Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby E.CaimanSands » Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:12 am

Ishmael wrote:
You see, some people like the slow burner, but Dave does not appear to be one. They do tell me it's a European writing trait and makes it harder for Europeans to sell in the US until they learn not to do it. This being the case, you might want to try something like Black Static.

wotf017


Yes, I've heard this kind of thing too. Certainly so far I've had a lot more luck in Australia and Canada than in the US. Which maybe isn't surprising as really most of my favourite SF writers are Brits or Australians. I've entered the Baen contest for the first time this year, but honestly, I don't think I'd ever make a Baen writer. I love JG Ballard for heavens sakes. wotf019
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby amoskalik » Wed Jan 28, 2015 5:23 am

Ishmael wrote:
Isto wrote: It begins quite 'normally' and gets weird later. Thanks for the input.


You see, some people like the slow burner, but Dave does not appear to be one. They do tell me it's a European writing trait and makes it harder for Europeans to sell in the US until they learn not to do it. This being the case, you might want to try something like Black Static.

wotf017


I'm not so sure it's Dave's personal taste so much as the requirement of reading thousands of stories in a short time. Under those circumstances, a front loaded story has the advantage.

Personally, I am somewhat of an impatient reader these days. I wasn't when I was a kid. I guess I had more free-time back then. Maybe that explains the US vs. European schism, we get a lot less vacation time ...
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Isto » Wed Jan 28, 2015 6:06 am

Ishmael wrote:
Isto wrote: It begins quite 'normally' and gets weird later. Thanks for the input.


You see, some people like the slow burner, but Dave does not appear to be one. They do tell me it's a European writing trait and makes it harder for Europeans to sell in the US until they learn not to do it. This being the case, you might want to try something like Black Static.

wotf017


That may explain a lot. I read primarily British literature even when I was young. Just couldn't warm up to the Mark Twains of the world. My sister and I even had our favorite historical subjects (hers Richard III and mine T.E. Lawrence). I've always wondered why nearly every crime show starts out with the murder instead of building anticipation of it. Anticipation gives you two guesses... who will get whacked and who did it. I will certainly look up Black Static. Thank you!
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Isto » Wed Jan 28, 2015 6:29 am

E.CaimanSands wrote:
Ishmael wrote:
You see, some people like the slow burner, but Dave does not appear to be one. They do tell me it's a European writing trait and makes it harder for Europeans to sell in the US until they learn not to do it. This being the case, you might want to try something like Black Static.

wotf017


Yes, I've heard this kind of thing too. Certainly so far I've had a lot more luck in Australia and Canada than in the US. Which maybe isn't surprising as really most of my favourite SF writers are Brits or Australians. I've entered the Baen contest for the first time this year, but honestly, I don't think I'd ever make a Baen writer. I love JG Ballard for heavens sakes. wotf019


So, I'm taking away from all this that the story should start hot and fast and make a descriptive cavalry charge straight to the end. No "speculation", but an assault of the senses and a rush? Or is that going too far? wotf017

Only once have I explored non-US markets, but will certainly take another look. Good luck with Baen. wotf007
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby E.CaimanSands » Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:05 am

Isto wrote:
E.CaimanSands wrote:
Ishmael wrote:
You see, some people like the slow burner, but Dave does not appear to be one. They do tell me it's a European writing trait and makes it harder for Europeans to sell in the US until they learn not to do it. This being the case, you might want to try something like Black Static.

wotf017


Yes, I've heard this kind of thing too. Certainly so far I've had a lot more luck in Australia and Canada than in the US. Which maybe isn't surprising as really most of my favourite SF writers are Brits or Australians. I've entered the Baen contest for the first time this year, but honestly, I don't think I'd ever make a Baen writer. I love JG Ballard for heavens sakes. wotf019


So, I'm taking away from all this that the story should start hot and fast and make a descriptive cavalry charge straight to the end. No "speculation", but an assault of the senses and a rush? Or is that going too far? wotf017



Well, I don't know about that, but I certainly think David values a strong plot, which has traditionally been a weak area for me. I'm getting better at that now though, which is probably why I'm now getting more HMs than Rs once again.

Not that I don't think that a story with a weak plot can't still be good, it's just a different kind of story. Other markets might take it.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:44 am

Isto wrote:
E.CaimanSands wrote:
Ishmael wrote:
You see, some people like the slow burner, but Dave does not appear to be one. They do tell me it's a European writing trait and makes it harder for Europeans to sell in the US until they learn not to do it. This being the case, you might want to try something like Black Static.

wotf017


Yes, I've heard this kind of thing too. Certainly so far I've had a lot more luck in Australia and Canada than in the US. Which maybe isn't surprising as really most of my favourite SF writers are Brits or Australians. I've entered the Baen contest for the first time this year, but honestly, I don't think I'd ever make a Baen writer. I love JG Ballard for heavens sakes. wotf019


So, I'm taking away from all this that the story should start hot and fast and make a descriptive cavalry charge straight to the end. No "speculation", but an assault of the senses and a rush? Or is that going too far? wotf017

Only once have I explored non-US markets, but will certainly take another look. Good luck with Baen. wotf007


Not necessarily. There have been plenty of stories that have been moderately paced. I don't have the latest volume in front of me, but I can think of a couple that were like that (the one about the girl on the caravan and the cyborg that paints).
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:34 am

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:
Isto wrote:So, I'm taking away from all this that the story should start hot and fast and make a descriptive cavalry charge straight to the end. No "speculation", but an assault of the senses and a rush? Or is that going too far? wotf017

Only once have I explored non-US markets, but will certainly take another look. Good luck with Baen. wotf007


Not necessarily. There have been plenty of stories that have been moderately paced. I don't have the latest volume in front of me, but I can think of a couple that were like that (the one about the girl on the caravan and the cyborg that paints).


But I think Dave wants there to be a problem right up front. Often not THE problem, but A problem that will challenge the character. It might be small, but it should matter to that character, because that helps the reader to know and sympathize with the character. If the opening is nothing more than a woman going about her normal day in her enchanted forest where she lives on berries that grow from her dreams every night, that's an interesting idea (I hope), but nothing's happening. But now have her hungrily scrounging because no berries grew last night because she tossed and turned with worry and never dreamed. You have the same interesting idea, but now she has a challenge: finding food when she's used to just picking it. And there's ominous foreshadowing: why couldn't she sleep last night? Does she know there's trouble coming? Or maybe sense it? Or...? And what will she find while foraging? The small conflict leads into the large.

(Free story seed for anyone who wants it. I'm too busy for fantasy right now. I would love to see what someone who's better at fantasy than me could do with it.)
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Isto » Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:40 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:
ThomasKCarpenter wrote:
Isto wrote:So, I'm taking away from all this that the story should start hot and fast and make a descriptive cavalry charge straight to the end. No "speculation", but an assault of the senses and a rush? Or is that going too far? wotf017

Only once have I explored non-US markets, but will certainly take another look. Good luck with Baen. wotf007


Not necessarily. There have been plenty of stories that have been moderately paced. I don't have the latest volume in front of me, but I can think of a couple that were like that (the one about the girl on the caravan and the cyborg that paints).


But I think Dave wants there to be a problem right up front. Often not THE problem, but A problem that will challenge the character. It might be small, but it should matter to that character, because that helps the reader to know and sympathize with the character. If the opening is nothing more than a woman going about her normal day in her enchanted forest where she lives on berries that grow from her dreams every night, that's an interesting idea (I hope), but nothing's happening. But now have her hungrily scrounging because no berries grew last night because she tossed and turned with worry and never dreamed. You have the same interesting idea, but now she has a challenge: finding food when she's used to just picking it. And there's ominous foreshadowing: why couldn't she sleep last night? Does she know there's trouble coming? Or maybe sense it? Or...? And what will she find while foraging? The small conflict leads into the large.

(Free story seed for anyone who wants it. I'm too busy for fantasy right now. I would love to see what someone who's better at fantasy than me could do with it.)


And that's why you are my guru. wotf009 I see the difference there. In my rejected story, the setting is quite normal (no spaceships, no enchanted forests or castles). My character believes she is cursed. When she explains
to her confidant why, she expects to be called insane. Instead, he believes her. Then the curse strikes again...etc.
As I look at my description and put myself in an editor's place, this beginning could be mainstream, horror, fantasy, mystery, or something else. Your description is clearly fantasy. No ambiguity about that.

The other potential submission I'm working on is clearly futuristic, though located on Earth. I have the beginning out to a reader right now, to see if it is in the ballpark. I'm confident he will know. If it looks like it still needs a lot of alteration, I have another idea I can work on. (NO, not yours above wotf019). Thanks for the input.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby amoskalik » Wed Jan 28, 2015 5:35 pm

Isto wrote: In my rejected story, the setting is quite normal (no spaceships, no enchanted forests or castles). My character believes she is cursed. When she explains
to her confidant why, she expects to be called insane. Instead, he believes her. Then the curse strikes again...etc.
As I look at my description and put myself in an editor's place, this beginning could be mainstream, horror, fantasy, mystery, or something else. Your description is clearly fantasy. No ambiguity about that.


I believe my Q4 story was rejected early on for a similar reason. Dave stated somewhere that the milieu should be made clear very early on in the story, so not only what genre but other aspects of setting and tone. In my story, I didn't really accomplish this until page 6 or 7. He wrote a kick about this shortly after my submission, and I knew I was toast for that quarter.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Elen Tel'Ithil » Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:25 pm

Interesting story idea, Martin...I'm already picturing the enchanted forest she lives in... I currently have way too many story ideas kicking around in my head, waiting for parole, but this one's now getting tossed in with the other inmates. Who knows if it'll ever make it back out again? wotf004
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Ishmael » Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:05 am

Ah, but as Aristotle says, 'Hope is a waking dream."

wotf005 I just thought I'd mention that. Nobody's mentioned Aristotle around here for a very long time.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Jan 29, 2015 12:40 pm

Ishmael wrote:Ah, but as Aristotle says, 'Hope is a waking dream."

wotf005 I just thought I'd mention that. Nobody's mentioned Aristotle around here for a very long time.

Allow me:

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya'
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates himself was permanently pissed...

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away;
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: "I drink, therefore I am"
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed!

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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Brydar » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:38 pm

Probably should have read this sooner and before submitting. Can I say there was a method to my madness in writing in the manner I wrote my SS? wotf007
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Ishmael » Sat Mar 14, 2015 3:25 am

wotf006

Being an incorrigible pedant, and finding Socrates disparaged twice in consecutive posts herein above, I feel obliged to mention the great sage's final words as reported by Plato in the Phaedo (Jowett translation.).

"...he said: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to
pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything
else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a
movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were
set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend, whom I may truly call
the wisest, and justest, and best of all the men whom I have ever
known."


Which is to say, being neither pissed nor upset, Socrates wished to sacrifice to the god Asclepius in thanks for his peaceful passing, he having previously sent away the women and scolded the men for weeping for him.

Having said which, I may possibly have also contrived to explain why a person with such a giant intellect as mine has yet to win WotF! wotf016
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Brydar » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:40 am

Ishmael wrote:
"...he said: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to
pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything
else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a
movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were
set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.


I have read variations of the above last words however most scholars believe the words you listed to be closest. If one examines inputs from Nietzsche the humor of Socrates statement, if it was intended as humor, of life being a disease was aptly suggested since Asclepius was the god of medicine. However my question would be; did Socrates raise the glass or perform some other symbolic gesture before drinking?
My signature comment is taken from the comedy movie, "Real Genius" with Val Kilmer. I make the assumption that your statement that I am one of Socrates detractors is humor on your part. BTW, I read the Old Man on the Green which I found to be most interesting, but there were so many big words I had to look up. wotf008
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Ishmael » Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:05 am

Brydar wrote:I make the assumption that your statement that I am one of Socrates detractors is humor on your part. BTW, I read the Old Man on the Green which I found to be most interesting, but there were so many big words I had to look up. wotf008


Oh, I'm just sensitive. To me the teaching of philosophy should be fundamental to education, since its unique role is teaching students how to think rather than what. This means that, unlike other subjects, philosophy does not require the student to learn a lot of 'facts' before thinking can be commenced, its skills are universally transferable and it has been profitably introduced even in early elementary school.

Unfortunately not everyone in the educational establishment is well informed about the true nature of the subject. There are those who believe it is all about learning what some long-dead Greeks said. I tend to bridle at things that I deem likely to further that misconception and consequent unfortunate decisions.

So please forgive any offence caused. wotf008

I'm glad you liked 'The Old Man'. I hadn't actually noticed any long words, so perhaps I need to read it again!
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Brydar » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:27 pm

Ishmael, can I call you Ishmael? Yeah I know you have probably read that many times. I was not offended at all, however I still felt the need to change one of my signature comments because it had been up since I joined about a month ago.
I was joking about the 'big words', albeit I am sure there are some individuals who may find a few terms in the story needing translation. With the computer age and the aspects built into Kindle, Nook, and other e-reading devices all one need do is touch a button and have the term explained. Sad that in this day and age we are not required to expand our vocabulary in order to comprehend terminology.
I was talking with a friend who is about to write a SF SS and the character in question speaks in Ebonics. Some of the phrases need to be explained to me. He is a very talented writer and I do not know how such dialogue might be received in this contest. What do you think on the Ebonics, would it be considered a foreign language and rejected outright? What about spell casting words based on Latin terms? I have a fantasy story I am fleshing out for Q4 in case I do not win in Q2 or Q3. There is not a vast number of spells cast in my story, out of an 8,000 word SS spell casting verbiage amounts to perhaps 100 - 120 words.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby amoskalik » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:13 pm

Brydar wrote:I was talking with a friend who is about to write a SF SS and the character in question speaks in Ebonics. Some of the phrases need to be explained to me. He is a very talented writer and I do not know how such dialogue might be received in this contest. What do you think on the Ebonics, would it be considered a foreign language and rejected outright? What about spell casting words based on Latin terms?


Giving a character a unique voice is a good thing, but readability is of equal if not more importance. Just like when you give a character a brogue for instance. The goal is to give the flavor, not to faithfully reproduce the exact pronunciation. As long as the reader can figure out what is going on, they need not know the exact meaning of every word.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Ishmael » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:15 pm

Brydar wrote:Sad that in this day and age we are not required to expand our vocabulary in order to comprehend terminology.


An important point for us as writers too. When I studied to be a Swahili translator, I was told that for practical purposes I could be fluent in the language with a vocabulary of 2,000 words. I don't know how that compares with English, but even a working vocabulary of 10,000 English words would leave a reader lacking a good 95% of the language. Of course he will recognise a lot more words than he uses in his working vocabulary, but nevertheless a writer with a graduate or postgraduate standard of education is likely to use in his regular language a considerable number of words that many readers won't know. The clever trick is remembering which ones they are!

Brydar wrote:What do you think on the Ebonics, would it be considered a foreign language and rejected outright? What about spell casting words based on Latin terms?


I am insufficiently familiar with this dialect to know how much is different vocabulary and how much is just intonation and pronunciation. I speak Tyke (Broad Yorkshire) but I would not expect to get away with writing stories in it. This is because it is effectively a separate language from English, strongly influenced by Old Norse and Old English whereas modern English incorporates a lot more Latin and Norman-French vocabulary.

I got away with elements of Lincolnshire dialect in 'Old Man', but only because I kept Joseph's statements short, I think. Also I only used an indication of variant pronunciation, as Aaron suggests, rather than making any significant use of dialect words.

Personally I hate it when writers pepper their work with large numbers of made up words. Just because the Grzzxhi call cows przti and meadows arkchxxtrp I do not need to be told that the przti were grazing in the Grzzxhi arkchxxtrp. The cows were in the meadow will do fine. Now a few made up magic words may well give good flavour; a whole lot will just irritate the reader, I suspect.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Brydar » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:42 pm

Technological terms are also a possible hazard. Acronyms can be an issue in stories if what is happening or being discussed in dialogue is unclear. For example if someone were to mention ED as an acronym for Electronic Device, however ED is also an acronym for Erectile Dysfunction, and I am sure many other things. DSL for Digital Satellite Link, TDR for a Time Domain Reflectometer, DAMM for a Digital Analog Multimeter, etc...
I am sure some folks use acronym's in stories - am I correct in that assumption? I typically identify whatever the item is by the complete and proper name and follow up on the subject in another sentence using its acronym.
As an example: Bob pulled out the Time Domain Reflectometer to check the cable. On the small screen of the TDR any spike would indicate a break in the line and show exactly how many feet down the break was located.
Using an acronym for such a long nomenclature makes for easier reading, right? If Bob is going to be using the TDR more than once in the story it could be annoying to read the items name over and over.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Brydar » Mon Mar 16, 2015 3:13 am

Ishmael wrote:Personally I hate it when writers pepper their work with large numbers of made up words. Just because the Grzzxhi call cows przti and meadows arkchxxtrp I do not need to be told that the przti were grazing in the Grzzxhi arkchxxtrp. The cows were in the meadow will do fine. Now a few made up magic words may well give good flavour; a whole lot will just irritate the reader, I suspect.


I agree; however if I am writing about a race of reptilians I cannot very well call them Steve or Maria. I have written some SF stories about other races where the names of individuals and some items were obviously strange but the dialogue was not. Nomenclature for weaponry might be different but I typically relate it to what readers will understand. The Xyzzy pistols, rifles, and starship mounted weapons function using highly focused light rays whose effects are as deadly as the human lasers. I may or may not use the Xyzzy name again unless starship combat might be confusing writing about one ships laser firing at another ships hull. That is unless I have named the ships or identify the ship as belonging to the race of the Ssss't. Then we fall into that situation you mentioned above if strange terminology is abused. "Ssstak was captain of the Ssss't ship whose Xyzzy weapons were destroyed in the first exchange of fire." Where I could have simply stated, "The captain of the Ssss't ship was frustrated by his weapons being destroyed in the first exchange of fire."
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby ZombieWife » Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:09 am

My finalist entry was pretty leisurely paced, but I had some nice descriptive elements going on and the hook was stated, if not shown in media res.

This quarter, my hook is right there in the first paragraph. There is a failed action. Then a tiny bit of backstory/world-building, then right into a try/fail cycle. I really tried to write this story with try/fail cycles in mind because I'd never really thought of that before.

What is really disheartening is that I spent 7+ years in academia, learning English and creative writing. And never have I heard about scene and structure the way Dave spells it out. I wish I had this tool a decade ago. I found that writing with try/failing in mind kept my character on target and really helped with plotting.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby T. R. Napper » Thu Mar 19, 2015 12:04 am

For my winning entry, the actual 'hook' didn't come until the end of the story. Though the reader is immersed in an unfamiliar environment from the first sentence and the tension rises pretty quickly.

Starve Better by Nick Mamatas, which has a bunch of collected essays about writing, has an interesting take on the hook. He argues it doesn't need to come in the first paragraph. Rather, the opening of a short story: “should assure the reader they are in a capable pair of hands. The beginning of the story should tantalize, not hook, the reader.

I quite like that advice.
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby Brydar » Thu Mar 19, 2015 2:20 am

T. R. Napper wrote:For my winning entry, the actual 'hook' didn't come until the end of the story. Though the reader is immersed in an unfamiliar environment from the first sentence and the tension rises pretty quickly.

Starve Better by Nick Mamatas, which has a bunch of collected essays about writing, has an interesting take on the hook. He argues it doesn't need to come in the first paragraph. Rather, the opening of a short story: “should assure the reader they are in a capable pair of hands. The beginning of the story should tantalize, not hook, the reader.

I quite like that advice.

I have done both in stories applying a hook at the beginning to garner interest and... well... not really a hook but the twist of why everything rollercoastered throughout the story upto the end. So I am not sure you would call my twist / surprise at the end a hook. I would say the end of story hook, or in this case close to the end of story hook, would be like what happened in the movie 'The Sixth Sense' I, like others, did not figure it out until quite a bit into the movie. To me 'The Sixth Sense' was enticing throughout. Would that be a good analogy of a hook at the end?
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Re: Dave Wolverton's 10 reasons why he rejects a story

Postby LDWriter2 » Sat Apr 23, 2016 7:26 pm

Evidently it's been a while since anyone posted in this thread even though some comments along these lines have been made in other threads.


Anyway I was reading Dave's latest Kick-What does your story accomplish? Two things to say about it. First he started by saying that he was during the second reading for WotF he thought of something. I though whoa he is that far? But second look and he said for Q1, Oh.. Of course.


Second thing. He talked of upping it-complicating the story-and bringing something new to an old setting. I have been working on both of those for the last dozen stories at least. Obviously not getting very far with either. Working on description and bringing the setting to life. Ditto with my last comment.

Lastly he mentined making the other characters stronger.

With my last story to WotF-the one I got so worked up about its rejection-I did worked on those last couple of things. But I got told that a lot of that setting wasn't needed. And even though no one said it specifically I took out the stuff that made one side character stronger because there was too much stuff not needed.

Okay the chapter thing means I need to do a bit of work on my current story. I won't say how many characters there are but the bad guy needs some strengthening. I did some work on one character though. I also worked on setting and describing action already. We will see if this time I got it right.
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