Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page
P&E Top TenP&E Top TenP&E Top TenP&E Top TenP&E Top Ten

Hello and welcome to the October 2019 issue of Aphelion!

The heat wave in the Southeastern US has gotten a much-needed break, today. Feels like we've had triple-digit temperatures for half the year, now. Today, it was actually feeling like Autumn. we got a little touch of rain, as well. I can't remember a Summer as protracted and as unpleasant as this one. But for today, we finally got lower 70s-maybe even upper 60 degree temperatures. OK, it might have been lower 80s to upper 70s, but I almost had to put a shirt on! I'm used to spending Summer wearing swim trunks as my at-home daily attire, but all the way into October is a tad unusual. I find that ice cream and cold beverages help, LOL! but in any case, today felt good.

OK, my above paragraph verged on "it was a dark and stormy night" territory. That's why most writers avoid discussing the weather in the opening page of a story. Weather is backdrop scenery. Unless your story is about a hurricane or a tornado or some record-breaking flooding rain, it's pretty safe to let that stuff wait until you've gotten a few paragraphs in. Now, some writers can nail a good balance between establishing a lead character and whatever their character's environment is doing at the time. But that can be a hard balance to strike. "Jak the bounty hunter stood with his back pressed against the coarse bricks of the outer wall of the theater as the rain in the alley came pelting down like a fire hose being used as a weapon. His target was late, but not as late as Jak intended to make them..." is a far better opening than "it was a dark and stormy night." Opening paragraphs are sometimes difficult to craft. You've got to establish your hook, and your opening character's POV, and set the stage--all at the same time. See what I mean?  It's a matter of focus for the scene you're creating. Focus on your character, their motivation, their backstory--then get to the environment that forms the set dressing. Character first, then the backdrop.

As I said, that can work, but only if you've grabbed your reader's attention first. They have to be interested enough to keep reading. Lose them in the first paragraph, and they likely won't keep going. Grab them with the first paragraph, and they're hooked, They're yours. Ideally, your first sentence should get their attention, and give them a reason to keep reading. Narrative hooks are not easy. But if you come up with a good one, any further transgressions will be easier for the reader to read past and keep reading for the rest of the story.

"Jak checked his weapon, underneath his dark gray cloak, for the third time in as many minutes, as the rain kept pelting down. The target was late. The carefully-crafted schedule of the target's habits didn't take into account the vagaries of mere weather. Something was wrong. Not just the way stray raindrops constantly found their way inside the collar of his shirt, despite his broad-brimmed hat and upturned collar. The target had changed their routine. Was it only the rain, or had someone warned them of Jak's pursuit? Idle thoughts, perhaps. but serious considerations, all the same..."

I'll shut up and let you get to reading the new stories, LOL!


Title:Coils of Apep

Photo Credit: ESO/Callingham et al.