Have you ever picked up a book, opened it to the first page and read the first line? Yes? Well have you ever put the book back because you didn’t like the first line or paragraph? First impressions whether on paper or in person can be crucial. The most important work history goes on top in a resume to catch a potential employer’s eye. It’s the same with the beginning of a book. Something needs to grab the reader and make them want to continue reading. They say the beginning of a book should give readers an insight on what the story will be about. Yet, it could be a quote, dialogue, or a foreshadowing. The plot is what will entice someone to read your piece of writing. Nonetheless, I’m going to share some of my first lines/paragraphs and comment on why they work. By the end of this, you will have an idea on how to create an enticing beginning for your story.
These lines are from my book “Down to the Chase”. “My body convulses at the sight of the dead man lying in the middle of the alley. Blood pools around his abdomen, as his life slowly trickles out of him. Shallow breathes kill the silent night. The cold knife slips out of my hand and clangs to the ground.” These lines are my favorite openers. I wrote this book during Nanowrimo 2014 and I don’t know what type of creative juices were flowing that day. The whole first page is spectacular in fact. The story starts off with the end of a fight. Main character Deonte, stabbed not just anyone, but his girlfriend’s ex. Yep. I wanted to catch the aura of this scene. I wanted readers to be there, feel Deonte’s desperation and the weight of killing a man.
My novel “Our Father”, begins with a poem and the first lines are, “The man staring back at me is not the same man they remember. I’m renewed. Life has breathed itself back into me. I am new. I am stronger.”
This is a thought by my character Nathaniel, who is stalking his former best friend. These lines express how Nathaniel strives to become better while also distancing himself from the past. When I started this story five years ago it opened with Robyn -his old best friend- waking up at her friend’s house. It was more interesting to begin with Nathaniel and let readers see the mystery beforehand and wonder who this person is. As the chapters goes on, readers will understand Nathaniel is someone “scary”, “cunning”, a dear friend and brother. This beginning's purpose is to introduce a character and his motives.
· Next story is “Being a Model”. The first two lines are, “I breathe in the unique New York scent. A little wet and salty.”
This beginning opens with scenery. My character is coming in from a small town in Texas to the Big Apple, a dream of hers. My idea was to start with her coming in from the airport and get her reaction to New York. My initial idea was to have her already established in NYC, but this beginning made more sense. This is the crucial element in writing a great beginning. Write something that helps the story move along. It paves a way for the rest of the story. The way you start it could change the plot in several ways.
Finally, “The Other Side of the Mirror”. “In Madagascar, we don’t look the same. We are one people. We are the Malagasy people.” I begin with this quote and then a prologue, “We watched as the car rumbled away from our humble home. The home that couldn’t take care of our baby girl.”
The quote is important for the Malagasy culture. It doesn’t explain what it means. The people of Madagascar have great diversity ancestry and culture. Their ancestors come from East Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. As for the prologue, this sets up the rest of the story. It has a background explanation and a foreshadowing. My main character Volana, has Alopecia Areata and is adopted. In this prologue both of those things are expressed with an ending scene of her biological mother’s hair falling out. The beginning of a book is a road map for the rest of the story. Hopefully from reading my first liners it gave you inspiration on how to start your masterpiece.
It's How-to January! Each Saturday this month I'm talking about how to write different things. Next week's topic is about poetry.
*Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash.com
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