So, working on steampunk. I realize there’s a subplot that I need to push forward in the storyline. In fact, I need to start the book with it. So I run back a couple of chapters (something I don’t normally do; I’m usually very linear. But this is for a proposal, so I Make Exceptions) and begin some really bad writing that has me stymied and cursing for several days. It goes:
- Start with a line that is supposed to hook the reader. Something like:
The device had killed the captain.
- Go into your narrator’s eyes, and look at the dead captain. Go back in time just a little bit and explain how the captain died. But don’t stay too long, because we want to get back into narrator’s head and get a feel for the setting.
- Dive into your narrator’s head. We see what he sees. We feel what he does. We look where he looks and see something that lets us…
- …go back in time again and give more details about how the captain dies.
- Oh, and then we hop back into real time and finally get a description of the bad guys.
- Then we have dialogue that introduces a New Danger to our narrator. And continue that until the end of scene.
TA DA! If you’ve followed these instructions, you have a crappy scene!
Sigh. If the progression of your setting description, scene movement, and chronology make your scene look like this
it might seem exciting, but really you’re just going to be stuck in line for hours, waiting to get on and have great writerly fun, and you’ll probably make your readers sick.
The fix? In this case, I used a similar hook line, but instead of it already happening, it starts with the threat of it happening. That easily (hahaha!) the setting description and action can all move forward instead of jumping around. And, that easily, I can start writing and moving forward again, too.