Saturday, February 13, 2010

Opening Don'ts

I ran across a post in Absolute Write today that I liked. It was about openings of stories that are so overused that agents may reject your story on sight just for this reason. The post mentioned 1. waking, 2. looking into a mirror, and 3. beginning with dialogue. It challenged posters to come up with an opening that used one (or more!) of these three, but do it well enough to merit consideration rather than instant rejection.

I liked the challenge, especially since I had already been considering rewriting an old short story of mine. I had not intended to begin the short story with one of these three no-nos, but I figured I would give it a try. This is what I came up with:

"I'm going to kill them all today, so I need you to unhook your mother."

Javier rolled his eyes and eased himself further into the folds of the couch. He glanced at the nearest wall speaker. "Kill whom, father? I've never heard you joke before."

"I don't joke, as you well know. Now do as I ask and unhook your mother. Before one o'clock please." The calm voice always irritated Javier; it was meant to simulate the way his father had sounded when he had been physically alive, but it lacked proper emotion.

"What do you mean? Who are you going to kill?" Javier shrugged his slim shoulders. "How can you kill anyone anyway?"

"I have a way. No matter. Meshing is destroying the world. I'm going to save the world by killing them."

Javier leapt to his feet, his face pale. "The meshers? You can't do that. That's...what...twelve billion people. Madre de Dios!"

"One o'clock. Unhook your mother."

I wrote this short story called, "All Meshed Up" about a year or so ago. I was never quite happy with it, though I thought it had a lot of potential. There are only three characters. The main one is the young man, Javier, who was until recently a mesher himself, until his father managed to get him unhooked. Meshing is the newest form of addiction. It came about when it became possible to connect one's mind directly with the Net. The experience was so powerful that many came to prefer meshing to actually living their own lives. They purchased special beds that could autofeed them and take care of their waste. Many would simply never detach themselves.

Javier's father was a legend. It was he who had finally developed protections so strong that viruses of all sorts could no longer infect the Net. He had had a hand in developing the mind/data interfaces (called 'slots') that everyone now wore just behind their left ear. Secretly he worked on perfecting the downloading of mind data into digital format, so when he died he continued to live on within the Net.

Javier's mother became a mesher herself. This was nothing unusual considering that by the time the story begins more than 80% of the people in the world are meshers.

Although I am still tinkering with this as a short story, I have really decided to fold it into a sci-fi novel that I have been fleshing out, set in Moscow in the year 2138.

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