Saturday, April 04, 2009

Beginnings (part III)

Every book needs a hook. You've got about a paragraph to grab your reader and keep them with you for the next couple of hundred or so pages. Exactly how do you do that? This task will take all your ability to pull off! First lines are the crown jewels of writing. They sparkle and shine at the beginning of a novel and convince the reader there is treasure ahead.

I'm going to cover one "hook approach" in this post; there are others. One of the strongest hooks is a main character that will charm the socks off your readers. You want a character that oozes charisma. If you character is not so lovable, your job is harder; that's a fact. You have to create empathy for a main character. To do that, you have to be inside the head of that character. You have to understand him/her better than you do yourself.

The next thing you have to do is surprising, I think. I've looked at hundreds of books, and this is something a good number of authors do. They describe the setting from the point of view of their main character. Of course the setting has to be interesting, certainly not a bed, unless it's at the top of tower that's guarded by a fire breathing dragon, and I'm not sure that's enough. It would be better to ditch the bed and start on a stone cold floor. Start the story in a place of high interest for the reader. Make that place quirky, original, and alive with concrete details all funneled through your main character. Ask yourself, does my story start somewhere interesting?

The main character also need to reveal their problem in those first few lines. It goes without saying that your main character has a problem. "I'm starving!" "I'm lost!" "I'm on fire!" Be sure the problem is one that will make your reader say something like, "Oh, my gosh!" "Whoa!" or "I've got a bad feeling about this." Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm mixes character, setting, plus a problem effectively in the beginning. Give it a look if you wish.

Here's a thought. Some writers can grab a reader with just that character and setting, but in my opinion that's harder. It's doable, but harder. The character/setting appoach is well done in Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. You might give that a look.

Think about how you are approaching those first few lines. Look at a few first lines of books you love and ask yourself why they work. Have a good week. More to come.

This week's doodle is "Ship at Sea."

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

This week's playlist hit come from Ray Charles, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." But this attitude on when starting every work.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. Plato

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