It is Monday and that means Jan Christensen is back today sharing wisdom…..
FIRST LINE; FIRST PARAGRAPH
I have used the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon more and more when making a decision to buy a book or short story, especially if the author is new to me. And I’ve been rejecting several lately because they have what I consider a fatal flaw. They begin with a character alone and musing. I admit that some readers don’t mind this at all. But some will become quickly bored if the musing goes on too long, which it usually does. Musing, by definition, takes some time. In my opinion, it’s better to get right into the story and fill in the backstory when needed. Using the character is thinking about the past, after all.
What should the first line of your story do? Grab the reader, of course. How do you do that? For modern writers, usually having something exciting happen works well. Involve at least one sense, and you’ll do even better. The main character hears a scream, smells smoke, sees an airplane nosediving from the sky, touches something icky, tastes something odd.
To complete the first paragraph or sentences, be sure to plant the reader someplace specific. The character is most likely not floating out in space. Having her on the move is a good move. Some bit of action that nails the setting helps. Preferably physical action on her part, not in a car. A train might be okay. An airplane will work if she hears a scream or smells smoke or feels the plane taking a nosedive.
Whatever you do, don’t have the character waking up or just sitting around someplace thinking.
To recap, have your character’s senses on alert. Set your character in a specific place, and use a small bit of description to plant the reader. And finally, show the reader how your character is reacting emotionally to what’s going on around her.
A good exercise is to write down in your reader’s notebook every first line and paragraph you read that pulls you into the story. This includes first lines of scenes, not just the first line of a short story or novel. And perhaps also write down those that you feel are not very good.
Jan Christensen ©2017
Jan Christensen lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, and has had nine novels and over seventy short stories published. www.janchristensen.com