The Grand Opening . . .

. . . of a book should reel the reader right in!   You/we don’t want the “it was a dark and stormy night” start, so it’s been often stated.  And correctly so.

That said, though, dark and stormy nights do have the ability to provide a few frissons, if depicted with the right details . . .

It was a darkly ominous night, filled with strident thunderclaps and blinding lightning, as Edoardo rode along the overflowing stream.  His quest was simple: kill the escaped convicts who’d burned down his farmstead and slew Olivia.

The example above gives the reader a pretty good indication of what the plot’s about and what will [likely] transpire.  The mood is menacing: a potentially dangerous storm, purposely (spitefully) destroyed farm, murdered woman (wife/lover), evil fugitives, and vengeful man.  Perhaps he’s the protagonist—hero—perhaps not.  The reader has to continue to discover who he is.

A powerful plot requires a powerful opening, and winning storyline.  Make sure that happens from the get-go.

Details and descriptions should be . . . detailed and descriptive.   Consider the examples below, A versus B.

A   The gang rode quickly across the corn field, toward the hills.

B   The dogged gang, anxious to lose the persistent posse, drove their weary horses across the withered corn field, toward the tree-lined hills.

Characters should be distinct; they have habits, traits, favorite expressions, accents perhaps.  They don’t all sport blond hair or blue eyes.  Characters are different sizes and shapes . . . have varying purposes/pursuits . . . come from diverse backgrounds.  Just like in real life.

John’s blue eyes looked into her gray ones.  “How’s it goin’?”

“It’s goin’ great,” she said, looking into his eyes.

Uh . . . yawn.  Not everyone speaks the same.  How about:

John’s sapphire-blue eyes peered searchingly into her ash-gray ones.  “How are you doing today, my pet?”

“I’m doin’ pretty good,” she replied, not quite meeting his gaze.

But I digress . . . a little.  These suggestions are something to bear in mind when penning that opening.  You don’t want it to be flat, but stirring.  Remember: reel . . . in . . . the . . . reader . . . right . . . away.

That first sentence/paragraph should not only introduce the plot and character(s), and establish a mood, but also present you—the writer, and your style.  Determine your voice and maintain it.  Readers will often read the first page to determine if they will purchase the book; ensure they do by offering the best [most dynamic] writing you can.

How often can I stress the importance of that opening sentence/paragraph?  Not enough.   And one last thing I’m also going to stress—make certain that dynamic opening carries throughout the book.

Pique the reader’s interest and keep it.

Judy Hogan Writes

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