Friday, November 6, 2009
CRAFT: Attention Grabbing Beginnings (Part 4)
I hope you've been looking at the keepers on your shelf with new eyes, analysing what makes them tick. Besides revisiting some great books it's a great exercise in analysing what works, what makes them so riveting.
The last couple of keepers come from Sydney Croft (a new author on my "to keep" shelf) and Lyndsay Sands.
Faith Black has been beaten, drugged and imprisoned, but none of that scared her. No, what frightened her to the core was the man confined with her. Chained to an improvised medieval rack and bare form the waist up, he lay on his back, arms over his head, his incredible chest marred by bruises and a deep laceration that extended from his left pec to his right hip.
He might have been rendered immobile, but he was in no way helpless.
His weapon, far more dangerous than the telekinesis-to her, at least-was his overpowering sexuality, a force that tugged her toward him, made her burn with need despite their grave situation.
The opening sentence in SEDUCED BY THE STORM by Sydney Croft pulls me immediately into the book. A woman in a horrible situation, suffering, possibly helpless, definitely in danger.
How’s she going to get out of it? Wait a minute, she’s not worried about the danger she’s in, but the man chained to the rack opposite her? Is he the enemy? Hmm, she’s attracted to him. He’s trouble but not the sort I was expecting. What is it about him that makes her ignore a life threatening situation?
Gotta read on.
It was a high-pitched scream that woke Elvi. Piercing and full of terror, it ripped her from her sleep and had her moving before she was quite awake. She started up abruptly only to curse and drop back down when her head slammed into the wooden lid of the coffin. (THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE by Lyndsay Sands)
Screaming victim – seen it, read it, it’s been done before in countless books. Someone responding to the victim – yep, also been done before. Head slamming into a coffin lid to rescue the victim – say what? Didn’t that grab you? Simple but effective twist on a ho-hum situation.
So, what makes an attention grabbing beginning?
• Creating lots of questions in the readers mind that need to be answered.
• Try using dialogue to open your scene– it’s active and immediately draws the reader in
• Sentence structure – short and sharp, use of alliteration etc. (I’m no grammar guru but you can see from some of the examples what to look for when analysing your own work)
• Empathy with the character – make the reader be able to recognise or relate to them in some way
• Take a familiar situation and give it a twist
My advice - get your own keepers off the shelf, read the opening paragraphs and analyse the tools they’ve used to hook the reader. Then try out those tools with your own writing.
Give it a go and reel in those readers hook, line and sinker!