FWG One Book Many Brisbanes CompetitionEntries close 5pm Friday 8 January 2010: story proposal <700 words or one A4 page with a summary of their proposed story (about Brisbane set in Brisbane) plus a sample of their story. 20 winners get $1000 and invitation to attend QWC masterclass on 22-24 February and complete 2000-2500 story within one week after.
Exercise In medias res
(story starting in the middle of things)
Do readers prefer 'things' in a certain order?
No - most like novelty - a story that's 'different'. But if it is so different that it seems like chaos, the reader may reject it. Some landmarks are needed for the reader to get their bearings. 'Clever' differences can be a variation on a well-known pattern of story stages. The most common plot sequence is: orientation, initial action, complications, climax, resolution. If you changed this order, and put a complication first, with the orientation second and the other stages in their usual order, this would meet the requirements of this exercise.
Similarly, you could have the familiar stages of the plot in one of many other possible orders. However, readers could be confused if the usual sequence of cause and effect is reversed without strongly 'signalling' * backstory or if the story switches around in time or place or point of view too often.
If you want the reader to puzzle over who, or where or what the action is about, you could put the orientation last instead of first. Usually, tension builds up steadily to the climax with the main character overcoming obstacles, or complications. Many readers like stories to end up with a 'bang!' rather than a 'fizzle', so if the climax is earlier, the high note of a complication could possibly come near the end instead.
( *e.g. signalling of backstory is often a change to the pluperfect e.g. She had gone...)
Plan a short story of 2000 - 2500 words using 'Were you in Fortitude Valley last night' as the first line, or any question about & set in Brisbane. Try to get the reader hooked on what is happening as you work in backstory in the form of character evidence (bruises from a bar fight), flashback, or memory. Present a story proposal as per OBMB competition (see above) : 1 A4 side <700 words.