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by Don Webb

Kevin Ahearn says, in “On Starting a Novel

Well, I have met each of you and I am now in stunned disbelief. Not one of you decided to drop everything on the spot and run away with me. I’m not disappointed or heartbroken. Not ME. I am outraged! How could any of you possibly resist me? ME!

Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. I’ve started reading your manuscript over a cup of coffee, and in about fifteen minutes do you really expect me to drop everything and run away with your heroine?

The analogy is too much of a stretch; it confuses fiction and reality. You can always stop reading a novel and come back to it — or not. You can’t do that with a relationship.

Perhaps the analogy would work better as a job interview, where decisions are reportedly made almost before the applicant has a chance to sit down. Less colorful, certainly, but probably more accurate.

One of my most inspired ideas as a college student occurred to me in my freshman English class. The assignment was to write an essay on the Shakespeare play we were reading at the time. I forget which play it was, but it doesn’t matter.

I reasoned that a character’s initial entrance foreshadowed in some way the character’s persona in the rest of the play. How did the characters’ initial speeches do that?

Sure enough, the topic was a gold mine. I didn’t know how to conclude and got only a “B” for my effort, but the prof was very pleased with my approach: Shakespeare had been thinking exactly the same as I.

Now here’s a super-challenge for you. Take any story in any issue of Bewildering Stories. Read the first paragraph and decide whether you would do it differently, and if so, why.

Copyright © 2007 by Don Webb

Responses welcome!

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