The Importance of Beginning Well


The Importance of Beginning Well.

The reader is king.

So, I went looking for what a reader believes makes  “a good book.” Reader Subhakar Das shares a thought that should be obvious: he says begin well when telling a story.

Subhakar Das says “There’s nothing quite like a book that grips from the very first line. As a reader I attach a great deal of importance to the first sentence. Every time I open a new book to the first page it is with trepidation for I feel that if the first sentence is not quite right, the whole book will be a disappointment. It is a sentiment shared. But is the first sentence that important?”

As an author, I am guilty of ignoring the power of the opening line. Sure, I understand that the first sentence needs to hook my reader. What I fail to appreciate is the damage done by a poor opening. Agents and acquiring editors will quit reading if the opening sentence doesn’t impress them. Booker Prize winner Ben Okri says that if the first sentence of a book does not grab him, he is liable to close the book then and there.

Ouch!

Das explains, “The magic of the first sentence of a book can also inspire the writer in you. This is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s impression of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for before books were meant to help him sleep. He writes: ‘But this time the effect was just the opposite: I never again slept with my former serenity.’ The first sentence he was talking about was: ‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed into a gigantic insect.’ Such was the effect of Kafka’s writing, Marquez did not go to the university for the next few days for fear the spell would be broken.”

My advice? Re-examine the opening in the manuscript you are about to hand off to an editor. Be sure it is a zinger!

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: How to Begin a Novel: The Myth of the Great American Opening Sentence « M. Giroux Stories

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