I’ve become more and more interested in how books begin. If a book doesn’t capture a reader immediately that book doesn’t leave the shelves. Here’s what Stein on Writing says about that first paragraph.
“The ideal goals of an opening paragraph are:
1. To excite the reader’s curiosity, preferably about a character or a relationship.
2. To introduce a setting.
3. To lend resonance to the story.”
Wow! No wonder those opening paragraph take so much time to write. That’s a lot to pack into such a small space. But how does a writer do it?
I’ve been looking at some openings and here’s what I see in the ones I like.
The writers give their character(s) personalities that tweak my interest. I want to know who these people are. What they might do or not do? Here are a couple of my favorites.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
Catcher in the Rye
“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
Because of Winn Dixie
So different, right, but both hook you by the nose and pull you right into those books. Immediately you have to know what happens to these characters.