Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | March 16, 2016

Story Launch

Warning: If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens:  A) very mild spoilers follow B) why the heck not?

Fact: When you write for an MG audience you should plunge into the plot and launch the story by page six or seven.

I know this as I know I should no longer double space after a period (which took me forever to unlearn). Yet when I start writing, I still find myself falling down the hole of wanting to chatter on about the really cool world I have created. The setting and people have stomped around in my brain for so long, demanding to get out, that their release takes words. Lots of words. If I were to use a cooking metaphor, we’re talking so many words that I’d concoct a chowder rather than a broth.

In December, as I pondered what I’m working on, I watched the new Star Wars movie. (Here’s where the spoilers come in.) As I watched, I was struck by how each character is introduced, especially Finn. (Okay, I know we’re talking pictures vs movies, but bear with me here.) What do we see? We see Storm Troopers on a transport, all looking alike in dim yet harsh light. Then they come out firing, attacking a village that has done nothing to merit punishment.

Confusion, screams, a Storm Trooper falls, another goes to the first trooper’s aid, a final gesture as the dying trooper touches the other’s helmet with a bloody hand (well done — not only is it a shared gesture, but now we can tell which one is our Storm Trooper). The marked trooper stumbles back, horrified by his friend’s death and by the horror around him.

The villagers are rounded up and, when ordered to kill the defenseless, our storm trooper doesn’t shoot his blaster.

Oh, I thought as I watched these scenes. World built, character introduced, story launched. I then went home and, without anymore grumbling, removed the first third of my manuscript. It works much better now.

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