Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Questions about Beginnings (Part 5 of 9)

(an encore post)

On our first page we make a contract with readers. We’re saying, "If you’ll invest your time in reading me, I’ll make it worth your while."

Whatever we promise in the beginning sentence we need to deliver. In my article on health that began with the question, "How long do you choose to live?" I offered 1,200 words on how to make better choices that affect our health and longevity.

The first sentence also shows the tone or style of the material—the voice we’ll use throughout the article or chapter. If it’s humor or a light touch, we need to make it obvious and stay with that tone. If we want to write with a more somber tenor, we need to start that way.

Here are four made-up beginnings that express different styles. Which voice is closest to yours?

• Eight years, 49 diets, and 900 pounds ago I decided to get serious about my weight.

• What should we, as Christians, know about the Bible? What information do we consider essential to make us well-read and informed believers?

• Prayer is either a problem or a source of power. We can view it with doubt or with quietness.

• Who is the addict? I observed behavior patterns of three individuals, all productive, who work in my office. I'll explain their behavior and you decide who is the addict.

I choose the tone I want;
I show the same voice throughout the writing.


  1. Cec, excellent and thought-provoking post. I'm writing my first book, on the topic of self-forgiveness. The manuscript is a mixture of humorous illustrations, sober testimony of recovery from a personal crisis, Scriptural truths & insights, and quotes from experts in the field of counseling & psychology. So which voice do I use in the first sentence? The first page? Thanks!

    1. Lynn, you are a writer and part of your task is to select your voice. Further, whatever voice you choose you stay with it for the rest of the book. These days some novels deviate by switching from first person (usually the central character) and third person (scenes with the antagonist).
      You have choices. Make the right one.

  2. As usual, I love your posts. Every one is helpful. I'm especially interested in this series. I like your four beginnings in different styles, but I would like to see you write four beginnings in different styles on one topic so we can see how to approach a topic in a variety of ways.

    1. Barbara, that is an excellent idea; however, it's not possible for me to do that now. I will keep it in mind for later.


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