azurite: Part of the "What Doesn't Kill You" series of fanfic icons (wdky (general))
[personal profile] azurite
At one of the Borders Going Out of Business sales (*sigh*) I got a book I'd been eyeing before, "The Daily Writer," by Fred White. It's got a lot of daily prompts that should encourage you to write, but what I find interesting about it is that they're not just phrases or interesting facts or pictures or things like that--it's a short "study" on something, like experiences and how they affect your character, or what fantasy and magic do for us as humans.

On August 9, the topic was "The Opening Sentence," and on August 10, I actually cracked open my notebook while riding on the bus to work and started writing. I have a lot of opening sentences from various works--fiction and non, fanfic and original--but because it's my current project that I am Trying To Get Done Already, I focused on "What Doesn't Kill You."

The activity asked readers to write 10 openings for an already "finished" story (which WDKY technically isn't; I haven't written the end of it yet, but the beginning is pretty much set in stone), and 10 for a story that is simply "in the works," or being planned.

I didn't quite get around to that part of the activity yet, but I might shortly.

In the meantime, what the entry on opening sentences, their impact and their purpose, had on me while riding the bus:

Some people think the first line of a story carries a lot of weight, because it's the hook, the thing that sets the tone and lays the foundation for the reader's expectations.

Other people think it's just the first line, and it can only do so much. Of course, a first sentence can be long or short, dialogue or narrative, ordinary or thought-provoking.

Using my "baby" project as an example ("baby" used in the sense of "precious," not size in terms of word count or chapters), WDKY opens with Téa saying farewell to her friends. I was trying to establish an ordinary day in the lives of these people that somehow get caught in plots for world domination, where ancient spirits inhabit magical items and cards/monsters are both a link to and a representation of one's soul.

What do they do in their off-time? Do any of them expect to get caught in another "mess," the way most superheroes must? Surely they had hopes or dreams before all "that" happened--have they changed, and how?

So I focused on Téa, who's got this clearly-defined dream of being a dancer, of going to America to study dance. But she's a "sidekick" character; she's an outspoken female in a group of guys, a girl who's feminine in some ways and tomboyish in others.

She tries to "live in their world" and be a good person, a good friend, but that means putting a part of herself--an important part, no less important than those that make her loyal and fierce--on the back burner.

In a society where studying your way to success is the norm, liking or wanting to pursue arts or anything regarded as "playful" is generally (stereotypically) frowned upon. That which is popular (manga, video games, voice acting, becoming an idol) doesn't necessarily last, even if it can or does make money.

I gave Téa parents that she believes are typical workaholics in an office, doing boring, repetitive work. She never bothers to find out otherwise, and they don't try to change her mind. But she's a persistent girl, in an admirable way, and they don't want to change that when it's done so much for her (made her friends, helped her do things she wouldn't have done otherwise, strive for a dream). So they can't risk her suddenly or somehow being interested in what they really do and who they work for. If she did find out, it would put a whole lot of people--herself included--in danger.

They lie by discouraging her from her dreams, doing enough to make her angry at them, to not want to be around, to investigate, to care about what they do, because to Téa, it couldn't possibly be fulfilling or "lift the spirit."

What Téa thinks of as "ordinary" between epic duels is abruptly shaken by "real life," where drama has less to do with cards, monsters, and world domination and more to do with politics, money, and betrayal by people.

Of course, nothing is what it seems, and it's not as if world domination plots just stop because Téa's going through non-card game-relayed drama...

This is the crux of WDKY, or at least what I tried to convey. I think lots of stories begin with something ordinary only to shatter that expectation. I mean, what in any anime or manga series is ever ordinary compared to Real Life™? What did these characters' "real lives" look like before adventure intruded, and will it ever be that way again?

Some stories begin with the unexpected, the extraordinary (even for that world), but I find you have to backtrack to explain things. "In media res" can be exciting and interesting, but any beginning, even if it's beginning in the middle-is still a selected point of entry and "the end" is just where you choose to stop showing things. Nothing is really over until it's "over," and what does that even mean? Just because a character dies doesn't mean "the story" is over. There are plenty of stories that opt to explore just that!
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