Bonus Page 2

I Want To Write...

Where To Start – the importance of your first sentence
It’s often said that most new writers start their stories at least a couple of chapters too soon. In other words, that, given the importance of the opening paragraph, the author would have been better to delete the first few chapters of explanation and description, and simply jump in at the part of the story where the action begins.

After all, think about how you choose which book you're going to buy or take off library shelf. What makes one story leap out more than another? Do you look at the cover then flick to the first page to see if it seems interesting enough to take home? Most of us do.

When it comes to grabbing the attention of a reader, the first paragraph, or in fact the first sentence is where the decision is hinged. If the author is droning on about something that seems to hold no spark of interest or intrigue, are you going to read on or are you going to start flicking through the next book on the shelf? It all sounds very logical to say that first sentence has to grip the reader, but surprisingly it’s also why many manuscripts fail. After all, a publisher is like any reader; the story has to hold their attention if they're going to spend more of their valuable time on it.

So what are the most proven ways to get the reader’s attention?
Firstly, to slowly draw the reader into the world of fantasy, much like many painters do with their masterpieces. Start in one corner and then slowly expand out.
Secondly, to simply bash the reader over the head and drag them in by the scruff of the neck. For example, start your writing with an exclamation, in the middle of a heated argument or at an early climax of the story - all these can work.

It depends on your story and your style of writing as to which method you use. Starting your story in a different place doesn’t mean that the details you would have included in those first couple of misplaced chapters have to be discarded. If these details are truly necessary they can be woven into later paragraphs or pages.
For more ideas on how to grab attention and build intrigue, look at the opening pages of your favourite novels and best-sellers. Just to give you some ideas, read the examples below and see what emotions they evoke in you.

‘This is what happened.’ The Power of One by Bryce Courtney

‘Rose Pickles knew that something bad was going to happen.’ Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

‘Before you fairly start this story I should like to give you just a word of warning.’ Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner

‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
Share by: