REBLOG: A Warning Sign You’re Suffering From Culture-Blindness
Victor makes a very good point here, though I’m not sure what stuff he’s reading that starts like a slug…maybe that old-timey “Classic” lit. What you read certainly does have an effect on how you write and it is very good advice to make sure you stay aware of what current readers expect and demand. Twain is great in its original form, but it would be very different if the man was writing today. Market context is key.
Today’s readers (and perhaps to a more significant extent, publishers and editors) expect you to grab them with your first paragraphs, if not sentences. The shorter the piece is, the faster it needs to get rolling. With flash, your first sentences not only need to be active, they also need to setup the story in a significant way.
I will admit that I, too, don’t give stories much of a chance if they don’t hook me right away. There’s just so much content out there these days that there is no reason for a reader no to be picky. It’s not like a hundred years ago when you had to walk five miles in two feet of snow to get to a library that only had a dozen books. By the time you arrived, you were committed to reading “something.” By contrast, I get about a dozen stories in my email inbox everyday from a collection of sources including blogs I follow and daily flash subscriptions. So you had had better make your story meaningful and unique in the first few sentences, or I’m moving on to the next one. It is an absolutely vital skill for any modern writer.
Victor’s “fast” example is even a bit to slow for me. I want to know what the story is, what the crisis or the character is, right away. I’m assuming this story is not about a caravan, but perhaps the master? I would start it with the caravan master (or other protagonist) watching the caravan and doing something, being active, even if that is just thinking. That way we know who this story is about and we have them placed in the world. But that is just me.
Here’s how I’d write it, seeing as it would likely be a character-centered short story for me:
Rezza watched the sand fly up from the hooves of the horses, the asses grunting in the clouds of white dust. The heavy bundles strapped over the animals creaked and rustled in the morning sun. Rezza hoped they would be strong enough to make it through the brutal heat of the Yellow Valley; everything rested on his getting to the other side.