Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Telling Stories (Part 3 of 10)

Within the past several years, I've published five compilations. The submissions arrived, and I rewrote them for a consistent tone and voice.

Too many of them started badly. Here are two examples:

1. "It was the saddest Christmas of my childhood with no food and no presents until an angel named Harry Reeves brought us a large box on Christmas Eve."

2. Many patients die during surgery, rush through a dark tunnel, see a brilliant light, then find themselves at the pearly gates. I suffered from cancer, was pronounced brain dead, and found myself in the company of angels.

In both instances, the writers summarized the story in the opening sentence, so why would I want to read them? Good stories grab my attention and emotion with the first words and beguile me with what lies ahead.

"We won't be able to celebrate Christmas this year." With tears in his eyes, Dad turned his face away from us.

That's a good beginning because the opening

* grabs our attention;

* shows tension—a problem;

* makes us care.

I like to think of beginning sentences as earning the right to receive readers' attention. Readers owe me nothing—so my first task is to interest them enough that they'll continue to read.

Good beginnings entice readers to continue reading.

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