The Good Stuff… and a B’Day Treat

April 7, 2012

Getting to the Good Stuff

What A Great B’day Favor – A Free e-book!

My Publishing house, Inspired Quill is 1 year old this month. And to celebrate, Sara Jayne Slack, owner, is setting aside April 7th to give away Claiming One in e-book form.

Log into Amazon this Saturday, head over to the Kindle store and grab a free copy on us.

Now, about that Good Stuff…

Photo by zak metz

Photo by zak metz

Picture a baby chewing her toes.

A guy looking over his shoulder in surprise at someone we can’t see.

Someone scooping up a spoonful of ice cream over a dinner plate with veggies still on it.

Here you have  images of things going on. We don’t know the whole story behind these images yet, but we can see action taking place right this minute.

Do you as a novice writer begin ‘at the beginning’ when telling your stories? Do you want to be sure the reader understands what your characters are all about? So you think it wise to take the time to tell them all about it? Well, here’s some sad news about readers.

They are very impatient people. If they had a motto it might be something like: Cut to the chase!

Here’s no way around it, we like to eat desert first. We want the feeling of surprise, right out of the gate.

Readers want to know what the problem is now, not how the character spent the first 17 years of her life without her father. They want to see some action or issue and they want it now. Right up front.

They want to get to the good stuff. When it comes to short stories, as we try to write them here in the 21st century, they should be of a length to be read in one sitting. How long is that?

Well, it’s a lot shorter space of time than when Charles Dickens was writing. Readers today spend less time ‘at one sitting’ then ever before. Which means we writers don’t have a great deal of time to get our readers hooked.

Here are a few openers from Claiming One as an example:

Look at the way each of these opens in the middle of a problem for someone.

Gordo drove rather sanely for a guy with a full-sized mattress set strapped onto his ‘71 Impala’s roof. The rising sun struck his rear-view mirror at an annoying angle, but he was patient. It would move. With an open can of Coors sweating between his legs, four more cans cooling his ankles and his cousins’ truant wife, Bernie, silent and still next to him, he steered westward.


It’s far after midnight. Terry’s shoved me into the back seat of the Yellow Cab that’s come to take us to the emergency room. My wrists sting, like jellyfish burns. The rest of me feels numb. Even my brain seems lighter behind my forehead, and my ears are clogged, like I’m underwater.


When we were both fifteen, Anna stood in the center of Pious X Girl’s Senior High quad, smiled, winked and started yelling. Out came every cuss word that she knew or could make up for the occasion. Loud and clear so nuns for miles would hear, even the ones working at St. Linus’ on the next street over.


What Rikki remembers is jumping up off the couch for a Diet Cherry Pepsi as the commercial started. That and a wobble-feeling that strobed behind her eyes, just before the TV’s volume rose up to a crashing level and she dropped like a corpse onto the rough carpet, face first. The walls shook from the BAM of her contact. For a slip of a girl, 103 lbs max, she made a big noise going down.

Why use that first paragraph time on what turned Jim into such a sad young man at the age of 13? Get your story going with how being a sad young man is affecting Jim right now, ‘in the middle of things’ here on the morning when he has to be the best man at 10 am in spite of dreading the whole event.

Those samples are my efforts to get to the good stuff right from the start.

In the comments let’s hear if you are getting to the good stuff or not? Why do you think you’re not yet? And ways you think you might with your next try.


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