The example I gave, Shakedown by Elizabeth Gonzalez, had a fairly traditional narrative structure. While it wasn’t clear how the two storylines would interact, at first, it was an easy-to-read story.
Steal the first line of your favorite book and write a totally different story
- Don’t agonize about your ‘favorite’ book. Just go to the shelf and pick one.
- Type out the first line and then think of ways you can take that introduction in completely different directions.
- Read Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Lady Astronaut of Mars, for an example of how you might do this. Or listen to the audio collection it comes from.
- Consider writing a tiny, flash-fiction story that you can start and finish today.
- If you’re brave enough, post your story in the comments.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels and the a three time Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.
We’re rounding out our month with a multiple-award winning, working writer’s advice to take a look at scenes (or stories) from another angle. It seems to be working for her, so let’s give it a try! Thanks for sharing, Mary!
Take the last scene [or story – Ed.] that you wrote. Now rewrite it from the point of view of a secondary character. You have to keep all the physical actions and dialog in the same order, but make it clear what is at stake for the new POV character. Why do they say the things they do? What are they trying to achieve?
Now go back to your original scene [or story – Ed.] and adjust it to incorporate the new things you’ve learned about your secondary character.
Often when a scene seems flat, it’s because we haven’t thought through the motivations of any of the people in the scene except the point of view character.
Work the words vermillion and musky somewhere in the next 250 words you write.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the GLAMOURIST HISTORIES series of historical fantasy novels, and the 2011 Hugo Award-winning short story “For Want of a Nail.” Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Cosmos and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.