I use the word magnetic because your story beginning should pull a reader in much like a magnet to metal. Readers look at the start of the first chapter as more than just a glimmer of what’s to come. Your first words, first sentence and first paragraph should give your prospective buyer a feeling of sinking deep into the story and being a part of the plot.
You cannot create this reaction with dead words, lackluster writing and non-descriptive verbiage that says little about the promise of the story.
You can avoid the above pitfalls by jumping smack into the middle of your plot right there at the beginning. Don’t tell how the weather was warm and breezy and no rain was expected. Open your story at a crime scene. Have the characters talk right away. Have the main characters present and also part of the dialogue.
In my novel, Down to the Needle, the story starts with the reader plunged into the middle a raging arson scene. The main characters show up after a few brief bits of desperate dialogue by firemen and police. You know who the main characters are – and they’re not the firemen and police who speak first – because I go on to describe their clothing at the first and insert bits of back-story about their experiences with fires.
For your story beginning, make the open scenes as exciting as possible. Also, make them apropos to the plot. In Down to the Needle, several more unexpected fires happen throughout the story. A fire scene is a great beginning. A person’s senses go on high alert. Adrenaline rushes as if the reader is present at the scene. You want your reader to sense those emotions, and feel the fright and also to share in what all of the characters experience.
In a romance, perhaps, you want your readers to feel the loneliness and longing of someone for the person they love. Or the reader might be made to feel the rejection of someone experiencing a broken relationship. Whatever that romance has to offer, the opening scene must get into the readers’ hearts.
In all genres, not only must your written word be magnetic, beyond being simply appealing, the setting in which the action takes place must grab immediate interest. Write the setting well. Write it to suit the action as well as the dialogue of any characters in the scene.
Beginnings must offer what the potential reader of that genre searches for. Understanding the genre in which you choose to write is the only way to make your openings work.
Next week: The End of Sagging Middles…don’t miss it!
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