Editor Victoria Mixon is back with us today to share an excerpt from her book for writers, Art & Craft of Writing: Secret Advice for Writers. Written for her blog over the years as Victoria’s editing business blossomed, this advice is now collected into one place—for free.
Four Post-Its to Post Over Our Desks
- “What if. . .”
Let’s write down the “what if?” premise of a story. Then every time we look up, pondering where to go in a difficult scene, we will be re-oriented on our chosen path, kept within the bounds of the story that we intend to tell. We’ll make sure that there is not only an initial premise, but also a problem with that initial premise:
What if 1950s hair-dryers were the doorways to an almost-identical parallel universe where the truth floats in the air over people’s heads whenever they lie—but everyone arrives there hair-first, so when more than one person arrives at once the truths get mixed up when they collide?
1950s hairdryers = parallel universe of truth-words collisions
What if the world were secretly populated by a super-intelligent race that lives in fire and speaks a fire language that sounds to us just like popping and crackling, and forest fires were the result of psychotic episodes among the powerful politicians of their species? And the plucky members of a backwoods volunteer fire department discover this secret just in time to learn that the fire creatures have decided to wipe out humanity and start over again with a less dangerous species—but the fire chief is in the throes of an identity crisis in which they question the destructive influence of humans upon the earth?
Fire race apocalypse vs. environmental despair of fire chief
What if dogs were secret agents with the ability to solve international crime if they could only be distracted from sniffing each others’ tails all the time? And they were now, decades after Eisenhower first warned Americans to beware the military-industrial complex, finally positioned to reveal the source of evil that has been chiseling away all this time at American political stability—but the evil-doers have concocted a special drug to put into the agents’ food that make their own tails crack-level addictive to sniff?
Check Fido’s food for weird drugs!
- “My protagonist needs. . .”