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The Perfect First Word for Your Next Story Magazines are swamped with submissions and some only have time to read a paragraph or two before deciding to reject or continue on. How do you hook a reader in the first sentence?


Ursula K. Le Guin on the Subtle Art of Leaving Things Unsaid

“I do work very hard and consciously at my craft. At the sound, the flow, the exactness, the connections, the implications of my words.” — Le Guin

How Samuel Delany Gives Depth to His Throwaway Characters

How do you introduce a new character quickly, without making them wooden? Delany describes a technique that can lend depth to single-scene characters.

How Ursula K. Le Guin Leveraged Passive Verbs to Deepen Plot

When should you use the passive voice? Are there situations in which it’s preferrable over the active voice?

Hinting at Reversals

What makes a story memorable months or years after reading it? How can you make a plot device stand out, particularly when it is one as timeworn as a reversal?

Weavers Think About Weaving — Metaphors & Worldbuilding

What makes some metaphors seem at odds with the rest of the text and others enmeshed within it? How can you write similes that draw the reader into the world of the story?

Different ways to signal a flashback in stories

What are the tried and true techniques for writing a flashback? What can you accomplish through a flashback scene?

Nancy Kress’s Approach to Story Openings

How long do you have to hook your reader? One sentence? One paragraph? Longer?

The Triple Down Metaphor

Make your metaphor the best it can be by doubling down on it.

Why Theodore Sturgeon Was a Master of Tension

How can you quickly build tension between two characters? And how can you imbue that tension with a feeling of immediacy?

Flashbacks - How and Why to Write Them

What’s the difference between an internal and external flashback? Why might a writer use an internal analepsis instead of an external one

The Literary Shortcuts of Le Guin & Niven

The best short-story writers maintain an arsenal of shortcuts. Learn how to write concisely without lessening impact.

Future Exposition Now - How to Use Flash Forwards in Fiction

Learn how to use flash forwards (prolepses) to avoid adding too much exposition. What does a flash forward look like in a short story?

Description & Action — Liven Up Exposition with Snippets of Action

How can you describe the setting of your story without it reading like a dry litany of told facts? How can you keep this exposition centered firmly around the main character to keep it grounded in the narrative’s flow of time

The Care and Handling of Throwaway Characters

Are there extras in novels? Learn how successful authors handle characters that only appear in one scene.