Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Letters to a Young, Middle-Aged, or Geezer Writer, XXII

A hint of intrigue or mischief.

An outrageous proposal.

Logic, spread thinner than the peanut butter in a cafeteria sandwich.

An ironic comparison between two unlikely bedfellows.

A provocative question.

An introduction to an impending disaster or, to use a currently popular illustration, a train wreck.

All these elements and others like them appear with some regularity at the beginning of stories and essays.

They are components of opening velocity, the energy required to nudge stories, essays, reports, and memoir into sufficient activity and structure to keep them not only moving but interesting.  If there is neither intrigue nor challenge at the beginning, why should we expect it to suddenly spring into life somewhere in the interior?  Your work, without opening velocity, is in its own way a Heart of Darkness.

Opening paragraphs are portals into your inner world, the world that informs who you are, what you write about, and how you write it.  Think carefully about the more virtual portals you have entered in recent days or weeks--years, if you wish, recalling how those portals conveyed some positive or negative feelings to you that influenced your experience inside their boundaries.

Think about how you felt, then ask yourself if you are content with your inner world as it is.  Does the arrangement of the furniture suit you?  Are the pictures hung to your wish.the plants watered?  Is there  enough light?  Perhaps there is a tad too much dust?  Why should we enter your landscape in the first place, then there are so many scarier, pleasant, interesting, challenging others so contrived as to lure us in and serve up refreshments on the family china, brought to mouth with the family silverware.

Opening fucking velocity, your key to story that takes us somewhere.


Storm Dweller said...

I had always heard this velocity, as you call it, referred to as your hook... the device by which you capture your reader and reel them into your world. It's an odd metaphor, though an apt one. It only makes sense if you happen to know the first damned thing about fishing though.

lowenkopf said...

I wonder what Nancy would have thought.

Storm Dweller said...

Nancy thinks that we are over thinking things, and that, for God sakes, we should just frickin' write already, instead of writing about writing! Personally I think Nancy is a bit off her rocker, but don't tell her I said so.

Unknown said...

I understand what you're saying logically but I so prefer writing endings to beginings.

Sherry O'Keefe said...

i'm liking the logic spread thin.