Monday, February 24, 2014

Great Beginnings

Something all writers must think about.

I often hear this as writers talk about having a great beginning. Why? To hook your reader, editor or agent. Great beginnings aren't only about the first sentence, it can be the first few paragraphs or page.

For now I'll say something about a few sentences. Having a great beginning is essential. My very first novel published by the Wild Rose Press began liked this.

Divorce, what divorce? Michele Ranieri cursed under his breath. He shook his head. How can there be a divorce when they didn’t consummate the marriage?

    I had to look that up as I had no idea at what I had written. Those very sentences made me question? Why didn't they consummate the marriage? Something must have been terribly wrong if that was the case. What happened? 

    Here's another,
    Are you absolutely insane? Please tell me you haven't signed the contract? (Rachael Johns, Man Drought)

    Wow that first sentence hooked me, what about you? It forced me to ask questions.

     The gun coughed in the still humid night. Without even a breath of a cry the young man dropped where he stood, his blood a darkening stain seeping into stark white sand, that shimmered in the silver moonlight. (Helene Young, Wings of Fear)

Again, what a terrific first few sentences. They invited the reader to read more. This is what we all must do to catch the eye of our reader.
    Those first few paragraphs should establish the tone, indication of time, place, conflict and motivations for a reader. Be sure to do it so the conflict, the setting and theme is established. I'm not saying these are rules set in stone, but as a guideline. Keep your book original, and keep the reader hooked. If you begin with heaps of description of the surrounding scenery with nothing about conflict between the hero and heroine the reader will close the book.

You need to engage your reader, get them asking questions, the who, what, why and where and she won't be able to put the book down.
    If you open with dialogue without first giving the reader some clue as to who is speaking and to whom, confusion will overtake interest. It won't matter how intriguing the dialogue might be. Without characterization, it could become meaningless. Establish characterization in the beginning. This can be done by a few choice words. How something is said, what type of setting, what is going on around them is a good way to pinpoint the character and their reaction can give insight into the story's conflict.  

    Study the first pages of novels you loved. See how the first line, the first few paragraphs hook the reader, and then apply a hook to your own work.

   Before I go, here is the first line of my  current wip (work in progress)

  Of all the places in the world, he didn't want to be here.

   I think I'm off to a good start. I said a start. lol. :) (added note) Well, this sentence has now changed at least 10 times, and probably a few more until I'm satisfied I have the best beginning for this novel I can possibly have.

Have a great week. I'll be trying to fit as much writing time as possible in this week, so have a great week. :)


Tarnya said...

I just went over a few novels I have read recently and they both have catchy beginnings. No wonder I loved them.


Marian Perera said...

I've seen some writers use action to open a story. So we start in a battle or a chase scene, and it's supposed to be gripping... but it's not, because we don't know who any of those characters are yet. Action =/= conflict.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Exactly Tarnya. They keep a reader reading. :)

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Marian, I know what you mean. You have to fall in love with the characters before you get to care about what is happening to them. This doesn't mean long explanatory paragraphs that bore the reader. It takes practice and a lot of study to do this, years of hard work.