On the way home from our Thanksgiving visit to our son's family, Ken was driving and I was glued to the passenger seat, scrolling merrily through what seemed like thousands of facebook messages and articles on my phone.
It suddenly dawned on me that I was reading the opening paragraph and either continuing to read or clicking right back to the main page and continuing scrolling. If those opening lines didn't catch my interest, I was flying right on by. If you're a facebook user, you know that you can spend way too much time there. I decided to use my time wisely and read only interesting articles, even though I was stuck in the car and had little else to do. A quick scan of the opening let me know immediately which path I would take.
Every book about writing addresses the topic of Opening Lines or Opening Paragraphs and the importance of having one good enough to hook your reader.
Grab your reader in your opening! We've read it. We've heard it in workshops. We've listened as people in our critique groups say it. The big question is When we write, do we always try for the opening that will pull our reader in? Maybe we need some of that Pixie Dust our quote above mentions.
Most writers will agree that the beginning of a new story or any writing project is not easy. You may have the bones of the whole piece in your mind but exactly how to begin is not always clear. The important thing is write something. Anything! When you do your revisions/editing, you can fix up that opening or even write a completely new one. You have to start somewhere so let the thought in your head flow to your fingers and get it written.
Too often, writers use that opening paragraph trying to introduce the topic or set the scene or give way too much factual, and probably boring, information.
Action! That's one of the best ways to begin. Let your reader see someone doing something. Let them hear a huge explosion in a city building or a speeding train unable to stop for a truck stalled at a crossing.
Make something happen that leaves your reader with a question in their mind so that they will want to continue reading to find the answer. Open with someone walking on a lonely train platform at night; they hear the tap, tap of a cane from someone behind them. Right away, you wonder who is the person with the cane? Are they to be feared or someone to be helped?
Whether you're writing fiction or creative non-fiction, that opening paragraph is crucial to the entire project. It's even important when writing a news article or column in a newspaper. Doesn't matter what you're writing, grab a handful of that Pixie Dust and sprinkle liberally over your opening paragraph.