Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Opening Hooks Contest

The Reads ...  I just discovered good literary fiction hooks a reader almost as fast as commercial fantasy fiction.  [I know, I'm a slow learner.]  I don't normally read short fiction but The Atlantic Monthly fiction issue and P. N. Elrod's Strange Brew landed on my reading table at the same time.  Then, my brain started bubbling, and I wondered what a bunch of writers might think.   So, a contest based on these two sources:

First, I won the trade paperback, Strange Brew edited by P. N. Elrod over at the Dark Wyrm Reads.  [ http://darkwyrmreads.blogspot.com]  I've been reading stories between the books normally commented on.  If you like contests, the Dark Wyrm Reads is a quick place to located a lot of them.  Also, you can get a quick heads-up on a variety of new fantasy books. 

Second, The Atlantic Fiction 2010 arrived today.  Now, I've always considered fiction in The Atlantic Monthly as literary fiction lite, by definition more entertaining than stories appearing in college literary magazines.  [I may be right or wrong, but that's my view from what little I've read in the genre.]  Whatever, you can probably find a copy on a magazine rack.

You'd think there'd be a major difference in the openings of the two types of stories.  I glanced through the Atlantic stories so see if any interested me.  Some did, and surprised myself by reading some.  So, I thought I'd do my own contest to see how easy it was for you tell the difference between the two types of openings.  Below are the first three sentences of five stories [hopefully without any typos].  Can you guess which ones are fantasy and which ones are literary?  Rules and prize can be found at the end.

A ...This morning, in the dark, my neck sore from sleeping in my son's bed, I stand at my front window with a cup of coffee, wait for the paper, and look out on the neighborhood.  From up the street the Jensen couple walks with their two teen-age sons.  They're dressed in dark colors and avoid walking under the street lamps.

B...My body hit the wooden floor with a loud thud.  I'm not sure if it was the fall that knocked my breath from my chest, or the naked man who landed on top of me.  Either way, I was left lying on the cold floor, blinking up at the ceiling, and trying to drag some air back into my lungs.

C...Hattie met him behind the dye vats, and me, I was forced to come along.  Why did I agree to it?  All-morning whines, whispers, and pinches to the nape of my neck, that's why.

D...Howell was still on the lam.  He'd been a grifter most of his life, a guy without a permanent address.  He had six Social Security cards, seven driver's licenses, a potpourri of voter-registrations cards, bankbooks under a dozen names.

E...The pounding began at 2:11 A. M. and continued until I hauled my weary ass out of bed.  My hand fumbled awkwardly around the nightstand until it finally closed over my gun.  I was fuzzy from the lack of sleep, but I never left my weapon behind these days.

To start the comments:  I read all the pieces before I selected them randomly and just noticed that most of the selections were first person point-of-view.  Another quaint point:  two of the passages have people waking up, something that's supposed to be part of a cliched opening.   Guess if it works, it sells; if it doesn't work, it's a rejected cliche.

The Prize (Re-prizing forward, really):
P. N. Elrond (editor).  Strange Brew.  New York: St Martin's Griffin, 2009. [used]

The Rules:
1.  I'd appreciate knowing which opening hooked you fastest. 
2. For the contest: write the letters in sequence and tell whether you think the opening is literary (L) or fantasy (F) [ ie:  Z = F ] at the end of your comment.
4.  Contest closes at midnight on Saturday, April 24, 2010, USA MDT, and is limited to the USA so I can send the book media mail.
5.  The winner will be drawn from the people who label the most openings correctly (by my definition).
6.  By Monday, April 26, 2010, I'll announce the identity of the winner. 

To End on a Fun Note:
The Kindle has made the comics.  Crankshaft got a Kindle as a gift.  The comic comes from the studio of Tom Batiuk and Tom Ayers and is one of the comics I read -- even before writing.  The series started 20 April 2010.  Follow the fun: http://tinyurl.com/ysszfn

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