The Fiction Toolkit, Part 9
Shelly Lowenkopf -- May 16, 2007
Another in a series of excerpts from Shelly Lowenkopf's forthcoming book, The Fiction Writer's Tool Kit: Terms, Concepts, and Devices for Building a Better Story. In this installment Shelly looks at Opening Velocity, and Detail.
opening velocity -- the sense of engagement and purpose evident in and among the major characters as a story is propelled into motion. A quality of dramatic movement suggesting a story has either begun or is about to.
However literary or elliptical in its basic composition, a story requires a catalyst that informs the activities under investigation and alerts the reader to anticipate dramatic strategies, counterstrategies, opposition, and the need for choice.
A story without opening velocity may not be setting forth where it ought, which is now, in the present moment, with something of consequence being introduced.
Beginnings are not places for footnotes or explanations; they are starting points for an orchestrated series of events calculated to leave the reader with an emotional payoff.
details --the basic components of descriptive writing; may be relevant for dealing with persons, places, and things as well as such abstract constructs as agendas or attitudes.
There are a number of ways to apply details with profitable results. Mystery/suspense writer Leonard Tourney has broken details into ten distinct categories:
- Scenic -- which deals with the ways to set forth a sense of place;
- Distinguishing -- which help readers tell one character from another;
- Evocative -- which often express more than one image;
- Significant -- which foreshadow the future, illuminate the past, or help explain the present;
- Unnecessary -- which, because of other details and action, the reader does not need to know and, in fact, having been told, may become bored;
- Inaccurate -- which challenge the conventional physical and psychological understandings about reality, about how the universe works and animals and humans respond to stimuli (these inaccurate details may also be used to enhance the naïve or unreliable qualities of a narrator;
- Time and motion -- which convey a sense of characters aging and following courses of action, belief, and curiosity;
- Thought and emotion -- which convey how characters think and respond;
- Erotic -- which convey characters' responses to sexual stimuli;
- Metaphor -- which help the author convey experiences and mindsets which may be alien to the reader.
Shelly Lowenkopf's soon-to-be-published The Fiction Writer's Tool Kit: Terms, Concepts, and Devices for Building a Better Story. is more than a lexicon. It defines a conceptual language for thinking about fiction, providing the writer with the tools to raise the level of craftsmanship of his own work.