You’ve been asked to read a bit of your work. What to pick? You get all of five minutes (if you are lucky) but you want it to be something they’ll remember days later. Years later would be cool. Experience has taught me to pick something funny and revealing of the tensions or the characters. Here, for example, is a favorite I used for readings. In it, my Vrellish champion, Horth Nersal, is four years old; language challenged; and daunted to find himself in the midst of a gossipy Demish reception. Known as the “lamb” scene, reference to it can raise smiles with people who know Horth, but it has some impact even on those unfortunates innocent of all contact with the Okal Rel Saga.
“Isn’t he cute!” exclaimed a woman with an astonishing garden of flowers worked in stiff silk across her bosom. Horth reached out to see what they felt like. The woman giggled nervously at his touch. “Oh, my! [The Vrellish] are precocious!”
“He’s only curious,” said the third woman, and offered Horth the hem of her fur-trimmed cloak to feel. “Aren’t you lamb?”
Horth’s brow furrowed as he tried to decode that extraordinary remark. He knew that a lamb was an animal raised for slaughter. He therefore concluded that this was an insult, and hit the woman squarely in the nose. He deemed the attack proper because they were both in the highborn challenge class, and since she was so much bigger than him, he didn’t understand the resulting fuss.
p. 18 Righteous Anger: Part Two of the Okal Rel Saga
Share your favorite teaser, or your thoughts on what makes for a good one.
6 thoughts on “Writer’s Craft #23 – Teasers They Remember”
HI, i havne’t polished this yet so I wouldn’t use it exactly as a teaser, but here it is:
Jonathon dived from the rock and sank until his bare bottom settled on the sea floor. “All I need to do now is open my mouth and take a deep breath,” he thought. “A few breaths and it will all end right here.”
A few seconds later he shot from the surface blowing water out of his nose and gasping for air. The incoming waves crashed relentlessly over his head, setting him back a breath for each two that he managed. “To hell with it,” he mumbled at length, “I can’t even kill myself properly.” Blindly he swam for the rock and climbed atop it, coughing so strongly that he thought his lungs would burst. His misery was so great that that he failed to hear the soft hello from behind, and only when his burning eyes calmed did he sense someone staring at him.
“Hello,” the voice said again.
The sound was so startling that Jonathon skidded halfway down the rock in fright. He shot out his foot to catch the edge and barely saved himself from tumbling off. All of his blood rushed to his extremities and instinctively he grabbed the nearest object that could be used in defense: a pebble the size of his thumb.
The mermaid had placed herself between the rock and the shoreline and was languidly skimming the water with her right fin. Small rivulets ran off her dark brown hair and her skin was a shiny and wet. She wore nothing but a woven skirt that did little to conceal her bottom and a necklace made of shells. She was smiling at him pleasantly.
“I’m uh, I’m naked,” Jonathon stammered as his hands moved protectively to his groin.
The mermaid tilted her head to the side. “I’m pleased to meet you, Naked.”
“No, no-no,” Jonathon said quickly. “My name is Jonathon, not Naked.”
Chuckled at the “pleased to meet you, Naked.” 🙂 Liked the emotional transition! From being depressed about not being able to kill himself to startling meeting. Sounds like the beginning of a fun scene.
I always struggle picking a teaser. I usually end up with one of several different scenes depending on the audience. If they want action, that’s one scene. If they want romance, that’s a different one. If they want silly, that’s a different story entirely.
Do you usually get the chance to ask?
The writer’s group I am most familiar with used several different methods for deciding on excerpts. One of my favourites was having the volunteer who critiqued the piece pick out a sample, being especially helpful in weeding out more, er, florid, writing. Past that, I try to pick out some piece that captures the original idea that generated the story in the first place. So, in that spirit:
“See, I told you”, the old man rasped out through wreaths of smoke, interrupted by more coughing. “I can’t eat; it makes me cough.”
“Yeah, food does that.” Toneless. Dry. “It’s getting
late. I’m going to get.”
“Ok, thanks for coming over. Maybe next time you can
eat something instead of feeding me.”
A bright smile and a nod on the way out the door.
A block away, the pain forced him to stop and he spat into the night until the blood turned from red to pink.
“Yeah, I’ll see you soon”, he whispered to the wind.
Repressed pain, located in the things unsaid, is what I experience as the original idea that generated the story in that piece, John.