The First Paragraph

Welcome to another Wednesday! And thank you for inviting me into your life. I’m glad to be here, and I value your friendship. Snow is in the forecast for Central Pennsylvania. I guess it’s that time of year. There’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s get on with some quality time.

Our topic for today, The First Paragraph, applies to all writing but especially to fiction writing. We all know, if you don’t grab ‘em in the first few sentences, you probably won’t get your reader back. It’s imperative we have a good opening line. So how do we accomplish that? Let me share four thoughts.

1. Begin with action. I’m not saying it has to be a knock-down, drag-out fight, but give your audience a sense they are in the middle of something. Stay away from backstory and setting. Weave that in as the story grows.

2. Introduce your main character early. Generally, he/she should be the first character introduced. Allow your opener to focus on him/her and set the tone for the rest of the story. I’m a stickler for names. Be sure to name your characters appropriately.

3. Don’t describe; layer in. Whether it’s setting or backstory or present action, don’t simply describe it, but reveal it a little at a time. Your reader will thank you as they subconsciously take in the details.

4. Show, Don’t Tell. We have certainly been through this before, but as in number three, don’t just give statements or facts. Allow your audience to see what is happening, not just hear about it.

Well, it’s time to prepare for the coming storm, so I gotta go. Enjoy your week. I’ll see you in seven!



Revisiting The Voice

It’s been five years since I published The Voice. Here’s the opening scene.

All was silent once again. Peter McClanahan struggled to stand. The fiery pain engulfed his body, but he knew his only hope was to make it back to town. He stood. The dark woods swirled around him. The only sound now was that of an owl in a nearby tree – “Who? Who?” As if to emphasize its point, the owl repeated the question – “Who? Who?” Peter had no answer for who or why or anything else. Dizziness swept over his body, but he fought his way to the old farmer’s field at the edge of the woods.

He tried to hurry as best he could through the standing corn, but the continual contact of the stalks brought a searing, hot pain to his many wounds. Each step brought a pounding to his head. Each breath brought him closer to exhaustion – and death. If he could get through the field, he would be able to reach the town and hopefully get the help he so desperately needed.

Blood was pouring from more than one open wound. Just how much damage was done, he didn’t know. He had never felt so weak. Nothing seemed real. Reality left him in the woods. But by now the town was in sight. He could see the glow of lights over the horizon as he pushed on.

Peter stood at the corner of Green-Briar and Meredith Roads. The pouring rain began to collect in puddles around his feet as he leaned against the street lamp for support. How he got there, he didn’t know. The last five hours of his life were non-existent. Now at 1:00 a.m., the bewildered boy stood on the verge of collapse.

One car passed – then another. Both looked and drove on. Finally, a white Chevy Cruz slowed and pulled over to the curb. The woman on the passenger side rolled down her window to ask Peter if he needed help. Then she screamed.

“Call 911! Call 911!” She yelled to the driver. Blood flowing from Peter’s multiple wounds tinged the puddles a diluted red as the rain continued to fall. His faded, pale face told the story. Confusion. Pain. Trauma. – Coming death.

I run my stories through for editing. Just for fun, I ran the opening scene through PWA again. Flag after flag popped up. I plugged in their corrections and said, “No. No. That’s not how I want it.”

Online editors have their place and can be helpful, but they don’t live where we live – the place where the writer and reader meet. Most technical errors I make are on purpose. It’s part of my voice, my style, whatever you want to call it.

My voice is my voice. Your voice is your voice, and it’s individual and unique. I’m not about to let any online editor silence my voice.

Today’s lesson – write from the heart. That’s where you, the writer, will meet your reader.

To see more about The Voice, go to the resource page, and I’ll see you next week. Have a great one!