This past week I’ve been busy judging an “opening chapters” writing contest. I enjoy judging for several reasons–not least of which is reading new authors and later learning whether my opinion of talent is reflected in the listing of finalists (gratifying in its own way). It’s also an opportunity on a craft level to recognize what works and what doesn’t.
Without naming names or divulging plot specifics, I’d like to talk about how the openings of the entries I’ve read this year are working for me or not. Just my opinion here; take it for what it’s worth.
First of all, nothing loses me more quickly than huge gaps in logic. A pair of sisters turn a persistent refulgent green in 1405, but they aren’t ostracized or cast out of the country or burned at the stake for witchcraft when they’re still green five years later? Hmm. (No, that wasn’t an actual plot, but I read one that was close.) Now, I can suspend my belief in a fantasy-type book and allow that people may turn green via some wicked-witch curse or whatever, but I can’t swallow putting aberrant characters in a real-world situation without real-world consequences. Likewise, I need to believe in a relationship’s progression, whether the relationship is between strangers, family members, lovers or even man and nature.
Making me believe in a story is the first step to making me care about it. Making me care about it is instrumental to making me want to continue reading it. [Read more…]