Monday, November 28, 2011

What Does The First Line Tell Us

I think a lot of authors really miss the point with "the first line" and the "first scene" of a book. Unfortunately, too often, in an attempt to be "really creative" the author simply sends the message that they are likely to use whatever "plot device" they learned at a conference or workshop to make the story sound impressive, instead of really doing what an opening line should do, and that is to hook the reader.

If we think about an introduction in an academic paper or before a speech, the purpose is to do more than what most high school teachers tell us, "to hook the reader". The introduction does do this, but there is a lot more to to that introduction than meets the eye.

An introduction needs to really set the tone for the rest of the piece of writing. If the story is to be dark and gloomy, then the introduction needs to really create that tone and mood. If the writing is to be light and humorous, then the opening needs to do just that.

When it comes to stories, those opening lines also need to give us a sense of one of the characters and who this person is. We really need to really want to know more about this person. Whether it is an attitude or a situation, we need to see this.

I bring this up because I think you can see the really good opening lines compared to those that are really out to "be witty" or "to be cute" from this last Thanksgiving break contest here on the blog. While the lines may be great and certainly worthwhile to put into a book, the question is, "do you really want to start your story with this?

I'll be taking a look at the entries today and let you know the result tomorrow. Until then, please review those opening lines and then, think about your opening lines. Do those words you crafted really head us off in the right direction for the rest of the 55,000-120,00 words of your story? Or, do those words really seem out of place.


P.S Scott will officially be closing the office until the first of January. While submissions come in, do not expect an immediate answer. Sorry, but yes, agents need breaks too!

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