neadods: (worry_fandom)

I'm the 3rd chapter, page 26.
neadods: (laughter)
Do all the professional writers on my flist have [ profile] mistful on their flist? Because y'all really ought to. She's struggling with copyedits today.

Sometimes copyedits are a simple matter of your copyeditor switching ‘Nick said’ to ‘said Nick.’ Then all you do is stare at that, wonder why she changed it and if it matters and which way looks best, and then you tear out all your hair and use the torn-out hair as a hanky to wipe your fevered brow. Simple!

Click the link for the fun of an American copyeditor dealing with Irish phrasing.
neadods: (Default)
I'm fascinated by the poll in the previous post. It's like watching a horse race. I'm going to pick some selections from the winner tonight after I post the Stolen Earth recap to Firefox News and write 'em up by the end of the week.

Am posting this morning to rec to the pro authors a post by bookseller about bad choices for book titles and how she's watched hip, edgy, offensive titles slaughter sales.

"Can you recommend any good books about sailing?" asked a middle-aged lady last year. "I'm looking for something my husband will like."

"Aquatic sports books are over here," I said, "probably the best one about sailing is this one," I pulled All Piss and Wind off the shelf. The customer and I looked at it, mutually blanched, and moved on.
neadods: (Default)
It's the last day of the month and I'm supposed to be doing a resolutions post, but bugger that. It's going to be bad enough with this set of comments AND the fic for the meme (Am I insane, posting fic on ep night?) and then episode commentary.

Still, because to my surprise people care about this sort of thing:

iPods. Still love mine. Although everything I loaded for Media*West skipped, damnit, it was still the perfect thing to have on the car trip. Esp. when I didn't want to worry about music, so I could just set the thing to shuffle and *drive* - no changing CDs, no fading radio stations, no music I didn't like because I'm the one who loaded it in the first place.

Summer. What I love about summer around here is that cold food makes sense. And cold food is perfect when you don't like to plan meals, just forage in the fridge. "I'm hungy. Hmmm... there's some sesame bread, tomato bruschetta, mozarilla, and strawberries. Lunch!" (And a halfway decent and nutritious one too!)

The Zero Room, another Whovian fanfiction archive along wiht Teaspoon and an Open Mind (commonly called "Teaspoon"). I'm sticking with Teaspoon for now, personally, but leaving the link for future reference.

The New Adventures of Queen Victoria continues to be made of surreal win.

Also surreal, [ profile] lizbee has got a series of book reviews that miss the point by miles. On The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy: I certainly didn't get any good, practical travel advice from this book. Stick with Fodor's and save yourself the bother.

Y'all have GOT to go see what gets said about Sam Clemens and Jane Austen. And if you scroll through the comments, there's some stuff on Shakespeare as well. "Why can't [Romeo and Juliet] end happily ever after?"

These are words that never, ever belong in the same sentence, but [ profile] nostalgia_lj has written the world's funniest BDSM fic. Not safe for work or children, quite obviously. "It's just that I get this sort of thing a lot from villains. It's like how bondage has lost all erotic thrill for me. One time Rose tied me to the bed with my tie and I'd freed myself without thinking before she'd managed to get out of her bra."
neadods: (Default)
Writing Yet To Come:

A question for knitters or "I might consider knitting" people.

The background ) If you only know a little about knitting, and don't want to be an expert, does this look like something you could follow?

ROW 1: K3 | P3 | K1, P1 for 6 stitches | P3 | K3
ROW 2: K3 | K3 | P1, K1 for 6 stitches | K3 | K3

(A regular knitting book would probably say "3 stitches garter, sm, 3 stitches stockinette, sm, six stitches seed, sm, 3 stockinette, 3 garter.")

[Poll #1195433]

Writing Present
A second copy of Qualities of Leadership just showed up - I guess Big Finish had meant to send comp copies all along. But then I wouldn't have had it to wave around Media*West, so I think I'm going to give this one to my parents... who still can't quite believe that someone gave me good money to write that TV science fiction crap I mysteriously still haven't outgrown.

Unreality SF has a review of the book. A good review of the book, and don't think for a moment that I wasn't worried that some karma was going to come home to roost:

DeCandido has assembled a talented band of contributors, ranging from Who veterans (James Swallow) to writers more familiar to other audiences (Diane Duane), and even newcomers to the world of published fiction (Linnea Dodson). The theme is, as the title suggests, leadership - and readers are taken on an enjoyable ride through twelve stories featuring kings and queens, emperors, and aliens...

The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa make another appearance in Linnea Dodson's excellent "God Send Me Well to Keep," a beautifully-written visit to Tudor England, a setting which Dodson captures graphically, and which seems to complement Nyssa fantastically well. This is a colourful and lively tale from a talented new author, and is perhaps another of the anthology's highlights.

...Leadership is a brilliant triumph. The stories are longer than normal for a Short Trips anthology, giving more of a chance for development and involvement, and the characterisations are (one or two misfires aside) consistently perfect. This is a group of authors who clearly know their Who, and care a lot about the characters.

*squees and faints*

Writing Past
This seems to lead nicely into the meme that's making the rounds: Ask me a question about one of my stories. It can be absolutely anything in any fic and I will tell you the honest-to-god answer. Don’t hold back. Ask about my plans for future parts of my current series if you want to, but keep in mind, I may not have anything firm/definite in the works. Anything. Whatever you ask, I will try my best to answer.

Still speaking of writing - secret message to [ profile] mtgat: Have not forgotten to actually, y'know, POST - this cold is slowing me down so I'm going to give it a last look and make your edits and put it up this weekend.
neadods: (Default)
I've been offline for two and a half days (so I'm pretty terrified of the flist volume at the moment). However, many things to discuss.

Doctor Who:
Obtained. Seen. Amused. Thought the ending was meh, but I enjoyed the cheese thoroughly for the first 35 minutes, so it's in the "like" column. Mostly.

Knitting and Fandom:
The BBC is discussing licensing the Mazzmataz knitting patterns. Good. That's the best outcome all around. According to this article, the BBC had been planning to create a line of stuffed adipose, so Mazz's knitting pattern was a direct threat to that particular marketing line, making the C&D suddenly make a great deal of sense.

I find the last paragraph of the article particularly interesting, because it points out the problems of 20th century copyright/trademark law in the 21st century: What makes the episode more significant is that changing technology is making it easier for fans to create and distribute content based on their favourite programmes, causing a dilemma for copyright holders who have to decide whether to risk bad publicity and threaten legal action, or let them run. The current law is blunt: not reacting fiercely and protectively towards anything that might dent the trademark is required, lest the trademark slide into public domain. However, it's a PR nightmare when that is aimed at fans, be it knitters or high schoolers with Harry Potter info sites. So, perhaps it is time that some wriggle room be written into the law.

Knitting, personal:
The Roma project is overrun by barbarians dead. Too ambitious. Too half baked. However, it has been replaced by a series of test-knit patterns for a book currently titled $600 of Therapy (And a Free Afghan). More discussion later as that one bakes past the halfway point, and I may in future call for some test knitters. The general gist is that all of the afghans are based on the same block size, require the same tools, are stress-free for even a novice knitter to understand, and every single project is portable.

New York, New York (it's a helluvatown):
Went up to NYC with [ profile] fandance yesterday and met up with [ profile] suricattus and [ profile] hhertzof. (And y'know that pattern I promised you HH? I had it *with me* the entire time, and do I remember it until I come home? *facepalm* Be aggressive, and ask oblivious me next time; I *do* have it for you!

We rushed around a bit too fast, but it was worth it, because in the end, we got to do everything we wanted to do - see the Superhero costume exhibit (Online gallery here), walk in the park on a lovely day, buy shoes, look at yarn (I saw something perfect for a project, leading to the $600 comment that turned into a title), take a look at one of the many street fairs, see the Patrick Stewart Macbeth, and eat at my favorite restaurant.

The Superhero Costume Exhibit )

Macbeth )

Cover me - I'm checking the flist for the first time in too long.
neadods: (Default)
From [ profile] suricattus and [ profile] jaylake, The Contract Between Writer and Reader and How To Never Get an Agent.

A fic rec for [ profile] wendymr's Donna/10 crackfic, A Moment of Madness.

Another fic rec for [ profile] persiflage_1's Scent: Spoilers for Sontaran Stratagem/Poison Sky.

Most of Tennant fandom is fainting over the first promo pic of him as Hamlet.

Reviewing the Evidence is back online, and has my review of Anatomy of Deception.
neadods: (Default)
[ profile] mistful has a Dear author letter of her own, and if you don't already read her (and you ought; she keeps ending up on [ profile] metaquotes for a reason), I highly recommend her take on editorial letters.

Of course, when the editorial letter first arrives - oh God, it's a great big huge pile of work and she obviously hated your book after all and you are off to the garden. To eat worms.

Then, as your coping mechanism kicks in and you're sulkily munching on your worms, it occurs to you that she may have had a point about that one thing. And maybe you have an idea to fix it.

At this point the floodgates open and you realise how stupid you've been about so many things, oh so many things, and you rush back into the house and try to assassinate yourself with a teapot for the honour of your family.

Lying on your floor a little concussed, sanity returns. This isn't helping you edit your book. And you kind of need that teapot.
neadods: (yay!)
The final T has been crossed, the final i dotted, and the final blessing come down: we are finally allowed to discuss Big Finish Short Trips #24: The Quality of Leadership.

The anthology to which I sold my first short story. I R a riter!

Fearless Editor Keith DeCandido has the details at his LJ. The meat of which is under the cut, including cover art, table of contents, and authors' LJ names )

It's worth your time to click the cut and surf to the LJs; excerpts are going up.

An excerpt from "God Send Me Well to Keep:"

Norfolk bowed graciously, first to Henry, second to Cromwell, then turned his back on him to address the king, pressing his advantage. “Sire, Christmas is a season of gifts and miracles. If God truly wishes you to avoid marriage to the Lady Anne, surely he will provide her alternative?” Henry was fond of wagers and a believer in omens. Would he take the bait?

“That’s a point,” Henry admitted. He smacked his hand flat upon the armrest, suddenly smiling. “So may it be, then! If I see another suitable bride before I meet Anne of Cleves, then I will know God’s will.”


“She has to be an imposter,” Cromwell was saying languidly, although his sharp eyes were also watching the girl’s every move. “I know perfectly well who is who in all the courts worth knowing about, and if Anne can't come across the channel, no new German girl could have slipped into London ahead of her. She claimed to be from Aachen? And have some outlandish name – what was it, Nessa? Nyssa? Mark my words, she’s some plain Jane from Kent.”

Henry laughed. “I wonder what she would say if I asked to dance with her.”

The Doctor and Nyssa copyright 2008 BBC
neadods: (contemplative)
Sorry for the spam, I'm in a weird headspace tonight. Mooching through my own tags, I found a two and a half year old story intro that I really must dust off and Do Something With.

Once upon a time is a real time and place, you know. Ask any old person what it was like to live Once Upon a Time and they can tell you. )

Damn, when I'm on, I'm good. I wish I had a clue where I was going with that.
neadods: (Default)
So fascinated, I wanted to pass these on:

In light of the racism in Who discussion, I found [ profile] linaerys's post on how her evolution into a liberal feminist has made her reassess her understanding of racism fascinating and useful. Developing a real feminist identity is what actually made me realize that there was more to fighting racism than "not seeing color." Refuting arguments telling me women and men are equal already made me think about the arguments I'd heard from Campus Life, arguments like, "When you say you're color blind, you are negating my experience" started to make sense. Someone who says that men and women are equal, that they treat them the same, is negating my experience.

Those who think that there isn't a racism problem, especially online where "nobody can see you," are cordially invited to go look at the hysteria now that a Harry Potter kink comm has equated sex between the races with sex between species. Pointing this out to the mods is apparently both offending them (for the crime of being called racist) and censoring them.

Creating Space paintings in a matter of seconds. Mind you, this is like charging $1 for hitting the machine and $1,000 for knowing *where* to hit it, but this process just fascinates me. I foresee paint-covered hands in my future.

Fic Rec: Protector by [ profile] wendymr. Jackie, Rose. spoilers for Doomsday and Utopia )

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep Martha, Doctor. Nice bittersweet piece about different lives. (If you liked my "A Good Life," you'll probably like this.)

And from a locked post - I think I'm going to have to join OG. It sounds like the most entertaining crazy goes on in their forums.

ETA: to keep from spamming:

Tom's Glossary of Book Publishing Terms: ADVANCE COPY: A bound book that when opened by an editor will instantly expose an embarrassing mistake.

neadods: (weepingangel)
Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death
The Empty Child
The Doctor Dances
The Girl in the Fireplace

Stephen Moffat is made of 100% weapons-grade awesome coated with fabulousness and covered with sprinkles of pure win.

Under the cut, I'll get into the spoiler portion of the proceedings, with some actual content.

Y'know what I love about Moffat? It's that although his stories are all based on the same general premise, they work so beautifully and are individually unique. )

Now all I want to do is reread the original short story from the 2006 annual, and I can't lay my hands on it, damnit! Hope it bubbles back to the surface in the crap, because replacing anything with the Ninth Doctor is either impossible or expensive (and sometimes both).
neadods: (Default)
Aside from the whole "writing is like prostitution" joke that I've been telling rather a lot lately, you know what writing has always been like for me?

Running a maze. You go tootling along for a while, smack into a wall, realize that you have to back up, hit another wall, back up more, take a whole different approach, and another one after that and hope that this one will get you where you're going.

Hopefully posting this won't jinx me, because I think I've finally flailed and whined my way onto the right path...

(Biggest irony? Next to *none* of the research I've done is going to make it in, because the exposition would drag the plot. ETA: in response to comments - I hope some research shines through, but it turns out I've been researching the wrong things...)
neadods: (Default)
[ profile] karenmiller has a big post on first drafts in her blog this morning. Go read it.

Me, I've just hit a shorter, but major epiphany. A lot of what Karen talks about is fear, and lordy, have I been feeling that! It's been hard as hell to slog through the for-pay story, mostly because the For Pay part has been intimidating the hell out of me. (The "Deadline Is:" part isn't much more friendly.)

But the big problem of course isn't money or timing. It's not even that all the past failures are sitting on my shoulder saying "Remember me? You can't, hang it up, give up" (although at this point they've gotten enough practice to be singing it in 4-part acapella harmony with choreographed dance moves and a big Broadway finish).

It's not that I forgot that I *know* how to write, and I shouldn't change any part of a successful process because there's a ticking clock and a check involved. Bits of it I already grasped: staring at a double-spaced draft onscreen intimidating? Shove it back into familiar format and professional it up later. Hack out any hairball and edit it 5 times before moving on, possibly deleting all but 1 line? If that's what it's going to take, then coat the keyboard in petromalt and start horking. (Bless you, Ray Bradbury, for the succinct advice to "throw up in your typewriter every morning and clean up every afternoon.") Yeah, it's great when the words pour like water, but there are ways of continuing when they don't.

What I forgot is that I'm a mouthy broad. I don't just like to talk, I NEED to. If the story's over 500 words, I need to bounce ideas off other people until the one that feels bone-right rattles out. And that's not going to change either. I'd been so wrapped up in feeling that because I'm the one whose name goes on the paycheck I've got to do it All By Myself that I was headed straight for certain failure until a talk last night with M put a spotlight on every flaw and hammered out the frame I can hang an actual story on.

And now I'm going to run away to lunch to avoid all the writers yelling "DUH!" at me...
neadods: (Default)
A couple of muddled thoughts on writing that I keep framing in assorted comments, so I'm going to top-post here and let everyone take a pinata-like whack at 'em.

Thought the First: Fanfic vs Profic
This is of immediate import in my life, as am finally making that jump myself. (How is writing like prostitution? First you do it for love, then a few friends, and finally for money.) More discussion on the details later when it's "real." (Read: I'm actually looking at the check.) And among the rest of the writerly jitters, I'm smacking face-first into the one major difference between fanfic and profic: characterization vs. plot.

Now before the comments get filled up with fanficcers protesting that they write complex plots (and many do) and pro writers protesting that they do plenty of characterization (and they do), the point remains that without even discussing plot-what-plot stories, fan writing can usually be summed up as "Character X has an epiphany" while pro fiction can be summed up as "Character X has a quest."

Switching gears is to some degree stripping mine; I have to keep reminding myself that the point of the story is the action and not what the characters think about the action.

Thought the Second: Variety in Villains
This particular post is going to remain spoiler-free, so all I'm going to say is the generic comment that there are persistent rumors regarding which traditional Doctor Who villain will be showing up this season. And I'm pretty pissed about it. I've always felt that villain was overrated and boring. And frankly? We're watching new-new-Who, so a little novelty would be awfully nice. So far, all the Big Bads have smelled faintly of mothballs. Acknowledging the past is great, but we're reaching the point of using it as a crutch.

But this has made me think about villains in general. And I've got a fair amount to say on that subject.

FIRST: I have NEVER liked universes where there is only one Big Bad -- when no matter what the plot is about, it's *always* going to end up being a scheme by the G'ould or the Government Conspiracy or whatever. There is a major failure of storytelling when your plots have fewer variables than the average game of Clue! Fortunately some shows are avoiding that fate: while there is a season arc with a season baddie, not Every! Single! Plot! has to hinge on that baddie. This is cool.

SECOND: I have never been particularly thrilled or chilled by the "I am determined to prove a villain, MWAhahahahaaa!" type of evil for evil's sake. (Particularly when that evil gets a little less evil with every predestined loss to the hero. There comes a point when it's just like "Oh, please, give it UP, you couldn't kill Superman the first 57 times, what makes this different?") Thin motivations - "Batman dropped me in acid and now I'm nutso" or "I'm sick of being in line for the throne, I'm gonna sit IN that throne!" are better than "I'm evil because... well, because I'm evil."

But the *best* villains - and I say this from both the reading and the writing perspective - are the ones who don't think they are villains at all. There's so much scope there! The ones who think the ends justify the means, who are just doing their duty, the ones of dubious loyalty, and best yet, who are bone-deep convinced they are doing right - now THERE'S a plot worth following! Is Wolf a traitor or not? What about Jack Sparrow? What will Yvonne do for Queen and Country and who will pay the price? Which side - Gollum or Smeagol - will win in the end?

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. But after I read a couple of the adult anthologies, I got bored. Someone *always* died. It wasn't suspense, it was 101 Ways To Buy The Farm. The kid anthologies though? Sometimes someone died, sometimes they lived, sometimes it was a pyrric victory. Now THAT'S suspense!

...and I'm supposed to be spending all this typing and energy on the writing that pays, so that's it for now.
neadods: (reading)
Dear Audiobook Author,

I was all excited at the idea of reviewing audiobooks. I could listen to a book while I caught up on sewing, exactly the sort of multi-tasking I like to do. But then I started actually listening and it all started going pear-shaped.

At first I blamed your reader, who care-ful-ly e-nun-ci-a-ted each syl-la-ble, making it sound like the story was being read by Stephen Hawking, or an oddly avuncular dalek. No prose could survive that flattening. (Particularly in comparison to the tie-ins I've just been listening to. Hardly the strongest books in the new Who line, but David Tennant is impressing my socks off with his vocal range.)

But then I realized that it would take a machine to read something that starts as excitingly as:
She could not get rid of those old clothes. The scraps might be used for making a quilt. She could make a quilt for her son. Then she realized that her son was dead, killed in a car accident with his wife. It would be odd to make a quilt for a dead person. People might talk. She could make the quilt for her grandson.

Not even a paragraph into the horror novel and I'm thinking "please let her die horrifically. Soon." I've bitched about this kind of thing before. Unless your name is Terry Pratchett - and he rarely disappoints me this way - if the first paragraph sucks, I'm not sticking around for the second.

Dude! Here are some syllables for you: char·ac·ter·i·za·tion. Or how about plot de·vel·op·ment? ten·sion? I'd even settle for fore·shad·ow·ing.

Mov-ing on,

neadods: (Default)
Reviewing the Evidence has finally updated (link in my LJ). My review for Remains Silent is up.

While Remains got one of my few unqualified raves (go read why), I'm going to take this space to bitch about two things I'm really, really tired of in the genre:

1) Dating the cop. Yes, it's a perfectly good way of dealing with the problem of the police. But when I read three books in a row where the amateur detective solves the case while keeping the real policeman as a personal pet (good for advice and sex, but not good enough to do the job for which he is trained, paid, and has experience), I've read two too many.

2) Everybody is Somebody. Just read a thriller where even the most inconsequentially mentioned character had something major to do with somebody else. Y'know what? I think spy novels are stronger when sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a bystander is just a bystander. Not because "when everyone is somebody than no one's anybody" but because it gets to be too damned obvious. Having the occasional actual bystander leaves the reader guessing. You want the reader guessing in the thriller, not saying "Oh, that guy's gonna show back up by page 200."

2a) Y'know, people can be dedicated to their jobs without having a major relationship fuckup in their past. You don't have to snuff the boyfriend in a terrorist incident to encourage someone to want to work in homeland security. You don't have to kill the parents/spouse/child/best friend to "drive" someone into law enforcement. You don't have to boot a good cop off the force for a stupid reason to "make" them become a private eye. Believe it or not, people can passionately believe in law, order, and security without a Deep Personal Angst.

Y'know why CSI original is more popular than any of the spinoffs? Because in the original CSI, they enjoy their jobs. They have personal lives that involve hobbys and fun as well as disappointments. They love their jobs and love learning and exploring for the sake of learning and exploring. Therefore, they are people that other people want to spend time with on a weekly basis. By making the spinoff characters humorless and driven, they made them less interesting to hang out with.

It's the same with books.
neadods: (Default)
It started as a daydream, then turned into a daydream about story telling, and finally turned into a few sentences that I kinda like, but have no idea what to do with. There's no fanfic use for it and I don't know what professional market would be interested in the final result, whatever that might be:

"Once upon a time is a real time and place, you know. Ask any old person what it was like to live Once Upon a Time and they can tell you. So when I say that this story starts 'once upon a time' you will know that it took place when grandmothers were young and fairy tales themselves were shiney and new.

It starts with a prince, and he was the princeliest prince that ever rode into a story. His father was a great and noble king who ruled all the land from dim blue horizon to deep blue sea. But the King did not rule what was beyond the sea.

And that is where she came from. Some called it the land beyond the sunset. Some called it the land after the edge of the world. But everyone knew it was the land where magic was bottled behind glass in every house, and wonders were as plentiful as kittens."

The images that this spun out of are part of the most narcissic mary sue that ever sued, so THAT story is staying in my head where it belongs. Which means that I have no idea what will happen to *this* prince or who "she" is.
neadods: (Default)
Y'all know I'm a tough reviewer. Between reviewing and burning through the TBR stack, these days a book has pretty much one page to coax me into willingly reading the rest of it, often only one paragraph. And yet - it can be done. I was putty in the hands of Brad Strickland and Thomas Fuller when they spent an adjectival paragraph describing the beauty of the night at the beach, concluding that it would be ever so romantic if only the woman the narrator was with wasn't dead.

But very often the difference between a quick toss or a grumpy review is a single line, that one shining soundbite that sums up the book's tone perfectly and sucks me in. That golden hook that editors and writing teachers tell you to use to reel the reader into the story really does exist.

This is one reader's view of what works and what doesn't.

What NEVER works, ever, are cheerful little physical descriptions (Strickland and Fuller only got away with it because they made me laugh). To make up an example, "Little Milly skipped happily through the town in her new white dress with the red ribbons, singing to herself" is a snoozer. I have no reason to give a rat's ass about Milly, her dress, or the town. If the next sentence is "She was on her way to her Granny's house with a basket full of fresh, hot bread," I've snarled "UGH!" and tossed the book away before I ever got to the second paragraph with the wolf, the teakettle, the 3 rolls of duct tape, and the bottle of strawberry conditioner.

Dialog that is equally unenlightening is equally poisonous. "Has the family come for tea?" "No, not yet." "Well they don't want to be late for my special pie, now do they?" - and again I'm gone before we ever get to the axe and the question of how bloodspatter ended up on the inside of the pantry door.

Admittedly, by this standard I would have never read my childhood favorite, A Wrinkle in Time... but still I want you to give me something, people! Give me something to care about, something that says your book is at least as interesting as the other 100 in the To Be Read stack!

What gets the benefit of the doubt is something that starts in a little bit of action or foreshadowing. Even "Look out!" "What?" "You were about to step in a puddle" will do. Yes, it's a cheap trick, but you've gotten me three lines into the book, and that's more than Muffy got. (For instance, I can't remember the opening line for Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye - but she grabbed me very quickly with "Sharon was a pretty young woman in her mid-thirties, with short blond hair, too much makeup, a recent boob job, and not a clue in sight.")

Sometimes just confusing me counts: "Some things start before other things." The huh? Okay, I'll read more and see if that makes sense. (This is a real quote, BTW. The author is fond of openings like this; another book begins "Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree." One of my all time favorites starts "Now read on" - which is the sort of first line that only being a total fan of the author would let me pass by.)

What works every time? To adapt a phrase from competition costuming, "Descriptive is good, funny is better, descriptive and funny is best." My favorite opening lines, often to my favorite books, are the ones that tell you right up front what you're getting into, both in plot and tone:

"There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he very nearly deserved it." Okay, this is the story of a rotter. Who is he, why is he so awful, and will he get his comeuppance?

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Husband-hunting ahoy!

"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine." ...but she's gonna be one, hook or crook!

"Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it." Jaded but rightous heros can be interesting - far less icky sweet than unjaded ones and less distasteful than unrighteous ones.

"The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry." I defy you not to die of curiousity right now!

The lines don't have to be short, as long as they're descriptive (and funny doesn't hurt):

"Chicago, 1929. There are a thousand stories in the naked city; and when you're a dwarf at four-foot-one, they all look that much taller." It's a dwarf, it's gangster Chicago, and it's not taking itself too seriously.

"When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase, every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no doubt at all that the place was haunted." Headstrong American vs haunt. Make popcorn and settle in for a good fight.

"They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that, in the morning, it will be in a body that is going to be hanged." Who is he, why is he going to be hung? That was enough to get me into the rest of the paragraph, which sealed the deal: "The man going to be hanged had been named Moist von Lipwig by doting if unwise parents, but he was not going to embarrass the name, insofar as that was still possible, by being hung under it. To the world in general, and particularly on that bit of it known as the death warrant, he was Alfred Spangler."

This is what I want. Something that sums up the tone and the plot in a single line. You're gonna do it for the pitch letter, might as well do it in the first paragraph too. (I could imagine that a good opening line suffices for both anyway.)

What opening lines have worked for you, and why?

And bonus quiz - Muffy, the pie, and the puddle aren't real, but all the other quotes are. Guess title and author!


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July 2017



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