April 2019: What Comes First
~ S.N. McKibben ~
Which comes first when you start a new story? The title? The characters’ names? The plot? Explain your starting process and what you need before you can write the first words.
S.N. McKibben said:
Which comes first? The chicken or the egg question. My answer, the hook.
What’s a hook? It’s the first sentence of the rest of the story. When I have the hook, I have the story. This is what the story is going to be about. In one sentence I’ve told you the beginning, the middle and the end. But you won’t realize it until you reach the last word of the last page.
My mother named me Chamomile, after the taste of my blood.
This is the first sentence of the PNR I’m writing. It may change in grammatical structure, but the meaning will be the same. What’s the story about? If you deconstruct this sentence you know a couple of things.
One, her name is Chamomile. Two, her blood tastes like chamomile tea. Third, this has something to do with vampires. Four, Chamomile could be in mortal danger. You’ll have to read the next sentence to find out.
And there’s the point.
You must read more to know what happens next.
Often times I start out “pantsing” aka no road map to show me the way other than where the characters take me. But before the middle and after the start I begin to wonder where the story is going. More than likely, my sub-conscious knows. But I have to draw it out. I have yet to successfully write an outline at the start from an idea and be able to form a story. The mismatched cobbling of getting to know my characters first and then knowing what the story is about seems to be how I begin a new story. I feel like it’s a hybrid process.
But there’s even a process before the process. Or maybe that’s how I justify my day dreaming. An illustration, a concept, a show, another book or a thousand other things will catch my eye and I’ll start thinking about the image as a character or how the concept would work in real life. Those ideas mull over for six months to as long as a year before I can start the hook. Thus, I should clarify that sitting down and writing a new story is the hook. But starting the process to write is day dreaming.
Day dream. Because you can’t accomplish what you’ve never fully imagined.
When a college professor is blackmailed by a student, he has to walk the fine line of being true to his principles and not letting his bloody secret out.
Dr. John Tennison, professor, physician, and lupus sufferer wakes up every morning and counts his spoons—a measure of how many tasks he feels he can accomplish during his day. One spoon to walk down the stairs, one spoon to teach a class, one spoon to deal with tardy students. Lupus limits him, but he still gives lectures and works at a hospital. He also makes time for friends, and once a week visits Sanguine Loon’s to sate—or subvert—his one strange desire. His nemesis, the one thing besides lupus that keeps him from leading a normal life, is the blood at the bottom of a little paper Dixie cup.
While Tennison’s blood-drinking habit is a secret, it’s well known that he’s the campus asshole and has no tolerance for students who show up late. When he kicks Vogue model Ylati Badashi out of his lecture hall for wandering in ten minutes late, she’s having none of it. She pouts, she seduces, she blackmails, and puts Tennison at odds with his butler, and finally she tells him the truth about why she needs to be in his class.
Tennison is a man of principles, and though he swears he won’t change his mind, he starts to react unexpectedly to Ylati even as he hates her for making him suspicious of his trusted butler. Tennison has to find out where Mitch goes on his nights off and must deal with a budding attraction to a woman he occasionally hates, all while learning new secrets about himself.
It’s going to take a lot of spoons.
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