Saturday, November 1, 2008

Engage the Reader From the First Sentence

“The most important sentence is the first one.” – William Zinsser in On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.
I serve as the Contest Administrator for Flash Me Magazine’s Lightning Flash Fiction Contest. The entries are short (less than 250 words). These tales don’t take long to read, but I still find myself turned off by a story that starts with a thud. With so few words, it’s important that every sentence serve a purpose, and the first sentence should engage the reader. Below are some examples. The first two are from Sudden Fiction (Continued).
“My search for anonymity took me all the way to Brooklyn.” A Bar in Brooklyn by Andrei Codrescu.
“How did we come to be there, my wife waist-deep in grass while I sat quiet, waiting for the dark?” Flatland by Richard Plant.
“The monster emerged from the morning mists in the pearly light of dawn.” The Navigator by Clive Cussler
There’s no way I can stop after one of these openings. Somewhere I read that the purpose of the first sentence is to make the reader want to continue to the second, the second to the third, and so on. I spend a lot of time writing and rewriting the first sentence of my stories. I don’t want to give the reader the option of stopping.

No comments: