Wednesday, December 19, 2007

First Sentences: Beginning in the Middle

To pull the reader into the story, the writer should try beginning the story in medias res, that is in the middle of things. Some inexperienced writers start off writing two or three pages of description. Instead, they would benefit by grabbing the reader's attention by using action or making a startling statement.

Assignment: In the book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, the following exercise is offered:

". . . write five of your own opening lines for five different stories. When you read, look for opening lines that immediately pull the reader into the story. And if you keep a journal or notebook, consider starting a new section and adding one first sentence a day—for the rest of your life."

Some sample first sentences:
  • Raymond Carver, "Cathedral": This blind man, an old friend of my wife's, he was on his way to spend the night.
  • Toni Cade Bambara, "Medley": I could tell the minute I got in the door and dropped my bag, I wasn't staying.
  • Joseph Maiolo, "Covering Home": Coach discovered Danny's arm when Danny's parents were splitting up at the beginning of the season.

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