Saturday, May 16, 2015

Opening Spells

Lost in her Thoughts - Samy Charnine
Every story begins with a spell, invoked through the opening line.

Why? According the the Harry Potter universe, an opening spell facilitates the passage between two zones, creating an accessible connection. In the case of fiction, the connection is between the reader and writer, a conduit that transports both to a “secondary world” where the story takes place.

Think of the opening spell as the magic that draws the reader in, convincing them to sets aside their ‘real’ world responsibilities and immerse in the pages. Like any good spell, there are a variety of ways to go about it, but realize this inaugural line is rarely written first. Often the first line, paragraph and chapter are edited and revised for days, weeks and months after the story is completed.

To make this opening spell powerful, you have to be willing to give it your all. It might help to identify your approach. Here are four to consider:

  • The plunge
  • The mood
  • The compel
  • The back story

Ingredients required for each will vary. I’ll break it down but note all will require a measure of time, imagination, paper and pen or word processor, and of course, solitude.

However you create the opening line, it must always whisper: Listen to me . . . Stay with me . . .

1) The Plunge
The Plunge

This opening spell is usually dynamic, dangerous and always in medias res. In other words, it starts in the middle of the action, where disaster doesn’t have long to wait.

“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

“Sammy’s voice was low, his fingers warmly persuasive. Terri Garey, A match Made in Hell

“I didn’t realize he was a werewolf at first.” Pamela Briggs, Moon Called - Mercy Thompson

‘Where’s papa going with that axe?’ E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“Mother, I’m in love with a robot.” Tanith Lee, The Silver Metal Lover

“Screaming, I slashed and kicked wildly.” Jocelynn Drake, Nightwalker

2) The Mood
The Lost Correspondent -
Jason deCaires Taylor.

These opening spells tend to be more world building. They rely on voice, and the promise of what is to come.

"Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.” Brandon Sanderson - Elantris

“Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.” Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“By the time the first AIVAS had finished its recital of the first nine years of the colonization of Pern, the sun, Rukbat, has set with an unusually fine display. Anne McCaffrey - All the Werys of Pern

“‘Ark-aawl’ —a hundred voices calling their territory from the treetops. Ly de Angeles - The Quickening

“There was a momentary feeling of pressure against her mind, then the stone door shimmered and disappeared.” Nicole Murphy - Secret Ones, Dream of Asarlai

“In the days following the holocaust, which came to be known as the Great White, there was death and madness.” Isobelle Carmody - Obernewtyn

“It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there." Trudi Canavan - The Magicians’ Guild

3) The Compel
Falling by
Igor Grushko Vayne

This opening spell is often a cross between the Plunge and the Mood. It has elements of both.

“What I have chosen to do is shocking.” Traci Harding - AWOL

"Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.” Terry Pratchett - Hogfather

"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault.” Jim Butcher - Blood Rites: the Dresden Files

"The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.” Ursula K. Le Guin - A Wizard of Earthsea

“The wind blew out of the northwest in dry, fierce gusts, sweeping across the face of the Gray Lands.” Helen Low - The Wall of Night

4) The Back Story
In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.

Back story as an opening spell is tricky. Readers want to be in the here and now, diving into what is, not what was. But with the right tone and pace, it can work.

Back story first lines deal with the past in a way that draws the reader in. We must be compelled to ask, “And then what?”

“Eight Months ago, I was attacked in the back alley of my home town and rescued by an uber-hot guy named Chaz.” Amanda Arista - Nine Lives of an Urban Panther

“I came to London to write and found myself practicing magic instead.” Kim Wilkins - Angel of Ruin/Fallen Angel.

“I never believed in ghost.” Merrie Destefano - Fathom

“In the early 1800’s a man named Amadeo Avogadro hypothesized a number—a baker’s dozen for chemists, but in his equation hid a paradox, one that could alter reality with a single thought." Kim Falconer - Path of the Stray

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” JRR Tolkien - The Hobbit

Whether the opening begins with fear, shock, surprise, a problem, a question, a character or history, if you keep reading, it has done it’s job.

What are your favorite opening lines? The Plunge? The Mood? Back story? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month.

Her latest release is "Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Its hard to type on an emotional roller coaster

Year of Living Authentically: When life happens.

April was a little bit of a crap month. Something good would happen, something bad would happen. I'd hear great news from a friend, and then I'd hear terrible news from a friend. I thought I finally found a nice rhythm at work and had everything settled for a while and then my boss dumps this potentially huge thing in my lap with nothing more than a wave of his hand. I got a killer idea for a book and then discovered that something just like it was bought not a week earlier.

It was one of those months that it was impossible to even slow down enough to really ask: Am I being authentic? Is this what I really need to do? Will this take away from another part of my life and am I willing to sacrifice it?

Nope. It was pants on fire all month.

But I survived. I made it out the other side and now it is May. An opportunity to shake it off, restock my wine fridge, and hopefully take a nap.

As I was surviving the month, I was writing up a storm. I was unabashedly using my writing as a way to deal with the ups and downs and I wrote the hell out of my newest project. It reminded me of another reason that I write: escape. I can't experience everything there is to know in my life, so I seek the experiences of a million other lives to live, even for an hour or two. Or sometimes I just don't have the energy to experience my own life, so I need to borrow someone else's for a while

Especially in his fine company of writers on the blog, we create the worlds and welcome you in. We create the dragons and you help us fight them. We create the sword and you pull it from the stone with us. We are there with you, on these foreign planets or hobbit shires because we are looking for something too. And I thank you for letting us create that.

YOLA Authenticity test: Why do you read? Adventure? Escape? The thrill of first love? The passion of battle? What worlds do you escape to?


Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther

Friday, May 1, 2015

Love, Actually..."Might Have Been's' and "Star-Crossed"

For my January and February posts I featured a short story, Bird Of Passage.

Now, any story is what it is, but one important aspect of Bird Of Passage is that it's a tale of love that "might-have-been."

Another story I posted on my own blog during March, Ithaca, features enduring love and also mother love.

Both stories got me thinking about how many different kinds of love there are, in fiction as in real life — so I thought I'd take a closer look at romantic love in particular over the new few months, including examples from my own fiction.

Starting today with "might-have-been's" first cousin, Star-Crossed Love.

Literature's most famous example would have to be the original star-crossed pair, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:

"From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;"

One of the lesser themes of The Gathering Of The Lost is another star-crossed pair, Ghiselaine of Ormond and Audin Sondargent. Descended from states that (not unlike the Montagues and Capulets) have only recently declared peace after generations of war, they may fall in love but not marry:

"Yet after a few miles ... Audin dropped back to ride beside Ghiselaine. At first they did not look at each other, until Audin reached across and covered Ghiselaine's hand with his own. She did turn her head, then, and Carick looked away from what he saw in her expression..."

Perhaps the ultimate star-crossed couple of recent times is Buffy and Angel, from the television series Buffy. Vampire Slayer, Buffy, and reformed vampire, Angel, fall deeply in love but can never be together because Angel is cursed: if he knows a moment of true happiness he will revert to his former evil ways.

So how about you? Do you have a favorite star-crossed pair in literature or on the silver screen?