Slow Beginnings and Lines of Action

Art Taylor

I recently scanned through my story “Parallel Play,” looking for a short excerpt that would give readers a sense of the story and perhaps tease them into reading it in its entirety. (This was for a blog post at SleuthSayers, hosted by B.K. Stevens, who is also hosting this essay today—not just a tremendous short story writer herself but a true supporter of our whole community.)  I knew the passage I was looking for: a short scene that kick-starts the central conflict, that sets all the drama into motion, really the beginning of main character Maggie’s long ordeal.

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8 thoughts on “Slow Beginnings and Lines of Action

  1. B.K. Stevens Post author

    Thanks for contributing this post, Art! As you know, I agree that a relatively slow beginning is sometimes best. Among other things, it can be a mistake to plunge straight into action before readers have a reason to care about the characters.

  2. Art Taylor

    Thanks for hosting me, Bonnie! It’s a fun experience to chat about craft decisions—to try to articulate what you were trying to do, especially when sometimes those choices can be intuitive as much as deliberate. And glad we’re in agreement on so many issues too; was great to read your essay on “The Last Blue Glass” and see so much resonance with my own thoughts!

  3. Amy M. Reade

    Now I must go read this story to see what’s going on in Maggie’s life besides what you’ve already told us. Excellent post and thanks for the analysis!

  4. Art Taylor

    Hi, Amy! Thanks for the comment—and hope you enjoy the full story when you read it! (Link in the post, of course—available for free right now.) 🙂

  5. Kaye George

    I sometimes lament that the days are gone for really slow beginnings, getting to know all the characters, giving tiny hints of conflict. But I think they ARE gone and we have to write for our own times. However, there’s still room for a more moderate beginning and a nice gradual building of–I like this term–lines of action. Thanks for the excellent post! And best of luck on the nominations!

  6. Art Taylor

    Thanks so much, Kaye—both for the comments and the perspectives. Agreed totally: Times and expectations change, and writers adapt with them, though clearly ways to take different approaches within various parameters of ambition (on the writer’s part) and expectation (on the reader’s). See you in just a couple of days!

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