1. Lolani
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    Lolani Member

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    Starting paragraph.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lolani, Sep 25, 2008.

    The very first paragraph in your chapter is supposed to capture the reader, pull them into the story and make them want to read, correct? Well, there's this little thing called the preface, and that's where I have my problem.

    I have an incredible preface for my novel, thinking it'd basically be what pulls the readers in. Unfortunately, after I'd written out the preface and the first few chapters, I realized that some readers (including myself at one point) never read prefaces or anything before the first chapter.

    I can't seem to write a good opening paragraph, though, and that's why I stuck with the preface instead of writing one out. It's nagging me and it's driving me crazy.

    Here's my preface:

    With all the controversy going around about these... devices, you’d think we’d have more publicity. James had no idea what he’d invented, and by giving it to us, he’d given us both an incredible future, and a death sentence.
    And, now, with these guys on our tail, there’s no chance of escaping. Somehow, they’ve devised some sort of plot to... to take us down and use the devices to change history.
    Our only chance is to stop them before it’s too late. With any luck, and time on our side, it’ll only take ten seconds.

    I kept it vague, and intriguing, but something tells me I need an opening paragraph, and I just can't seem to write one that fits. Have any suggestions? Need any more information?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I personally think you're stuffing too much information into the opening, even though you're also making each item incomplete. It still has the feel of an infodump to me.

    I think your task in the first paragraph should be to introduce a main character and place him or her into a situation. By introduce, I don't necessarily mean give a name or other such information. I just mean to place the character in the story and to let the reader see him or her dealing with the situation you place the character in.

    I wouldn't even make if clear in the first paragraph that there are people following or chasing. Focus on the character being nervous, or speeding down theroad checking the rearview mirror, whatver is appropriate to your scene. Male the reader wonder why, and what the character is afraid of.

    Do not talk about the devices in the first few patagraphs, and by no means foreshadow the "incredible future,and a death sentence." Not in the first pargraphs, anyway.

    Keep the mystery, and feed the readers just enough to keep them curious and hungry for more. You don't want to hand the reader questions, but you do want to lead the readers to ask questions.
     
  3. Lolani
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    Lolani Member

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    I'll have to fix that then, thank you :p

    It actually starts off where the main character knows nothing about the devices. It's not until later that he actually recieves one of his own. The story starts off during his normal life.


    Mmmmk. Thanks for your help!
     
  4. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never agreed with the idea that your story will be a flop if your first paragraph isn't perfect.

    Cog has given some great advice, but try not to force "interest". Despite what people say, most readers aren't that discriminating, and they'll even give you up to a chapter or three to hook them.

    As a note on the actual sample, I'm not sure on the perspective here. Is this person relating past events? Why would he know nothing of these devics yet know they are so important? I undertsand it's a preface, but it somewhat fits the stereotype of a preface the reader can outright skip. I'd suggest dropping it and starting us out with the actual story.

    Don't worry about having an awesone opening paragraph now, just get this thing written. The benefit of the writen word is that you can change it however you want, before it actually gets to the reader.
     
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  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I found it to be a info dump type paragraph too..
     
  6. Lolani
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    Lolani Member

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    I do have to agree with you about dropping the preface.

    Though, I'll probably have to edit it, I'd like to keep it in the book.
    I feel like, if I drop it from the book completely, the beginning would seem lifeless, for some reason.

    That's why I was thinking my beginning paragraph needed to be spiced up a bit.

    Actually, taking a look at the first book in the Twilight saga, her preface kind of matches mine. It gives a slight synopsis (though it doesn't give much away) of what's going to happen.

    That's what I was aiming for.
     
  7. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I thought it was pretty damn good. After reading that I want to read on. I have no problem with it.
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think it is fine. A lot of good novels have a short preface, such as my two favorite, Fear Nothing, and Seize the Night.

    I do recommend that if you are going to start the novel off from his every day life, then choose a really cool scene. For example Fear Nothing starts off normal, but it is interesting. Christopher Snows father is dying in the hospital, and he is on his way to go see him. It is his every day life, before things get really strange, but it is fun to read. I am sure you know this stuff already.

    As far as a first paragraph, this is how he pulls it off.

    On the desk in my candlelit study, the telephone rang, and I knew that a terrible change was coming.

    I am not psychic. I do not see signs and portents in the sky. To my
    eye, the lines in my palm reveal nothing about my future, and I don't
    have a Gypsy's ability to discern the patterns of fate in wet tea
    leaves.

    My father had been dying for days, however, and after spending the
    previous night at his bedside, blotting the sweat from his brow and . . .

    I guess think of something exiting that could be happening in his every day life, and that should give you a good first paragraph. It could be an argument perhaps.
     
  9. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    It sounds like the paragraph on the back cover. It’s well written, but gives a synopsis of the whole story. A hook paragraph shouldn't outline the whole story, IMO.
     
  10. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    I would say try and make it add to the last chapter. Like;

    If someone just killed someone in chapter 7, chapter 8 should begin with the killer putting away the weapon, dashing away, or going back their murder spree.

    In a large battle, one chapter might focus on a small fight outside of a town wall, ending with a plane flying overhead. The next chapter might begin with the same plane crashing into the streets, the setting of the next chapter.
     

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