Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You Had Me At Hello

Now for a rant about the most important part of a story! Yes, you guessed it, the opening. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I walk into a book store it's all I can do not to drool. All those crisp new books with stories to get lost in.... just thinking about it makes my mouth sloppy. But what is one thing that can turn you away from some of those precious books? Not the picture on the front, although those can be disturbing enough. Nope, it's the first page.

I can't count the number of books I've put back on shelves because they failed to interest me. Perfect example: in my junior year my friend loaned me the first book in the Hunger Games series. I had it for almost a year. Now, as a person who devours books, this was a disgrace to my good name. I wanted to read it, truly I did. But the first page did not grab my attention. It consisted of terms I did not understand (I know that this is a technique used by many authors to make you keep reading, but I've never been much of a fan), as well as a description of a decrepit old cat.

Now, perhaps if I was an avid reader of T.S. Eliot's poetry, I would have appreciated the description. But sadly, because of it, that amazing book sat on my desk for almost a year before I pushed past the first chapter. After I did that, of course I finished it within a few days, and my own copy now holds a place of honor in the book case (eye level shelf, basically the same clout as a Grammy). It is one of my favorite stories.

Now what is the purpose of this rant? Well, my own editing has revolved mostly around making my books more exciting. And the first page is crucial. There are several ways to do this. Beginning with dialogue, an already started action, a brief description of conflict, internal dialogue about something that happened. Anything to grab hold of the reader and shake them until they need to read the story. Without the grab, books are like pets, just waiting for someone to take the time to push past the annoying flaws and discover the pal beneath.

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