Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lesson 26: General Story Techniques

Egads! It's August already...The kids start going back to school at the end of the month. Let's hear a shout for all the frazzled moms...School, school, school!

Good Tuesday...I'm ready...I'm ready...I'm ready! Well mostly...I still need to do the book proposal for the manuscript that I'm taking to the
Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference (GPCWC) next week! My best blogging buddy M.C.Pearson (Mimi) and I have been keeping our noses to the grindstone for the last few weeks preparing.

We're going for the whole three days. This will be great fun because we've been friends for about a year and a half. But we live so far away that other than the net and phone calls we've never met face-to-face. And not only that but we'll get to me a lot of our favorite writers...Wahoo! I'm so excited!

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Character Development, now we're moving on to Plot Development! Today's lesson is in Section THREE: General Story Techniques.

Oh, BTW...I've been using this book as a review for the manuscript I just edited, so I had to work ahead of you guys so that I was done by the time I leave for Phila!!

Today we're going to look at First and Last lines. No doubt about it, a great first line pulls us immediately into a story. It hooks. It intrigues. It opens a world in which things already are happening, in which discovery awaits.

Or it can, sadly, lie flat on the page doing nothing helpful all all, merely setting a scene or in some other way getting ready for the story rather than telling it. Weak first lines greet us like a limp handshake.

What makes a first line effective? Part of it would be the intrigue factor. It's the element that makes us wonder..."What does that mean? or "What happens next?...and therefore leads us to the next line where we may find the answer.

All of this usually happens so fast that we don't notice it. In the few seconds it takes to read an opening line, our subconscious minds are already racing ahead!

Just as surely as an intriguing first line can draw, a stunning exit sentence can propel a reader onward in wonder...wondering perhaps, when your next novel will be out!

Have you yet reached the last line of your current novel? If you have, go back. If you haven't, pause when you get there. Take the time to get your last line just right. Whether it leads forward or lifts our spirits or softly closes a door. Make it a line we will remember...Especially when we see your next novel on the bookstore shelves!

Step 1: What is the intrigue factor in your opening line? What question does it pose, or what puzzle does it present?

Step 2:If you are not able to answer the question in the first step, try shortening your first line. If that doesn't work, audition your second line for the lead spot. Or combine elements from your first paragraph into one short, supercharged sentence. Whatever you do, choose or construct a different first line.

Note: the one thing that all good first lines have in common is the intrigue factor.

Follow-up: Work on your last line until it has wit, a touch of poetry, or a sense of dawning peace. Try it out on others!

Conclusion: Whether it is a sigh of satisfaction, a soaring passage of word art, or nothing more than a clever exit line, put the same effort into your last line as went into your first. A book needs front and back covers to hold together; in the same way a novel needs strong brackets to bind it!

This next little story is not a joke, but a memory of says gone by...So shoot me, I'm old. I like this kinda'' stuff!

I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples That had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch,
waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that "old-time apron" that served so many purposes.

Send this to those who would know, and love the story about Grandma's aprons.


Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.
Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.


  1. Anonymous said...
    Thanks, Bonnie. You just gave me a loving moment of thinking about my sorely missed Grandmothers.
    M. C. Pearson said...
    Sorry, didn't realize that Dave was signed in when I posted that...so I deleted it.

    Here it is again:

    HEY! Where's your FIRST post?

    Can't wait for the conference!
    M. C. Pearson said...
    PS...loved the story about the aprons. Are you sending that in for the contest?
    Bernita said...
    Beautiful thing about aprons. And so true.
    Got the first lines bit down.
    Not sure yet about the last.
    Rulan said...
    I bet you and mimi are excited.
    Great lesson.
    David Meigs said...
    Great lesson once again.

    I hope you find a lot of interest in you MS at the conference. Which one are you taking?
    Denise McDonald said...
    I use my apron when I cut the boys hair - to keep it off of me - so they run scraming when they see it - LOL
    Denise McDonald said...
    OH and you guys have fun at the confernce - there is no excitement like being around other great writers!
    Maxine Clarke said...
    Over here, they don't go back to school until September.

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