Friday, March 17, 2017

The Opening Crawl: Put It In Your Toolbox

One thing I think is interesting is that the Opening Crawl we're long-accustomed to with Star Wars films isn't done in print stories anymore. I think this is a mistake, especially for those seeking to write fast-paced adventure pulps. There's a big reason why, and it's as simple as seeing it used by Lucas and company: it's efficient in setting things up so you can get right to the point. (And its absence in Rogue One is ones of the signs that it's not that good.)

A title and three paragraphs. That's something you can put on one page. That one page can easily provide everything your reader requires to orient himself. There's a catch: this is also where you sell your story, that hook-or-suck point where readers either buy in or get lost. Most publishers put what functions as the Crawl on the back cover, or inside the front cover on the sleeve; it's the same thing, and serves the same purpose, but it's rarely done by you in traditional publishing and it shows.

Not I. It's a one-man-band here, so I don't get that luxury. That sizzle is something I need to sustain interest past the Amazon listing, and that means entire chapters spent setting things up have to get chopped in favor of three paragraphs that sort that out and then get on with it.

The authors who pay their bills with their books get this. The formal language for this is "Find your Inciting Incident, and start your story there." The Opening Crawl is fantastic for doing just that; you use the Crawl to set it up (remember, it's one page, and then immediately get into the action. Even if you decide to not publish that Opening Crawl, merely using it during the drafting process to find your start point is a great idea and it's foolish to dismiss its utility.

Look for the Opening Crawl to my Sword & Planet story, "Lacann Pell and the Blood Moon of Rammagar", by the end of this month.

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