cop), 2) devoted to his family, and 3) in a really crappy position (um, waking up from a coma to find the whole world has turned into zombies and your family is missing?  SO NOT A GOOD DAY).

Give your readers a reason to care about and respect your protagonist as soon as your story starts. Show your protagonist as the underdog, show your protagonist helping others, or show your protagonist putting on a big smile even those his heart aches, and your readers will have something to instantly latch onto and appreciate.  (Note: don’t go overboard — make it appropriate to the story.  No on likes a Mary Sue or a Mary Jane.)

2) As The Walking Dead episodes progressed, I kept my eyes peeled for other aspects that kept me interested.  The most obvious thing this show has is conflict — but not the kind you’d expect.  Yeah, there are zombies everywhere trying to eat Rick’s brains, but most of the show’s drama revolves around relationships. For example, Rick’s wife thought Rick was dead, so she started having an affair with Rick’s police partner — OOPS.

Conflict isn’t just about external plot; it’s also about tough decisions, strained friendships, blossoming love, disagreeing goals, self-defeating guilt, etc. Harrowing external events aren’t usually enough to keep a plot interesting.  The tension stays high when characters have to deal with conflict within themselves and amongst themselves.  Above all, it’s conflict that matters because it’s conflict we can relate to.

3) In one of the first episodes, one of the characters makes a Really Bad Decision — he leaves someone behind as zombie food when he could have saved the person.  In later episodes, it’s revealed Mr. Zombie Food managed to survive and is now at large in Atlanta.  As a viewer, I know Mr. Zombie Food is going to come back and be a Really Big Problem for the guy who made the Really Bad Decision.

Every decision has a consequence — usually bad or at least not what the character expects. Stories are more than just cause and effect, they’re decision and consequence.  Good decisions can have bad consequences, bad decisions can have good.  But if the consequences are immediately good, you’ve got a very short story.  The best-laid tales show an ever escalating series of decisions and consequences until the final showdown where things are all wrapped up (for better or for worse).

4) And that escalation leads me to my final point.  Life for the characters is bad — like really really bad — and it’s only getting worse as each episode progresses.  Every step forward leads to two steps back, and that leads to me tuning in every week!

The stakes keep rising and rising until the end. What began as one man’s quest is now several families (oh no!  there are more lives a stake!).  What seemed like it might be a solution (a cure for the virus) proves to be a giant death trap (oh no!  There is no cure!).  Every safe haven the characters think they’ve found proves to be a zombie wasteland (oh no!  there is no escape!).  If you can keep escalating the consequences of decisions (a là element #3) and also escalate what stands to be lost, you’ll have a real page turner on your hands.

Looking at Other Kinds of Film

Action TV isn’t the only place these rules can be found.  Throw Pride & Prejudice in your DVD player (faster than reading the book, remember?  But the book is AMAZING — I definitely recommend it), and you’ll see the same things happening!

Element #1: Elizabeth Bennett is the most clever daughter in a household of ninnies (she is a witty and endearing heroine); her family is bordering on poverty (she is a heroine in underdog circumstances); and she wants nothing more than for her sisters to find good marriages and be happy (she is a selfless and loving heroine).

Element #2: While there is some external conflict (illness, unwanted suitors, cruel Bingley sisters) much of the conflict stems from Elizabeth’s interactions with others and her own inner turmoil.  She doesn’t hit it off too well with Mr. Darcy (lots of lovely tension in those scenes!).  She has to deal with her horribly embarrassing mother in public settings (ugh, so much awkward conflict).  And eventually, she has to deal with her guilt/regret over how she treated Mr. Darcy (inner conflict).

Element #3: Every decision Elizabeth makes leads the story in different directions and has resounding consequences.  She learns the truth about Mr. Wickham, but chooses not to reveal his shady history.  As a result, her sister Lydia runs off with him.  She dislikes Mr. Darcy because of his snobbishness, and as a result rejects a marriage proposal that would have elevated her family to prosperity.

Element #4: Elizabeth’s sisters need to make good marriages in order to provide for the rest of the family, but one by one, their options disappear.  Jane loses Mr. Bingley; Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins; Elizabeth’s mother embarrasses the family at every turn and lowers any chance that the Bennett girls will attract good husbands; Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy; Lydia shames the family by running off like harlot.  You have to turn the page to find out how it will all work out for the Bennett sisters, and most importantly, to find out how it will work out for Elizabeth.

Applying it to Your Stories

When I set out to write The Spirit-Hunters, I laid out all my favorite novels, movies, and shows and I figured out what elements I liked best, why I liked those best, and how I could use them in my story.

Now it’s your turn to do the same!  Grab your favorite films and TV shows, and pay close attention!  I bet you’ll notice elements 1-4 in play, and what you need to look out for is how the elements are executed.  Maybe the hero is introduced right after he got fired from work (element #1), or maybe every episode shows the heroine dealing with dark secrets (element #2).  Whatever the use, is there some way you can infuse it into your own story?  And are there other things you see and want to use in your writing (maybe a spine-chilling ghost or a passionate love scene)?

Good story-telling is good story-telling, no matter if the medium is film or prose or smoke circles, so why not learn from the people who’ve already done and done it well?

~~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

Building Plot from Character

17 Jan

by Susan Dennard

~~

Last Friday’s QOTW was about avoiding a contrived plot.  At the time, I took this to mean a copy-cat plot, but the responses of Mandy and Julie made me see what the question could have meant: how do you avoid a forced plot — a turn of events in the story that doesn’t feel natural.  Julie said, “if a seemingly unsolvable problem is solved by a character conveniently having an ability that was unknown before the crisis moment, the solution feels contrived.” Mandy mentioned “it’s the decisions the characters make that effect how the plot plays out.”

I wanted to take both of these fantastic answers a step further.  To avoid that feeling of “what a coincidence!” or “this feels out-of-character“, you can focus on building your plot from a character.  Whether you a plotter or a pantster, it’s important to keep in mind that in most stories character dictates plot.  Even the most plot-driven stories are affected by the heroes — think of Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings where quests are the main force behind the story but characters also affect how that quest plays out.

Ultimately, convincing stories boil down to the decisions and actions a character takes feeling natural to that character (just like Julie and Mandy said).  The best way to show what I mean is to use my favorite stories as examples.

Plot-driven Stories

How would Star Wars: A New Hope have differed if Luke were a different type of person?

Luke is a reluctant hero — though he wants excitement and change, he’s unwilling to leave behind his family on the whim of his old pal, Ben Kenobi.  In fact, Luke is kind of a whiny baby.  For him to have willingly accepted Ben’s request to face Darth Vader from the beginning would have felt wrong.  Why?  Because it’s not in his character to actually face excitement and change fearlessly.  It’s not until his family is killed that he decides to set out on his quest and face the major nasty, Darth Vader.

What if Luke had been a braver, more aggressive character?  He’d have been gung-ho over facing Darth Vadar from the get-go.  We’d have found it weird if he’d been reluctant.

What if Luke had been a downright coward?  Well, no way in hell he’d have joined Ben Kenobi — dead family or not.  The quest just wouldn’t have happened.

The plot has to fit the characters.

Character-driven Stories

How would Napoleon Dynamite be different if Napoleon were a different type of person?

Well…you wouldn’t even have the same story!  If Napoleon didn’t call home for chapstick or draw hideous portraits of his prom dates, you simply wouldn’t have the same movie.  In other words, everything in a character-driven story is decided by the main character.  To have even the slightest out-of-character action is much more obvious, and to force plot events on a character will instantly alienate readers/viewers.

Again, the plot has to fit the characters.

How to Build Plot from Character

I foolishly messed this up with my first draft of The Spirit-Hunters — I made up a series of events I thought were über cool, threw some random characters in to act it out, and BAM!  I had a completely wretched story that was utterly unconvincing and took a year of heavy revisions to salvage.

Mandy offers great advice in the QOTW: “This is why I always reccomend that if you have a book idea, the first thing you do is figure out what kind of character would create the most conflict– whether that means a bossy Type A character who loses control, a fashoinista who ends up stranded in the woods, a socially awkward girl who ends up in high society, etc. If you truly think about what kind of characters will naturally create the most conflict, chances are the plot won’t feel forced.

The instant you’ve got your Shiny New Idea, sit down and sort out the best character for it — be it the kind of person who will create the most conflict (a reluctant Luke Skywalker) or the kind of person most likely to be up to these sorts of challenges (an always ready Indiana Jones).  If you’re writing a romance, what traits in the hero will most conflict with the heroine?  Thinking about characteristics and the conflict that can arise from such personalities will let you tap into a whole new (and convincing!) slew of plot events!

Have you made this same mistake in your own writing?  Have you seen it done in any movies/TV/novels?  Or can you think of a story that would be totally changed if the protagonist were a different sort of person?

~~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

QOTW: How Do You Keep Your Plot From Feeling Contrived?

14 Jan

This week’s QOTW comes from H. Holdsworth, who asks: How do you keep your plot from becoming contrived?

~~~

This is a tricky question since almost no plot can be completely “new”. Because of that, you can end up with that “contrived, ripped-off” feeling. I think the best way to avoid this is to give the story a unique aspect — maybe an ironic twist or a crazy-but-lovable character.

For example: wizarding schools? Done a thousand times. Boys who are the Only Ones to stop Evil Bad Guy? Also been done a thousand times. What makes Harry Potter special? The setting — Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, muggles, quidditch. It’s the world that made J.K. Rowling’s series really stand out and attract millions of readers.

Another example: vampire who loves a non-vampire? Done. An immortal who has waited forever to find his True Love? Done. What makes Twilight unique? That a vampire finds his true love, but he doesn’t just love her — he really wants to suck her blood and he’s not sure he can keep himself from doing it! That’s some situational irony. (Plus, it’s a great way to build tension! Whether or not this was intentional, it was a very clever plot device on Meyer’s part!)

One more example: noir detective stories? Definitely been done. Quest to solve best friend’s murder? Also been done. What makes Veronica Mars unique? The MC, Veronica — she’s a tough-as-nails teenager with sarcasm, sleuthing skills, and a softer side to boot. Viewers fell in love with her, and that kept us coming back each episode.

Honestly, though, you can’t avoid the tropes (see Jenn’s post if you don’t believe me). No matter what, something about your plot will leave someone thinking it’s a copy. But remember, no one can tell a story the way you would. Even if I used the exact same plot, scene for scene, it wouldn’t be the same because I can’t write what you write! Your voice is the ultimate weapon in your arsenal for uniqueness.

-The Newest LTWF Contributor With A Book Deal!

~~~

To me, a story seems contrived if its plot has twists and turns that aren’t properly set up.  For instance, if a seemingly unsolvable problem is solved by a character conveniently having an ability that was unknown before the crisis moment, the solution feels contrived.  This kind of problem can be avoided by laying the foundation for events that are to come so that they don’t appear to come out of nowhere.  A story can also seem contrived if a character does something that just doesn’t fit with his or her previous behavior, such as a usually cautious mother asking a stranger to watch her child in a store, or a knight taking off his helmet in the midst of a battle.  When I read a story that has that type of inconsistency, I feel as if I can actually see the hand of the writer in the story, manipulating the characters like puppets so that the plot can take a certain turn.  Contrived stories have that feeling of working out conveniently for the writer.  To make your story ring true, take the time to create authentic characters and be sure that all of their actions are authentic, as well.

-The Writer Out on Subs

~~~

A plot feels contrived when the plot is too external– when it feels too much like the author is holding her characters on strings, orchestrating everything. When a character is fully developed, the plot twists and conflicts will come about organically– it’s the decisions the characters make that effect how the plot plays out. If too many external conflicts are used, it’s no longer the characters controlling the plot, but the writer, and then it starts to feel strained or forced. If you focus on developing your character, the plot will play out more naturally.

This is why I always reccomend that if you have a book idea, the first thing you do is figure out what kind of character would create the most conflict– whether that means a bossy Type A character who loses control, a fashoinista who ends up stranded in the woods, a socially awkward girl who ends up in high society, etc. If you truly think about what kind of characters will naturally create the most conflict, chances are the plot won’t feel forced.

-The Writer And Literary Agent

 

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

16 Dec

This post has been updated and MOVED to our new website: Pub(lishing) Crawl.

Beginnings: The Myth of ‘Begin with Action’

18 Mar

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~ 

Recently I read a blog post at WritersDigest.com that discussed the #1 myth of story beginnings: You MUST open with action.

 The point of the article is clear: Action without context is just as worthless as background story without action.

 The key to beginnings is to introduce two things: 1. Characterization. 2. Plot/Theme.

 Notice that nowhere in those first two requirements is ‘action.’ I think that the myth of ‘you must have action’ stems from a misunderstanding between action and plot. If you go with the general advice of ‘you must start with action,’ then shouldn’t every story begin with gunshots, murderous chases, and exploding spaceports? Because most don’t.

 So, let’s discuss what you DO need to start your story with, beginning with Characterization:

 Characterization

 From the beginning, you must immediately answer the voiced or subconscious question in your reader’s mind: Why should I care about this character (or these characters, as it may be)? If I have to follow someone for 100,000 words, I damn well better like them, even if they’re designed to be ‘unlikeable’ (Marvin the Robot, anyone?).

 If your characterization comes through clear and strong on paper then I’ll be naturally drawn to your character and want to stick around to enjoy them and/or see what happens to them.

 Example: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card:

 “I’ve watched through his eyes. I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”

 “That’s what you said about the brother.”

 “The brother tested out impossible. For other reasons. Nothing to do with his ability.”

 “Same with the sister. And there are doubts about him. He’s too malleable. Too willing to submerge himself in someone else’s will.”

 “Not if the other person is his enemy.”

 So much characterization was conveyed in this short paragraph. Immediately I want to know who it is they’re talking about. I want to meet this character and learn more about him.

 There’s not much action in this beginning; actually, the first chapter is dialogue from unnamed sources (how much more anti-action can you get?), but this beginning is ripe with characterization, and thus it is a good beginning.

 Plot/Theme

 The other way to start a story is through clearly and creatively introducing the plot or theme. I say plot/theme because sometimes you get a plot without a strong theme, or you get a theme without a strong plot, and both are okay.

 As a writer who tends to slide more into the ‘literary fiction’ side of things, I’m particularly fond of the ‘introduce the theme’ beginning. Common examples of these are the dramatic prologue (love love love!) or the artistic description of a single, symbolic object, etc.

 Example: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison:

 (All 3 chapters are excellent examples of Theme introduction, but I’m going to skip the first chapter and head to the second. If you want to know why I skipped the first chapter, you can read the intro to this book here at Amazon)

 Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that did not sprout; nobody’s did. Not even the gardens fronting the lake showed marigolds that year. But so deeply concerned were we with the health and safe delivery of Pecola’s baby we could think of nothing but our own magic: if we planted the seeds, and said the right words over them, they would blossom, and everything would be all right.

 (This is also the book that contains my favorite phrase of all time: Nuns go by, quiet as lust.)

 By reading the paragraph above you can clearly tell that this is going to be a rich and dark literary novel, full of the human condition and childlike innocence thwarted. All from one paragraph.

 If you’re a theme-lover like myself, this book is pure gold, and it’s obvious right from the first paragraph.

 Action

 So, now that we’ve explored two good examples of beginning with characterization and plot/theme, let’s explore the benefits of alternative to action by looking at bad action.

 The worst thing you can do is open by confusing your readers. If they don’t ‘get it’ within a few paragraphs (yes, paragraphs, not pages!) they’ll put it down and that will be that. Action must have context!

 Now, I was hoping to provide an example of a book that opened with totally confusing action, but books that open like that are not good books, and thus I probably put them down after a few pages and have forgotten them. So, let’s make something up:

 Aidan rolled to his feet and fired off a shot at the advancing Duke, activating his MicroShield just in time to fend off the blastwave from the Duke’s proton-launcher.

 “Balthazar, get me out of here!” He yelled over his shoulder to the Moore fiddling with the rusty engine of the blimp.

 “Aidan, behind you!” screamed Sasha Eskanova, and Aidan ducked as the claws from a leaping panther grazed his ears.

 Aidan karate-chopped the oversized housecat as it morphed into a pack of ninja assassins.

 “Time to go!”

 Cannons roaring in the distance, Aidan, Sasha, and Balthazar leapt aboard the USS Titan’s wake, lifting into the air as the cavalry advanced over the hill, muskets blazing.

 Umm… just what exactly is going on here? There’s too much action and not enough back story, especially with the clashing mix of historical clue-ins.

 Read this next bit very carefully: Action without context is pointless.

 Remember that, and you’ll do fine. 🙂

So, readers, what do you think? Do you know of any books where the author pulled off beginning with action successfully?

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.