1. I had to describe what was going on. The Action.
2. I had to have my characters talk. The Dialogue.
3. I had to describe the surrounding and my characters. Description.
4. I had to show my main character's thoughts. Internal Dialogue.
The above may seem so obvious that I probably look silly spelling it out. Yet every day I hear from writers who don't understand that 90% of writing a novel is a movement between these four acts. Let me type out the first two pages of Slumber Party and then we can dissect them:
Dana Miller's downshifting, as they rounded the tight mountain pass, was like a kick in the seat of the pants. The plowed snow looming above their VW gave the illusion of being in a bobsled run. The dazzling white landscape was more than unshielded eyes could bear, but here in the shade, Lara Johnson stared out the window in delightful awe. This weekend ski trip would be one of the high points of her life.
"How am I doing?" Dan asked, referring to her driving.
"Well..." Lara began, not wishing to offend her oldest and best friend. "We are still alive."
Dana chuckled. "Does that mean you want me to slow down?"
The back wheels zigzagged as they whipped out of another turn. "I wouldn't mind," Lara breathed, putting a hand on the dashboard.
"I wouldn't mind being late," Celeste Winston said from the backseat, reopening her eyes slowly.
Dana sighed, putting on the brake. "Doesn't look like we have much of a choice. The road's blocked off."
A hundred yards in front, a metal chain was suspended across the asphalt, behind which rose a miniature mountain of snow. Three cars were jammed into a makeshift parking lot. A ranger waved them to the side. Dana buried the front end of the car before she could curb their momentum on the ice-slick surface. Lara rolled down her window.
"We're heading to Cedar Stream," she said. "Is there another way around?"
The man tugged on his white whiskers, a Colonel Sanders clone. "You must be with them other young ladies," he said, in a country-boy voice.
Dana nudged her side, pointing at a parked BMW. "There's Rachael's car," she said.
Lara nodded. "We are. Do you know how long ago they got here?"
Must be—ohh—near two hours ago."
"That Rachael drives like a fiend," Dana said.
"She's not the only one," Lara muttered.
"This is as close as you're going to get," the ranger said, answering her initial question. "But Cedar Stream is only three miles away. You have cross-country skis, I see. Should have no trouble hiking in."
Lara felt a pang of concern for Celeste.
At school she wasn't allowed to take PE because of a bad back. Indeed, because this was primarily a skiing trip, Celeste shouldn't have come. But upon hearing of their plans, their young friend had pleaded to be included, if only to enjoy the scenery.
"I'll be okay," Celeste said, meeting her eyes.
"You have no skis," Lara said.
"I'll walk. I walk pretty good."
"If the snow's powdery," Dana said, "you'll swim."
Lara put on sunglasses and climbed out of the car. Drifts had cut many of the pines to pint size. The miles they would have to master did not appear an easy proposition....
This is a basic beginning to a book. How did I start? I immediately told the reader where he was. He was in the mountains with three girls, in a car driving at high speed. I briefly described the mountains. I had the three girls talk. Each word they said told us something about them. Dana is obviously a free spirit. Lara is cautious, thoughtful, sympathetic. Celeste is...well, she's a bit of a mystery. She's younger than the other two. She's slightly handicapped. She's soft spoken.
Notice how quickly I move through the four fundamentals. I describe the scene. (Description) We hear what Lara's thinking. (Internal Dialogue) We hear the girls talk to each other. (Dialogue) I describe their driving and then their having to halt due to the piled up snow. (Action)
With every line I give the reader INFORMATION. Look how much information you're given in less than two pages! It's a lot and what does it do? It lets the reader imagine where he's at. It starts to draw him into the Slumber Party world. And I know this sounds odd to say, but it allows the reader to relax a bit. Suddenly the book is not such a foreign object in his hands. Suddenly the paperback is a story that he -- or she -- might want to continue reading.
This is just the beginning, of Slumber Party and this post.
I'll have more to say tomorrow, and will be posting about writing for at least the next three weeks. Hopefully, I'll be able to post something new each day. I appreciate you visiting...
Yours, Christopher Pike
By the way, Slumber Party can still be found in two-book volume called "To Die For."
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Christopher Pike's Writing AdviceNon-Fiction
In 1984, Christopher Pike published a young adult thriller called SLUMBER PARTY. Neither he nor the publishing community realized that this was the beginning of a revolution in the YA genre. That teenagers had been craving an author who didn't tal...