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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown



Hit the Ground Running



As a writer, you’ve probably been told many times to start your story with a ‘hook,’ something that grabs the reader. One of the most effective—and simplest—hooks is to open with a scene in motion. If people are already talking and moving, we as readers must run to catch up, and it adds a level of intrigue: What the heck is going on? Of course we continue reading to find out.

Why does this work? Well, for one thing, humans are naturally nosy. We love the feeling that we’re listening in to a private conversation. Also, as a culture, we’ve been ‘tuned’ by film to expect stories to begin with action. Think of how interesting the first five minutes of a movie usually are, a little story in itself, and that’s before the credits roll.

So which scene do you start with?

A good rule of thumb is to begin at the moment—or just before—something important happens. You don’t want readers to miss critical actions or dialogue. Look at these two examples:

"I’m leaving you," she said. The words stopped me in my tracks, her empty glass still in my hand.

Or...

I stopped in my tracks, Marla’s empty glass still in my hand. She’d just said she was leaving me.

Both versions convey the same information but the first has far more punch, and it’s not just the dialogue. As readers we feel we’ve walked in at a crucial moment, yet haven’t missed anything.

Another good guideline is to begin with a scene of TENSION. Even if it doesn’t involve the Significant Other, start your main character’s life with stress of some kind: make her late for work, put him in an argument with his wife. And positive stress works, too! Winning money, landing a great job, even buying a new car all add pressure to someone’s existence. Along with the hook, you’ll set up a sense of anticipation.

Sometimes I look for the quirkiest part of the story, a scene that will raise immediate questions, and begin there. In ‘Home Ice’ two lovers are breaking into their home town arena in the middle of the night; in ‘Mustang,’ the main character meets someone whose first words are "I collect orphans." It’s okay to bewilder your reader initially, as long as you pay off later with a darned good reason for that scene.

Here are two more things to consider when choosing your opening:

  • How far do I have to travel? Does your story encompass a single hour of real time, or does it skip across weeks, or years? I’ve found that, conversely, the shorter the time span, the farther away from the sex I can begin. For example, if the story is about a one-night stand, I might begin with the couple meeting in a bar. If the same story were to be about a three-week affair, I’d open with the couple on the verge of having sex for the first time, and save the how-they-met bits to briefly recount later. The two versions might be the same word length, but there’s a subconscious ‘distance’ you’re asking the reader to travel. Cut a few corners for him, if you can.
  • How does it end? You may not know the answer to this in the first draft and that’s okay! But it’s something to think about in your re-writes. The first scene and the last have a huge impact on the reader and if you can find a way to link them—by echo or contrast—you’ll amplify your story’s power. If your main character is going to be reduced to a quivering husk of submission by the end, start with a scene where he’s strong and in control. Or, for an echo, show him being dominated in another way. Perhaps he’s a man who continually accepts flak from his wife, his boss, and the snotty waitress at the café.

Some writers are daunted by opening with a ‘live’ scene because they don’t feel they know the people well enough to craft them convincingly. Don’t worry—that’s what rewrites are for! Many of my characters start out like talking stick-men. One thing I’ve discovered is that opening with a dramatized scene forces a writer into the body of the character more quickly. Instead of pussyfooting around him, you’re inside, ready or not. The first steps might be awkward and ungainly, but by the end you’ll know him well enough to go back and re-write a more dynamic, captivating opening scene. Your character will not only hit the ground running, he just might fly.

_______ 
"Beyond the Basics" © 2005 Tulsa Brown. All rights reserved.


About the Author:  Tulsa Brown is an award-winning novelist who has also written for film and media, and has led many writing workshops for adults and young people.



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