I think action is a horrible way to open a book, even in prologues. The prologue, first chapter, first whatever, needs to be spent on developing whatever character/characters are being focused on–not developing the plot through action, which readers are likely to not care about so soon anyway.
I read the first few pages of a book on Amazon and was immediately turned away because, for one, it opens up the book with a weather description, which I found really pointless. I get the author was trying to establish an ominous tone, but weather is just the most trite, weakest way to do it. It’s a shortcut, basically, when you have no idea how to convey that something horrible is about to occur. Plus, I don’t care about the weather. I care about the character and what the character is doing/the character’s current problems. Bring in the weather description after you’ve established character because that is who I care about first and foremost.
Then after the weather description, action immediately happens, a fight breaks out, and I suddenly find I don’t care anymore. I don’t really know the characters, so why am I supposed to care about this fight they’re engaging in? Not to mention the action was just confusing period. And where is the character the prologue is focusing on? Who is the antagonist, or even the protagonist? The whole prologue was essentially pointless. It would have better served as background information later.
In any case, if there is no character or plot already established, I think action is a dreadful way to start a book. No one is going care that Character B died because we barely knew Character B. We barely know any of these characters and you as the writer expect us to care already? I don’t think so. This is a book, not a movie, and even in movies I hate when they start with action. It’s just way too fast and I am all about focusing on that blasted character for the prologue or first chapter.
Everyone, say hello to Shannon Thompson! I decided to interview her not only because we will be helping one another in AEC Stellar, but also because I read the chapter one of her novel and absolutely loved it. You can find it in here in my lit magazine. It is in issue 9. Read it. It will hook you if you are a fan of young adult. You can find her here. Enjoy!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania on June 23, 1991. Since then I’ve lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Green Bay, Wisconsin, Atlanta and Alpharetta, Georgia, and Stilwell, Leawood, Overland Park, and Lawrence, Kansas. I’ve been writing ever since I could pick up a pen (I’ve always disliked pencils ability to disappear over time) but I began taking my passion seriously at 11 when my mother suddenly passed away. At sixteen, my first novel, November Snow, was published in her memory. My second novel, Minutes Before Sunset, will be published May 1st by AEC Stellar Publishing. It is dedicated to my college roommates, Megan Paustian and Kristine Andersen, because the time we had together is very precious to me. Unfortunately, Andersen passed away in October, 2012. It brings me a lot of happiness to be able to dedicate my work to my loved ones, including my father and brother (not to mention my fat cat, Bogart—named after Humphrey Bogart, my favorite actor.) And I have eight other novels in various publication stages. I’m very excited to move forward in my career, but I’m even more excited to be able to help others follow their dreams!
2. What inspired November Snow? Minutes Before Sunset? Both my novels had very different inspirations, but they ultimately came from my dreams. As a child, I suffered from vivid nightmares and night terrors. I didn’t really understand, so my mother taught me to cope by turning my nightmares into stories. “November Snow” is purely based on one nightmare I had shortly after she died. It was very violent and had very young children in it. I imagine it happened due to the depression I was going through. But “Minutes Before Sunset” happened years later. I was in a very dark time in my life, and, without going into details, I began having a series of dreams. These involved a boy simply coming to visit me at night. He’d talk to me, ask me if I was okay, and we’d talk until sunrise about how I was coping and what I was going to do. Once I got out of the bad time of my life, the dreams halted, and I was saddened, because he seemed very real to me. Despite the insanity that can come within a blurred reality line, I decided I had to cope with losing him as well. So I created an explanation, even though I know, upon reflection, my mind created a person in order to protect itself during a hard time.
3. I read that you’re also a poet. What inspires your poetry? I am! I was in the poetry collection, Poems: a collection of works by twelve young Kansas poets, which was also dedicated to my late roommate. Poetry brings out a different kind of inspiration than my fiction writing does. It’s harder for me to figure out what inspires it though, because I still consider myself a very young poet. I’m still experimenting to find my voice, but it’s definitely helped me with my other types of writing! And I love writing and reading poetry on a regular basis.
4. What inspires you as writer in general? Everything between life and death. I hate to sound so dark by saying my own mortality pushes me forward, but it ultimately does. I’ve known (very seriously) that life isn’t guaranteed at 11, so, ever since then, I wake up every day, striving to be inspired and to inspire. The world is new to me every time I open my mind to it.
5. What is your favorite genre and why? That is very difficult! I can’t pick that for reading, because I love reading everything. I mainly love memoirs, young-adult fiction, fiction, and poetry. But I love writing young-adult fiction the most. I enjoy the simplicity of it, meaning the innocence of characters and how much room they have to grow. I also like it because of the audience I write for. My goal is to create stories with capable characters (not perfect, but characters willing to learn and value morals and question life) so they can relate to the struggles while learning possibilities of what maybe they can do, no matter if I write fantasy or not. Within genres, I definitely like fantasy and science-fiction, because I love how limitless it can be.
6. What writer(s) inspire you the most? I have so many, but my young-adult authors include Meg Cabot and Cassandra Clare, while my poets revolve around Ernest Hemmingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and Sylvia Plath.
7. What about AEC Stellar Publishing made you go with them? I love how in-tune they are. They really wanted to make sure my ultimate art message didn’t change during the process. They’re really open to the artist, and I love how much control they allow the author to have in the ultimate decision process. My managers, Ray Vogel and Christie Heisler, are so sweet and very passionate about writing!
8. When you graduate college, what are your plans? I graduate in December, 2013 with a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas. I hope that I can continue writing novels, but I’ve always had other plans in place. As long as I’m doing something with writing, editing, and/or reading, I am happy.
9. Anything else you’d like readers to know? I have a website ShannonAThompson.com that includes more information about my novels. I have extras (maps, music, fan art, and more) but I also post regularly on my blog about writing tips, publishing/marketing, and reviews. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me on either this website, Facebook, and/or Twitter! I’m here to help others follow their dreams
10. What are your other hobbies? I’m always reading and writing, including journaling, but also run, play with my cat, and drink a lot of coffee! And I love traveling, and talking, talking, talking, and talking. I’m never disappointed to meet new people and learn about their lives. I’m fascinated by psychology and all topics like it. I also love the History Channel and murder shows, but I don’t watch a lot of T.V. because of how never-ending it is. I’d rather watch a movie (like my favorite, Casablanca) or write.