Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Seduce Your Reader With Your First Line by Diana Flegal
Writers who ignore the first line create fiction that lacks literary seduction.
Aaron Gansky Firsts in Fiction
Have you ever grabbed a book off the shelf in a bookstore, opened it and read the first line and determined to buy it? Or at the least, pull up a chair and read a little more while sipping your latte' ? (Gosh, I miss my local Borders Bookstore).
Like the mermaids siren song, we are seduced and can not escape, even though we might wish to. We are hooked and at the mercy of the author, compelled to read on. That is a wonderful experience, is it not?
Fiction and Nonfiction can capture us this way.
Erwin Raphael McManus captured me with a fictional opening to his nonfiction Christian Living title, Seizing Your Divine Moment. He wrote: Rumblings are more felt than heard and certainly never seen. They come to you through the soles of your feet into the depths of your soul. Only then do they open the eyes of your heart. They speak of a shift that is about to take place.
Margaret Becker, in her title, Coming Up For Air, hooked me with her first paragraph. I will let you read it yourself. Amazon says this about it: Artist Margaret Becker shares her personal story of exhaustion, loneliness, faith, and success in a lighthearted yet thought-provoking story. Through her experiences women will learn how to redefine, reclaim, and rejuvenate their lives.
Yes, both times the authors grabbed me where I was at. I was feeling tremors beneath my feet and knew I was in for a shift. And I certainly needed to get away as Margaret spoke of. But if they hadn't wrote what they said in a compelling and fine way, I would have moved on.
A reader will not continue reading if you do not capture or 'hook' them quickly. They simply place your book back on the shelf and pull out another. With limited budgets, there are so many options and so little time.
When an agent or editor read your sample chapters in a proposal, we sometimes know by the first line and often by the first page, whether we are going to read on or reply with a kind rejection. Sometimes out of duty, having met the author at a conference face to face, we will read the full three chapters contained in the proposal. And if we catch a glimmer of something special, having waded on, we might respond with a suggestion for a rewrite and request for a resubmit. But all too often we know by the first pages end,it just doesn't measure up.
While refreshing my First Pages workshop for an upcoming conference, I turned to Aaron Gansky's book mentioned above.This small book is power packed with great writing advice. The subtitle of the book is: First Line Hooks, Hints and Help. And it is just that.
Aaron lists four ways you can begin your story with the first line.
Through character, conflict, voice and setting.
Eddie Jones, in his book, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, begins; "I'd just ordered a large pizza the evening our apartment building burned down." I was curious enough to read on.
Which style of beginning would you say Eddie used?
What are a few of your favorite first lines? Share them here with us, but don't forget to credit the author.
And be sure to check out Aaron's book.