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Action Ain’t Everything

I’m going to offer an important safety tip to anyone writing a space opera.  Please don’t start your book with a space battle that goes on for _111_ pages.  Now I know that the sainted Robert Heinlein taught us all that you have have to start with an exciting hook so the person in line at the supermarket decides your book is a better buy than a six pack of beer.  I’m all for excitement, but throwing me into a battle when I haven’t met the people, and have no emotional stake in the outcome doesn’t make for a satisfying reading experience.

Add in endless paragraphs about technology that doesn’t exist, and I’m rapidly losing interest in the book.  And don’t forget that 111 pages thing.  Needless to say, I hit page 115 and quit reading.

Now let me give you an example of who did this right — Walter Jon Williams in the Praxis books.  We open the first book with a personal crises for a character that we know is going to be important to this story.  Another space based crises arises, and Williams introduces the other major character in the book.  The two main characters interact, and I learn more about them.   I know what’s at stake for each of them while they are dealing with an external problem which reveals their skills and abilities.

The point is that I come to know these characters.  I like them.  I want them to succeed.  I want to follow their story.  Unlike my experience yesterday where I wanted all these people to die, and for the flood of technobabble to stop.  _Please!  Make it Stop!_

Speaking for myself I read books because I’m interested in the characters.  I write books for the same reason.  The MacGuffin’s may be intriguing but at its heart good fiction is about character identification.

0 Responses to Action Ain’t Everything

  • Which Robert Heinlein is this? Picking out my three hardback juveniles for a quick sample, I see that two begin with the protagonist talking to the reader

  • Melindas says:

    Sorry for the confusion, William. The book that gave me a 111 page space battle was not a Heinlein book. I didn’t call out the writer by name because I think that’s rude. Heinlein’s rule was that you have to capture the interest of a reader within the first page. That doesn’t necessarily mean action. It means something gripping, an interesting character in an interesting situation.

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