In my last post, I challenged my loyal blog readers to critique Armando’s one-sentence Storyline:
A man writes and sings an incantation over and over wherever he stands to unravel the prophecy that beckons the next savior of the world.
A number of you provided a wide range of critiques of this, and most of the comments were quite incisive. I agree with the majority view that the Storyline doesn’t tell enough about the story. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but we don’t know enough about this man and his incantations to root for him (or against him). That raises a critical point — the Storyline must make you care about the Story Question. Normally, we care about someone if we can identify with him or we agree with his goal.
My challenge for Armando is to read all the comments and then try to improve on this Storyline.
Wolfhardt posted this Storyline:
On a space station a shell-shocked security chief tries to save the dreaded aliens survivors of a peace conference disrupted by a human religious terrorist.
Randy sez: I think we can immediately identify with “a shell-shocked security chief,” so that’s a very good beginning (for those readers interested in space stations). Please note how important that caveat I just made is. Wolfhardt had started with the location, which pegs it as science fiction. That will turn away some readers, but that’s OK. Good marketing is less concerned with turning away certain readers than it is with catching the attention of certain other readers. You simply can’t appeal to EVERYBODY. So your best bet is to appeal to SOMEBODY — some niche of readers. So Wolfhardt has started well.
The Storyline begins to get unfocused in the middle of the sentence, however. Our hero is trying to save “dreaded aliens.” The immediate question is why we should care about aliens who are dreaded? Wolfhardt, can you revise this? I’d suggest either a different word than “dreaded” or else give more facts to explain why these aliens are actually worth saving, even if they’re dreaded.
The ending also needs more kick. We have a human religious terrorist. There are two issues here. Most readers have some religious views, so when they hear about a “religious terrorist” they may well be worrying that this story is going to be kicking their own religion. And nobody enjoys having their religion kicked. So it would be best to get explicit here. What sort of a religious terrorist are we dealing with here? That will give potential readers more info on whether the book is going to insult them or not. It’s better to be clear — so that some readers KNOW for sure they’ll be insulted and the rest KNOW for sure they won’t. You don’t want to leave things ambiguous, so that nobody knows whether they’ll be offended by the story or not.
But there’s a bigger issue. What does that pesky religious terrorist want to achieve? So far, we can gather that he may be anti-alien and he may be dangerous. But what’s his goal? Ethnic cleansing? Burning at the stake? Mass baptisms? We need something concrete that we can visualize.
Wolfhardt, can you refine your sentence for us?
Grace wrote an intriguing Storyline:
A Belfast biologist is forced to run from her own creation — across the real world and into a virtual one, where a strange power wrestles for control of her life.
Randy sez: Once again, I have some thoughts on this, but first I’d like to hear what my loyal blog readers think? Grace has done at least two things here that work really well. What are they? But there are two things that are missing. What are they?
Post a comment with your thoughts. The more you wrestle with Storylines — both your own and those of other people — the better you’ll get at the process.