Saturday, April 14, 2012

Catchy opening line of story? Catchy post title? Both hard!

A recent post at Magical Words (which has nothing to do with fantasy-type magic, it's a writing site) talks about that old stand-by thorn-in-our-sides, the Opening Line. One of the things I like about the post is that it focuses on the beginning sentence from a reader's perspective: why some lines make you think "oooh, cool!" and keep you reading.

image photo : Magic bookKalayna, who wrote the post, offers this example of an opening line that hooked her into the story: “The fact I had killed a man was really putting a crimp in my love life.” –Doppelganster by Laura Resnick. Kalayna says this is a strong example of voice, the unique way a character comes across. The sentence comes right from the character's head. That line all by itself doesn't have quite the same effect on me, because I have trouble connecting killing somebody with your love life. My first impression is more of apples and oranges than "wow, I wish I'd written that sentence."

But that's not so bad. Kalayna also mentions that while opening lines can hook her, she also reads more of the first page to see if it yanks her into the story. I do the same thing. I read a bit of the back blurb, the first few paragraphs, parts of the middle; never ending paragraphs because I don't want to spoil the story if I do decide to read it.

Still, you can't overlook the importance of that first sentence. I agree that having it convey a sense of your MC's basic nature, or a sense of the story's primary theme, are what will encourage readers to buy. For my own WIP, I've spent a lot of time developing Neal's personality and his voice. He's the one who undergoes the greatest changes so it makes sense to open the book in his POV. And if I'm going to do that, Neal better grab people right in the first sentence.

image photo : Book GirlI feel compelled to add this thought: no matter how much blood, sweat and tears go into your opening line, please be sure the rest of your story doesn't let the reader down. I'm sure we've all read things where the first few paragraphs or pages really swept us into the story, but then left us high and dry. That's a huge disappointment and may sour readers on you. When you ask readers to step into your story, you're making a promise that it will be worth their time. A readership, a fan following, is a gift--they don't have to like you.

No comments:

Post a Comment