Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Importance of Your Opening Pragraphs

National Museum of the Pacific War
Fredericksburg, Texas

You can visit a Peace Garden given by the people of Japan to the National Museum of the Pacific War. This fine museum is located in Fredericksburg, Texas, which also happens to be the hometown of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz of WWII fame. 

Fredericksburg has many other draws that bring tourists from near and far. Shopping, dining of all kinds, lovely old homes and the scenic Hill Country all around it. This is, I believe, our fourth trip to this Texas community settled long ago by hardworking German immigrants.

I hope my opening of this post drew your interest because today's topic is actually openings of your stories, essays, and articles. 

When I was in high school and college, English teachers pushed writing the introductory paragraph to let readers know what the piece would be about. In that paragraph, the all-important topic sentence was to be the highlight. Sometimes those paragraphs were eternally long. And boring! They didn't really draw the reader in. So what should you do?

Start immediately with action in a fiction piece. Make it visual, bring your reader into the story as quickly as you can. A mystery might start with the actual murder, not the hours leading up to it. A love story could begin with the kiss at the wedding altar, not the courtship, proposal and bridal showers. Pull your reader in immediately. If you don't, they're going to move on to something else. 

If you're writing a memoir or a personal essay, begin with the most important part. Don't take pages or mulitple paragraphs to lead up to the 'good part.' Nope. Give the reader the good part right away. Later you can show them what led up to this.

What about a nonfiction article? Perhaps it's a how-to article on fixing a holiday dinner. Jump right in on the Easter, Passover or Thanksgiving Day meal prep in the kitchen. Show the hostess cooking and setting the table. Then bring in how she planned the meal, shopped for the meal and more. 

What about poetry? I am drawn in by first lines that show me something special. Or I'm turned off by the first lines that tell me nothing, show me nothing. You know the ones that try to set a scene and then get to what the poem is really about three verses later.

In today's world, time is Public Enemy #1. People are feeling constantly pushed for time. It's up to the writer to draw in the reader immediately. If you don't, they'll move on faster than a jackrabbit crosses the Arizona desert. 

Did I pique your interest with my opening in this post? That depends on whether you are a person interested in history, museums and famous people. Or like visiting interesting towns. My aim with this post was to make writers aware of the need of a good opening in whatever you're writing.

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