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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Starting That First Page

One of the most difficult things for any writer to do is begin that first page. Where do I start? How do I catch the readers imagination? How do I get readers to keep reading?  There are a few things that I have found work well, whether you're writing novels, short stories, magazine articles, etc., what you need to do is get people's attention.

I tell students in the classes I teach to figure out what their story is about - to understand the theme of their story - then try to put some of that in their first two or three sentences. At the same time, create a picture in the reader's mind. Let them be drawn into the story by a mysterious picture that they cannot get out of their heads. I love to use as an example the opening scene in the movie "Mama Mia". For those of you who have not seen the movie (and I highly recommend it), the movie begins at night. A young girl is alone in a small motor boat. She is singing "I have a dream...", and is heading for a small box on the shore in front of her. As she approaches the box you see it is a mailbox. She then puts in three envelopes addressed to three different men. Okay. What the heck is going on here? Why is she making this trip in secret at night? What is her dream? Who are these three men? It's a compelling opening to a wonderful story. As we learn later, these three men dated her mother at different times 20 years previously, and one of them could be her father. She is inviting them to her wedding to see if she can find out which one is her father. Try to do something similar when beginning your writing. Paint a picture for the reader. Then gradually let details out so little by little the reader begins to see the story and wants to know more.

I think the most important thing to take away here is to paint a picture. Let it be a bit mysterious, and then gradually inform the reader of bits and pieces of your mystery.

Let's begin!!