STATUS: BEA tomorrow. It’s going to be a long one and I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog so have a good weekend.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S DANCE by David Bowie
As y’all know, today I was at the Backspace conference. Jeff Kleinman, Scott Hoffman, and I did a workshop called 2 minutes, 2 pages in the afternoon. The purpose is to pretend we are sitting at home with our feet up reading the slush pile. As the author reads the work, we say “stop” if we wouldn’t have read on and then try to explain why.
It’s a tough workshop. We try and be honest but constructive but as a writer, you can’t be faint of heart in participating.
After the 3 hour session, I can say without a doubt that this was the biggest issue we found in the pages that were read. The openings lacked a sense of urgency that would have propelled the story forward or would have engaged the reader immediately in the story or the characters presented.
In other words, most opening scenes had nothing at stake.
Now don’t mistake me and assume that you have to have an action-packed scene or bombs going off or some hideous moment occurring. Having something at stake can be a small thing, such as a missing photo, but it’s not small for the character in the story. For example, you could have a woman searching for a missing photograph and perhaps this photo is the one surviving shot she has of her father and so there is real panic that it could be missing—maybe even forever. That she can’t find it, that she can’t remember when last she saw it, that maybe there is something coupled with it that makes this missing photo even that much more crucial to have at this moment in time. There is something at stake for the character
See the distinction?
A lot of the opening pages we saw were really back story disguised as an opening chapter—which makes Carolyn Jewel’s guest blog earlier this week that much more pertinent.