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F&SF Forum » The Process of Writing

Titling and Openings in SF Stories

(4 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by JohnWThiel
  • Latest reply from JohnWThiel

  1. JohnWThiel

    "A Strange Uncertain Light" in the July August is an effective demonstration of what has been discussed here and in other forums. At first I passed this title by without interest or reaction as I scanned the contents page, and I was busy reading the stories written by women, but the title popped suddenly into my attention and I realized it was a good one which normally might have drawn my attention to reading the story first. In my first consideration of the title it seemed to me to have a flaw, the word "Strange" is an interruptive directive and "An Uncertain Light" would have been more of a draw as a title--though readers might have interpreted it as meaning the uncertainty of religion and inspirational light and been discouraged by over-usage and pessimism. However, the first paragraph, or opening, to the story reinterpreted the title and showed it was an unusual light and had nothing to do with religious guidance--it was the light emanating from the facets of a jewel. The author has full attention and interest by this opening. Actually the first sentence completely dispelled the effect the title was having for me, and I wanted to shout "Who cares what Anne does with her ring?!" But when one finds that it is the ring that is being discussed, it adds to the mystery of the title. The remark that the ring is of poor quality removes the effect that it's some kind of illusory object. This gets one interested in the story to follow, which is highly materialistic. The author has demonstrated that he knows how to get attention to a materialistic view (from readers of fantasy) by an opening which draws that attention and provokes an interest in what's next. The writing that follows is reminiscent of Dostoevsky, and the style and the writer's attention to his concerns make for fine reading.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  2. JohnWThiel

    It'd be nice if this topic started exploding with action.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. C.C. Finlay
    Charles Coleman Finlay

    Another F&SF reader over on twitter recently broached this same topic by analyzing all the first lines in the July/August issue of the magazine. The discussion starts here:

    Posted 1 year ago #
  4. JohnWThiel

    I didn't think "You'll be my slave" was a good opening line. The F&SF opening lines are snappier than the ones at Dell, though.

    Posted 1 year ago #

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