Monday, December 12, 2011

Story Order (Or, Developing the TOC)

Are you the type of reader who picks a story at random to read in an anthology, or do you always begin at the beginning, and read the stories in the order that they have been presented? If the latter, have you ever thought about the actual order of the stories: Why did the editor begin the anthology with this particular story? Why is the longest story in the middle (or near the beginning, or toward the end)? Why are these other stories back to back, and why does the book end with this other story?

The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review blog invited me to write a guest blog post, which I gladly accepted. And for my guest post I wrote about the process I went through to determine the story order -- the table of contents -- for my Alien Contact anthology. I had 26 stories to work with, and I had to place them in an order that would both intrigue and motivate the reader to continue reading, to finish the book, and hopefully result in a positive reading experience.

Here are a couple excerpts from my guest post:

...the readers who begin at the beginning--the introduction--and then read the stories in the order they are presented, these are the readers I must be concerned with. For them, the story order--the overall experience of reading the book in its entirety--is what makes, or breaks, the anthology.


As a group, these criteria affect the flow of the anthology. Place a lot of dark, depressing, overly long stories together and quite possibly I'll lose a lot of my readers. Each story needs to encourage the reader to want to move on to the next story, and the next, and so on, until the reader reaches the end of the book.

I specify the five criteria I use to assist me in determining story order, and I also provide some thoughts on a few specific stories.

Story order is something I take great pride in....

And check back at Mad Hatter's Review for yet another Alien Contact giveaway.

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