second, I am working very hard on revising The Way to Dendara and have managed to cut over 10,000 words and I’m only on page 85. At this rate I will definitely reach my goal of getting the word count under 120,00. And don’t laugh. It started at 164,000!!!
Third and last, something intelligent. And because I’m still a little hung over from my ever so pleasant day yesterday – in which I spent an inordinate amount of time in airports and on planes – I’ve delved into Writer’s Digest Magazine for a little help and stolen an idea from 2004: How to grab a reader’s attention in the first paragraph.
Here are three examples from books I love:
“Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it.”
from Night Watch by Terry Pratchett.
I’ll admit this is not a subtle opening but rather the sort that likes to clobber you over the head with a fry pan. On the other hand, this is Terry Pratchett, the master of the satirical fantasy, and Sam Vimes*, my favorite watchman.
“That Friday started badly, and it got worse as it went along.”
from Pirate’s Passage by William Gilkerson.
By page 3 the yacht appears, ‘running for its life before the storm,’ and after that there’s no putting the book down.
“The Unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”
From The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
There’s not much to say about that opening, except that it might be near to perfect.
Of course the hard part is making the rest of the book as good as the opening. But if you start off with something to draw the reader in, be it a scream, things going from bad to worse, or a unicorn, you'll probably keep yourself interested enough and thus the reader as well.
* "Commander Samuel Vimes: Head of Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch, despite his best efforts to the contrary. A slightly tarnished walker along mean streets, and like all good cops knows exactly when it’s time to be a bad cop.” Direct quote from a list of characters, found in the back of most of the Discworld books.