Writers talk about how essential that first sentence, first paragraph is in hooking your reader. Does it have to be full blown action-packed? Elana Johnson and James Scott Bell both say no. Let’s find out what it does need.
At the LDStorymaker Conference I recently attended, Elana presented the beats of a novel as adapted from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat books. The first beat is the opening scene. “You show your main character in the ordinary world in which they live,” Elana stated. Speaking of the opening scene for Possession, she adds, “Mine was a walk in the park.”
James writes that people read to worry. Put your character in some kind of discomfort or danger, big or little. This is a disturbance, not high levels of action. The reader will side with someone in trouble and their connection to the character begins. The faster we worry, the faster we bond.
So, while Elana shows the opening image of Vi’s normal world—a park, she also hints that trouble will follow her as she breaks the rules and that it will be recorded by the government. We have an immediate disturbance and our curiosity is peaked.
Go back to that first page of the book you are reading or the novel you are writing. Does it have a disturbance by the end of the first paragraph? Do we have someone starting a new school, losing their job, or worried about an exam? Hopefully yes. Is there tense action already? Will the building suddenly explode or is the heroine tied to the railroad tracks? Probably not.
Events will soon build, but first we want an intriguing disturbance in the character’s world. Happy worrying.
|Top: Local friends Me, Angela Milsap, Brenda Sills|
Middle: My Roomies Angela and Emily
Bottom: My door prize win - With Karen Hoover who signed her book,
Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard. I also won Possession and Texting Through Time.