Grab within the first paragraph - Page 3


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Thread: Grab within the first paragraph

  1. #21
    I understand the sentiment, but "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself" doesn't grab you by the collar, though it does set the tone of the story. I'm of the opinion that an opening doesn't need to kick you in the face, but it should get the cogs spinning.
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  2. #22
    I like engaging the reader right off the bat with the first paragraph leading to a question such as this:

    Eric hurriedly strode down the cemented sidewalk, fists shoved into his hooded jacket as fireworks fired off behind him. Colors of blue, pink and gold lit up the night sky. It was the Harvest Festival finale and he was missing it. He gritted his teeth as a sheen of wetness formed on his forehead. He was supposed to be enjoying a relaxing day at the Harvest Festival with his friends. But his body had other plans. The sweat was a telltale sign of a jump coming on.


    I always tend to go with something action based. Where something either bad, exciting, or thrilling is taking place and you just happen to be caught in the middle of it (if that makes sense).

  3. #23
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScarletM.Sinclaire View Post
    I like engaging the reader right off the bat with the first paragraph leading to a question such as this:

    Eric hurriedly strode down the cemented sidewalk, fists shoved into his hooded jacket as fireworks fired off behind him. Colors of blue, pink and gold lit up the night sky. It was the Harvest Festival finale and he was missing it. He gritted his teeth as a sheen of wetness formed on his forehead. He was supposed to be enjoying a relaxing day at the Harvest Festival with his friends. But his body had other plans. The sweat was a telltale sign of a jump coming on.


    I always tend to go with something action based. Where something either bad, exciting, or thrilling is taking place and you just happen to be caught in the middle of it (if that makes sense).
    That's a great hook without shoving down our throat. The mystery is the "jump."
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  4. #24
    I keep getting the feeling when people mention this, that it's more about author insecurity than anything else. Working with kids who read a lot, I find that they just want to get grabbed within the first few pages, maybe a chapter. Some even have patience for more than that, if someone recommended a book to them!

    I get that you want to feel secure in the reader not putting your book down, but twisting it till breaking point just to make the first paragraph a page turner, that seems a bit excessive. If it's your style, you do you. But my first few paragraphs or even pages tend to mostly establish a mood. Don't give up if paragraphs one to five are a bit on the laid back side. Anyone who throws a book away just for that seems unlikely to finish it no matter what.

    My 2c, anyway.

  5. #25
    These days - with electronic media overtaking physical book sales, I think the whole "grab 'em in the first hundred words" thing has become poppycock. Readers will look at your cover first, then your blurb/product description, and may download a free sample (usually 10%). So, the blurb seems much more crucial than the opening paragraphs.

  6. #26
    In general, I feel like short stories are better served by a more immediate hook. At least I know this applies to me. It may seem contradictory, given how little time investment is involved, but I'm less likely to read a short story if it doesn't grab me immediately. A novel, I'm willing to give a few pages to hook me.

    Having said that, I don't necessarily think it needs to be the first paragraph for a short story, but definitely the hook needs to come quickly.

    For better or worse, here are some openings of mine just to play along. A couple of these stretch the "first paragraph" rule a bit because they open with dialog or a single line. First, three short stories (all set in the same world):

    The Last Job:
    ------------------------
    “Stop, or go through?” Asked the man.
    “You need sleep.” The woman replied simply.
    “I’m OK.”
    The woman shook her head, causing icy blonde hair to fall in front of her eyes. She reached up to sweep it back behind her ears. From the corner of his eye, the man saw that her hand was trembling. She caught him looking and thrust both hands deep into her lap to hide the shakes. “We also need fuel,” she said.
    ------------------------

    Talisman:
    ------------------------
    I don’t remember regaining consciousness.
    I floated in a haze for minutes or maybe hours. The pounding in my head eventually brought me around. A vague annoyance that grew into a stabbing throb, refusing to be ignored. The floating sensation subsided and reality came into focus. I was laying on something hard like concrete, but there was a scratchy tarp between me and the ground. It had a dirty, musty smell. I was naked. That scared the shit out of me, and also pissed me off.
    ------------------------

    The Bidderman Case:
    ------------------------
    “Are you sure you can clean my house? You can really get rid of it?” The man asked, his nervous tone somehow hopeful and skeptical at the same time. He compulsively dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief that was already damp with sweat. Dark, puffy bags hung under his bloodshot eyes, suggesting that his last full night of sleep was who knows how long ago.
    ------------------------


    And the opening of the novel I'm currently working on -- not in the same world as the previous. It currently doesn't have a title...
    ------------------------
    Mindy excitedly pulled herself along the observation room by one of the railings. She reached her arm out, gripped the railing with her tiny fingers, then simultaneously pulled as hard as she could and jumped. In the limited gravity, she soared in an exaggerated arc, squealing with delight, until she settled on the floor and then repeated her maneuver. She stopped at one of the large observation windows and pressed her face up against the glass. “Mom!” She gasped. “You can see it now!”
    ------------------------

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Embassy of Time View Post
    I keep getting the feeling when people mention this, that it's more about author insecurity than anything else. Working with kids who read a lot, I find that they just want to get grabbed within the first few pages, maybe a chapter. Some even have patience for more than that, if someone recommended a book to them!

    I get that you want to feel secure in the reader not putting your book down, but twisting it till breaking point just to make the first paragraph a page turner, that seems a bit excessive. If it's your style, you do you. But my first few paragraphs or even pages tend to mostly establish a mood. Don't give up if paragraphs one to five are a bit on the laid back side. Anyone who throws a book away just for that seems unlikely to finish it no matter what.

    My 2c, anyway.
    This. ^^^^^

    Just from my own experience, I often find examples of "grab 'em with the first paragraph" to be overwritten, and with so many ideas jammed into it that I'm more confused regarding the direction of the story than intrigued by it. That turns me off, as I despair the rest of the story may continue to be purple and frenetic.

    Most readers have more than a 10 second attention span. As a reader, I don't have to be sold on a story right away. Another member mentioned, and it applies to me -- I already generally know SOMETHING about the story either from recommendation or blurb. I'm not even there unless I have potential interest, and the number of books I've abandoned after starting is quite short for my entire lifetime.

    I'm with Embassy in that I start with mood, even if only for a short time -- and probably because I enjoy reading authors who do that -- the people I learned from.

    The OP started with "Whether you are writing a Robert Jordan length novel or a short story of less than 2,500 words, you need to be able to draw the reader into your world within the first paragraph."

    These sorts of rules are dangerous, because they are not rules. They are suggestions. They apply in some situations for some writers. Every "rule of authorship" we've read are really not rules. They are things less experienced writers should keep in mind, because many times they do apply. But experienced, professional authors violate virtually every rule you can name as appropriate to enhance their writing. Sometimes they do it on purpose, and sometimes they do it from instinct.

    I agree that the first paragraph should be interesting -- as interesting as every paragraph in the work.

  8. #28
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Ack. I can add an opener than is better than most of all the others. At least I was told that:

    Well, got a new computer and new Word and Windows. I can't get the quote to come through. I'll try and figure this out.
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  9. #29
    Member Justin Attas's Avatar
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    Love this thread. It's so hard to capture that hook-y essence of a great opener. My ebook, Strand, does a decent job of this I hope! It starts like this.

    Each blink of orange light brought the shape to life in an otherwise empty night- a young man dangling by a string.
    Take your plotting skills to the next level with my intensive course! Hidden Content
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  10. #30
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Well, still can't paste a partial doc file in here without all of the text running together. I don't know what I've done wrong. Any help on that? Never had that happen before.
    Last edited by Chris Stevenson; May 23rd, 2020 at 12:04 AM. Reason: Came out jibberish
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