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Posts tagged ‘Nancy Kress’

How to introduce conflict or change in your very first sentence

Nancy Kress, author of Elements of Fiction Writing – Beginnings, Middles & Ends,says writers have about three paragraphs in a short story and three pages in a novel to catch the reader’s (or agent’s or editor’s) attention. She explains how we can make our openings interesting and original through character, conflict, specifics, and credibility.

In our very first sentences, we can hint at some future conflict or change in our story.

Kress says that we don’t have to have a body hurtling from a window—there are many subtler ways to introduce conflict. Randomly choosing a few of my favorite books from my bookshelf, I’ve copied their first sentences below:

“Running with the Demon,” by Terry Brooks.

“Hssst! Nest!” His voice cut through the cottony layers of her sleep with the sharpness of a cat’s claw.

I like the specifics here and the contrast of “cottony layers of sleep” with “sharpness of a cat’s claw.” We have the feeling that something interesting is going to happen. Read more

The shape of a scene: endings

Each scene in your novel has a shape. The beginning is the set up. The middle is the rise of action with alternating beats. And then there’s the end of the scene which should have a little, or sometimes big, rise in tension.

Best-selling fantasy and sci-fi author, Nancy Kress, says that tension comes from two things pulling in opposite directions. The tension at the end of a scene could be something as small as a character’s thoughts conflicting with their actions. Or something as large as good vs. evil locked in immortal combat.

Kress says a rise in tension can be effected in several ways. Two specific ways are as follows: Read more