Effective January 2014, the Blog-Zine is cosed to new posts and is going dark. The blog and its archives will stay "up," though, so please feel free to peruse the archives and discover all of the great books, authors, articles, and other features that have joined me here over the years. Thanks to all who helped make my Blog-Zine adventure a raging success! Read on!

13 August, 2009

the Chronicles - Part XIV (a): To Heck with Simon, Stein says...

Stein says that lack of early arousal on the part of authors leaves readers unsure as to whether the reading experience will be enjoyable or not. As a result, they may question their ability or desire to keep turning the pages...

What this means to me is that first sentences and/or first paragraphs need to grab readers immediately. If they don't, you run the risk of readers losing interest and dropping your book before it starts getting good. Some writers will start off slow and work up to some sort of climax a few pages or paragraphs in, but this can be risky, as readers are an impatient lot. Think about the last time you picked up a book, read the first couple of paragraphs, and then tossed it aside, because it didn't "grab" you. This is exactly what Stein is alluding to...lack of arousal.

The goal of opening paragraphs, according to Stein, should be:

(a) to spark the reader's curiosity.
(b) to introduce something.
(c) to lend depth or meaning to the story.

Does your opening sentence or paragraph do this? Consider the following opening sentences:

I wanted to strangle mother, but I'd have to touch her to do it. (Stein, 2000)

A telephone ringing in the middle of the night is not a welcome sound. (Stein, 2000)

Just as these opening sentences do, make your opening sentences and paragraphs as interesting as possible by introducing an action or event that will make readers want to know more and/or lend an element of surprise.

Now, go forth and write that first sentence or paragraph! Post some examples of your own if you're feeling brave.

This ain't over...until next time!

Source: Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies (St. Martin's Griffin Edition, January 2000)

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