Apr 18 2016

#atozchallenge O is for Orson Scott Card #Writing Openings #WriteTip Beginnings @orsonscottcard

The craft of fiction writing is the Theme for the #atozchallenge 2016 on the blog of @JLenniDorner
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26 writing reference books containing 26 lessons leads to a month of #WriteTips and writing samples

Scent #quote James Andrew Crosby image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

O is for “Orson”
Book: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
My dice roll: 95
Lesson: Beginnings of novels

Beginnings of novels must reveal information that promises an interesting story. Concepts introduced should be relevant to the whole story, not trivial information. The immediate situation should be clear.

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It was the smell that made him do it. Xavier’s nose was attacked as he stepped out of his Manhattan office building onto the bustling sidewalk of Madison Avenue. It wasn’t a food smell, or one found in nature, or even a kind of perfume. The athletic, agile man tripped twice as he swam through the crowd to find the source of this scent. Not the hotdog cart. Not the bouquets of flowers. Not the tall, unnaturally blonde woman wearing Chanel No 5 (and little else). It was a scent he knew but couldn’t place. The smell was like a migraine trigger, except his head didn’t ache with pain.

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Xavier discovered the smell by accident, and it caused him to act out of character. Xavier’s nose suffered from the attack as he stepped out of one of the Manhattan buildings he owned, into the five o’clock crowd of the Madison Avenue sidewalk. The smell did not match a food, or one found in nature, or even a kind of perfume. The man’s biceps flexed when his dancer’s reflexes failed as he tripped twice while swimming through the crowd to find the source of this scent. He knew the scent but could not recall from where or what. The smell took over his brain like a migraine, except his head didn’t ache with pain. Could he follow his nose to find a way to prevent the apocalypse?

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1- Is it clear that the immediate situation is that Xavier has to find the source of a certain smell, and that both his conscience and subconscious mind are locked into it as urgent and important?

2- Is that situation powerful? Have you ever needed to know where a scent or sound came from, and that need felt urgent and important?

3- Do you prefer the scene with or without the list of smells that it is not? (Not the hotdog cart. Not the bouquets of flowers. Not the tall, unnaturally blonde woman wearing Chanel No 5 (and little else). )

4- Do you know what city this story is set in?

5- Have you concluded that Xavier is wealthy and physically fit?

6- Is some or all of the rewrite an improvement, in your opinion?

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  1. Deepti Agrawal

    amazing writing tips.. thnx a lot..

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  2. Juneta

    This is one I don’t have I will have to put on my list for my book collection. Thanks for the list
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit
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  3. Arlee Bird

    I like how the story example is set in Manhattan. I guess I’m not very perceptive when it comes to pinpointing the best writing. I would have been happy with the first sample as it sounded really good to me. That first one seemed to have a lot of detail. The second one delved into the character to a greater extent. Actually I guess I’m good with either one.
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  4. C.Lee McKenzie

    This really made me curious about what that smell could possibly be!
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  5. Sudha

    Yes, definitely a more intriguing re-write. Cheers! Sudha from
    Everyday Muse
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  6. LilyElement

    Sharing! I enjoy your writing advice.
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  7. Misha

    I didn’t know he wrote a book on writing. Interesting… 😀
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  8. Anne Knol

    How could I have forgotten how great Orson Scott Card’s advice is! Must dust him off and reread. 🙂

    @AnneKnol1 from
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  9. Tarkabarka

    For some reason the opening line of the first version works better for me. But it is interesting to compare both!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary
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