Can you convey fear to a reader in 13 lines? Maybe, maybe not. That's why it's a challenge. Perhaps you will have a great set up, or great tension - this counts. You have 13 lines to make readers care, and to set them on edge. To make them think, and to make them want to know what happens next. If you can make them NEED to know what happens next - you have a good chance of winning.
Critiquing other entries is OPTIONAL. Voting is MANDATORY. (in order to have your own votes counted.) Please vote for your top 3 favorite openings, with a mention of your favorite title. Score will count as thus: 5 pts for a 1st place vote. 4 pts for a 2nd place vote. 3 pts for a 3rd place vote.
The competition is now closed and the voting has begun. Voting will last until complete or for one week, taking us up to Halloween. I will then announce the grand prize winner.
**That person shall receive a one year subscription to Orson Scott Card's Inter Galactic Medicine Show, paid for by me.**
Should you already subscribe to IGMS, you may gift this to any person of your choice. Won't they be excited! (Save it for Christmas if you want, say it's from you. Good stuff.)
*** The 2nd chance prize is open to everyone!
Should anyone who enters sell their (eventually completed) story to a pro publisher, I will reward them with a $25 gift card to B&N or Amazon. If you sell to a semi-pro (paying) publisher, I'll send a $10 card.
This 2nd chance opportunity will last a period of 13 months. Starting on or about October 32nd. (An acceptance to publish counts.)
Lastly, I will critique any story initiated by this contest with the intent to get it published. (Under 10k words)
[This message has been edited by axeminister (edited October 24, 2011).]
I wonder, Axe, if this is really such a good idea.
While I am aware of the value of the thirteen line exercise in demonstrating mastery of prose style, I think that many MSS I've looked at go overboard trying to do more than is necessary or wise in the opening paragraphs.
First chapters are hard; they need balance and confident pacing. Trying to do too much up front often results in the opposite reaction from what you're hoping for. Rather than identifying with a character, readers may reject him because they have so little investment in him at this point.
Crowded openings often trail narrative dead space in their wake. In part this is the result of contrast as the author changes gears, but I think it's also the dead hand of exposition weighing the story down as the author struggles to deal fairly with the reader. You can't very well open with a gimmick without following up with some exposition that proves you can back it up.
Kinda stupid thought here but In my first reading of this I thought you meant try to make the reader feel fear but second reading has me thinking it's to show the character's fear. or is that the same thing?
Posts: 5097 | Registered: Jun 2010
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However, I understand it's difficult to do in only 13 lines, so if you can make the character fear, but make the reader CARE, then I believe you'll get some votes.
I believe OSC used this example: Ever walk into a room, and on the TV is a car chase. It seems almost absurd. You don't really care who is chasing who, the good guy could be chasing the bad guy, or vice versa. Well, you don't know the characters. You don't know their history, how they came to this end.
That's the challenge of a 13. You have to introduce a character(s), put them in a situation, and ask us to care despite not knowing them. Tough to do, but can be done.
I think the easiest way to do it, and this goes for your entire story, is to empathize with the reader. Find a common ground. What's scary to all of us? The TV on in the middle of the night, when you're sure you'd turned it off. Footsteps on the balcony outside the bedroom window.
Put a character in a situation where the reader understands their fear, and you'll accomplish both.
I noticed in the noir challenge that some entrants chose to separated their paragraphs with soft returns. Perhaps not coincidentally this happened in cases where paragraph breaks, if you counted them as lines, would send an entry over the thirteen line limit.
Actually, I don't think paragraph breaks count because most manuscript submission guidelines specify *no* additional vertical spacing between paragraphs. On the other hand, these same guidelines call for three to five spaces of indentation on the first line of a paragraph.
The interpretation (or misinterpretation) of the "13 line rule" can have a dramatic effect on the word count an entrant allows himself. For example in one test MS I found cutting the entry to fit on 13 lines varied with interpretations of the rule this way (all entries are 12 pt Courier on a 6.5" line):
a)13 lines of text, no indentation, no par. breaks: 142 words b)13 lines of text, no indentation, w/ par. breaks: 90 c)13 lines of text, 0.3" indentation, no par. breaks: 116
The reason I bring this up is that the "fear" challenge is immensely more difficult than the "noir" challenge. If we were working within a word count limit, I'd say fear is achievable in 150 words, but barely. Drop that limit down to 100 and you're in the realm of the impossible.
Remember that the challenge here is to evoke fear. That's far more difficult than simply "hooking" a reader. All you have to do to hook a reader is to be clever. A hundred words is plenty to be clever in; a skilled epigrammist can do it in a dozen words or so:
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go." -- Oscar Wilde
"Salary is no object: I want only enough to keep body and soul apart." -- Dorothy Parker.
You can easily stuff enough cleverness into 100 words to hook a reader. Inspiring *fear* in the reader is a different thing altogether. I doubt anybody will be able to generate genuine, visceral fear in any reader with anything much less than 200 words -- even Bram Stoker never attempted anything like that. At most I think we'll achieve is a recognition of fear on an intellectual level: yes, this would be a scary situation for the characters in it.
I conjecture that the most successful entries will use horror. Horror is the form of fear closest to humor. A horror writer ought to be witty, like Stephen King. There's also a practical and compact formula for generating horror: you start with a familiar, recognizable situation then you make it wrong.
I'm hazy on the 13 lines. After the last challenge, I'm a bit mystified. I've had a 13 truncated that had a paragraph space in it. Take it out, and I'm back under the limit. But was I over the limit already? It's a toss up for the visual. And the scroll bar really messes with things too.
Regarding the challenge, I agree it's going to be difficult. It may be impossible. Maybe no one will do it. Maybe one person will. Maybe the entries will just be creepy. Whatever gets votes. These will be viewed by a myriad of readers all coming at them from different angles. You win if you can garner the most common ground in the form of votes.
These challenges are for you, the author, to learn, and possibly improve your writing through experimentation. The trigger is just an excuse to run a different challenge. Go back like two years in the challenge history and you'll see these were done nearly weekly. Now, not so much, but that makes them no less valid as learning tools.
The voting is all just frivolous fun.
Hell, look at Snapper's entries. He manages to tickle people's fancy with his half serious, but well written entries.
Don't think too hard. Send me something about zombies and we'll be cool.
Want to know the scariest dream I've ever had? No lie - I woke in my bed because I heard the TV on. When I looked around the door frame I saw three dogs watching TV. They turned and looked at me simultaneously. Their looks conveyed that understood our language and I had caught them red handed. That realization turned my world upside down. It was instantly and irrevocably changed.
It wasn't the cause that was so scary, but the effect.
I've had dreams where the planet lost gravity. They're scary for the same reason. Life as I'd always known it - was over.
If you wrote that up in 13 lines, you probably couldn't scare your reader. In fact, I doubt any entries will literally scare someone, but you're reaching for empathy or understanding. Or hell, if that fails, throw some humor in. It works for Snapper.
But totally enter something. The discussion alone is worth the price of admission, which last time I checked, was free.
I think the only reasonable way to interpret the 13 line rule is to format the text in question according to typical, least-common-denominator manuscript submission guidelines:
(1) 8.5 inch wide paper. (2) 1 inch margins all around (yields text lines 6.5" wide). (3) All lines double spaced. (4) Set paragraphs off by indenting 3-5 characters, with NO additional vertical space. (5) Twelve pitch Courier font.
If you format this way, then all you have to do is count lines with text on them. When you get to 13, then you have what will fit on the title page of the MS. This is far more sensible than judging this by how much space an entry takes on a web form, which can vary from browser to browser.
By the way I'm not discouraging people from entering. I just wanted to point out how important it is for everyone to work from the same interpretation of the 13 line rule given how restrictive that is for the challenge you've posed.
Your dream makes my point about horror. It evokes horror because the dogs are not what they should be. The philosopher Noel Carroll calls what this does to us "category jamming"; we can't make out what category to put something in, and the effect is unsettling. For example getting somebody else's blood on you is horrifying because your mind isn't quite sure if it is alive or not. In your dream your dogs are animals that act like humans -- but only slightly. If they were walking on two feet, wearing clothes and perhaps even swords, they wouldn't be horrifying in the least because you have a definite category for them: they're the kind of anthropomorphic animals familiar to you from Narnia, or fairy tales.
Horror is not fright, but it does produce fear pretty well. I'm betting that the effective entries will be a horror stories.
I also have another problem - if I use a tab to stop the line at 63 characters, I can fit more in than if I use the margin line. I have no idea why. Am I going to get truncated for using the tab instead of the margin?
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008
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Two items of information about how I apply the 13-line rule:
1--I do not count the lines between paragraphs when I count the 13 lines, because they should not be there in an actual manuscript.
2--I apply the same grid to everyone in order to be as fair as possible. However, because I'm aware that Firefox puts an extra line in the textarea box, I will allow a 14th line as long as I can see that the author was trying to abide by the 13-line rule (as in self-truncating). I also try to be flexible when considering a line with one very small word in it. If there is other evidence that the author is trying to abide by the 13-line rule, I may not count that tiny-word line.
I'm really trying hard to be consistent and fair, and as far as I can tell (and I check every so often just to be sure), the textarea box that I use in my "judging" has not changed.
I'm very sorry that it frustrates and confuses people at times, but I don't know what else to do to keep things as fair as possible within reason.
I have a laptop with Windows 7 on it, but I don't use it when I read Hatrack posts.
I use an old desktop with Windows XP and MSIE 8 for Hatrack.
It's the way I've been doing Hatrack for years, and I don't want to throw a wrench into things by using something newer. (Besides, I'm not sure I like Windows 7 all that much--it's better than Vista, but when you get right down to it, I still miss DOS.)
hmmm, my zombie story came into my mind today... for a certain reason... and as I thought about the opening I came up with something that just might put some fear into the reader's mind after all. Surprised myself.
So if I have my dates right, we have a week and a half left?
If so I may have time to do one set of 13 lines after I delivery my Q1 story tomorrow night. If I really send it out then that is. Which means I need to get back to it instead of this useful, fun, learning moment, entertaining, pushing us, thread.
I don't know if this makes a difference, but I use Windows 7 with Chrome for a web browser, and I've never had a problem with the copy-and-paste-into-the-box method, either.
Also, I haven't written an entry for this contest yet. I still plan to, and I'd really love to come up with two, but things have been crazy around here and lately I've been so tired it's been hard to find the motivation to write.
[This message has been edited by mythique890 (edited October 16, 2011).]
I nominate #2 for a special commendation for most effective use of a one-word sentence. click. i wasn't exactly sure what was clicking but it sure scared me. click. get me away from that creepy boiler! click.
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Axe -- I think you should put blank lines in between the paragraphs. Running the paragraphs together makes the entries hard to read, and choosing where to break paragraphs is an important part of writing style.
Posts: 1459 | Registered: Dec 2010
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quote:Running the paragraphs together makes the entries hard to read, and choosing where to break paragraphs is an important part of writing style.
I can read most of them - there might be one that I'm unsure where the paragraph breaks are. I personally prefer paragraph breaks in this format, but I don't think it is necessary.
Regarding anonymous voting: All you need to do is critique your own entry like you would everyone elses - that way, nobody knows which one (or two) is yours. I tend to be harder on my own than I am on those of others.
Matt, I agree with you. I did it in order to make sure we all fit in the 13. Although Kathleen said she doesn't count the blank lines, what happens is it creates the scroll bar and everything gets mashed.
So I took the lines out to make it the same for everyone.
I wanted to put a space in the front, make it look like a tab, but this board doesn't recognize a space in the beginning, so they are all left justified.
Since none have been snipped, I'd be happy to put them back in the proper places where the authors had them when they were sent to me.
I'll take care of it on Friday. I believe the "This post was modified by axeminister" is more distracting than the crunchy paragraphs.
However, if there are a few more votes in your direction, I can certainly speed up the process.
[This message has been edited by axeminister (edited October 19, 2011).]
Please vote for your top 3 favorite entries. Honorable mentions are appreciated, but don't count toward the vote tally. Give a nod to your favorite title.
Please critique if you have the time. You may critique your own entry(s) to throw us off the scent, or if you don't have tons of time, just crit as many as you can. Don't feel like it has to be all or nothing.
I still need to vote. I think I was headed here to vote when I discovered no forum. Now I have to reread them all to remember which ones I liked.
Posts: 5097 | Registered: Jun 2010
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