This is the first installment in a series I began last week entitled Keep Yer Pants On, Plot By Numbers. In that post I stated that I'm not a "pantser" when planning a new story. I'm a total "plotter." I know a lot of people enjoy the meandering path that their characters lead them on, but I have to know where I'm going. And I promise I'm not a control freak. It's just a sanity thing.
So the first tenet of plotting a great story is "Grab The Reader By The Nose"
What I mean is that you want to write a compelling
- first line
- first paragraph
- first 250 words
- first page
- first 500 words
Something in a person's brain clicks and responds to a really well written opening sentence. While it's certainly not necessary, it simply gives you an edge in a crowded marketplace. Think of all the people strolling through a book store... picking up books... reading back blurbs. Once they find something that piques their interest they thumb to the first few pages.
THAT'S when you have to grab them by the nose. As soon as they open to the first page, you want your words to speak directly to them, hit a chord, and resonate. If not, they're likely to say, "Hmmm. Interesting." And put it right back on the shelf.
Once you have them hooked by your first line and first paragraph, you need to ensure your first scene wraps it's arm around the reader and guides them to the couch.
Elements of a super opening scene
- Paint the picture of your character's current normal life And normal doesn't mean pain free or angst free. And make it *as close to the conflict as possible* Don't information dump... don't give us all the back story. Show us the character, enough to get a sense of her, just before the hammer falls.
- Introduce the conflict... something that will Rock Her World (Stay Tuned For Next Week) And make it significant enough that your reader doesn't say, "So What?"
- Forecast the ending of the story... or at least promise the reader that your character will grow and change based upon the conflict she now faces.
Also, if you haven't seen it, check out Brenda Drake's "It Was A Dark And Stormy Blogfest" wherein participants are charged with sharing their best first lines.