i wake to a living nightmare asks:

Hello. I would like to ask for some advice on something I am writing, and with your work being a huge influence on the ideas I had, I thought I would ask you. I started brainstorming ideas for the first short story i am going to write and I came up with the perfect idea, but i have no idea where to start. Have you ever dealt with this, if so is there any advice you can give me?

Sure - I’ve had to deal with the question of where to start in every single story I’ve ever written. Two thoughts:

(1) Get the idea up front… especially if you’re writing a story of the fantastic.

Readers are inclined to just go with you at the very beginning of a story, which is why it’s the best place to drop a whopper on them. I began my short story “Pop Art” like this:

My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable.

The reader’s response? Oh, okay, Joey! Inflatable friend. Got it.

Also: think about if you saw a U.F.O. or a ghost. If you were telling a friend about it, you’d probably drop that shit on them right away: Dude, I was driving back from work last night and I saw a fuckin’ U.F.O. And it landed! And a ghost got out of it!!

You wouldn’t tell him about the business account you lost during the day, the conversation you had with your Mom that made you angry, and the nap you took under your desk. You wouldn’t even *think* of telling him about that stuff, not at first. YOU SAW A U.F.O., DUDE. Start with that part.  Don’t be afraid to be amazing right from the beginning.

(2) Bring the reader into your confidence and your absolute certainty. Immediately. Give them a simple, unquestionable fact, grounded in the senses. I highly recommend beginning with a scene. If something is happening than you’re off and running from the first line. Like this:

I saw him for less than a second before I hit him. He stepped into the headlights - I swear to God I thought it was a little kid, wearing a Halloween mask - and I caught him with a crunch of the fender and spun him back into the dark.

Uh-oh. That sounds like one dead alien.

Don’t worry. I’m pretty sure they can still pilot their ships when they’re ghosts.

  1. discountartschool reblogged this from joehillsthrills
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  3. arinlome reblogged this from joehillsthrills and added:
    Even his off the top of his head writing tips are better than anything I could ever do. Sheesh.
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  5. cursewordsandapathy reblogged this from joehillsthrills and added:
    guys joe hill made a question i asked question rebloggable and his advice was amazing. not only am i excited that i got...
  6. zombiesarejerks reblogged this from joehillsthrills and added:
    I actually needed this advice today! Thanks writer-man!
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