Engage Your Readers at the Start
By Annette Rey
How quickly do you get bored when a story doesn’t get to the point right away? Are you disturbed when the location is not made clear? What if an opening begins with dialogue? Those words better be dynamic, right?
It seems most writers want to give background that gently leads up to a climactic situation in their story. They feel this information is critical to their reader understanding why their character acts and reacts the way he does. They want to get their reader “in the mood”.
In the beginning, readers do not want to meander through the life of a character. They want Wow! Bam! Grief! Loss! Blood! Love! And they want it Now!
Most writers should put aside their first two chapters – at least – and make their opening begin at chapter three. Some writers give a good opening at the end of chapter one. Wherever your action starts, where it culminates from the information you have given (back story), that is where you should begin your story.
Like me, readers don’t have time to waste. I want to be convinced that I am going to be entertained by this story. And I want that assurance at the start.
I like this opening (it’s one of mine). The floor rose up and hit my face.
That is short, action is occurring, it is designed to grip the reader and draws the reader in to learn more. Later I can fill in how I found myself in this position.
I would bore my reader if I started this story by giving details that a woman contacted me to find her missing daughter, the conversation she and I had, how I drove to the home where she was last seen, I knocked on the door, I questioned the man who answered the door, he invited me in, before I knew it I was hit from behind, and I saw the floor rising to greet my face.
Writers think that making a detailed opening entices a reader. The writer may use great descriptive words, and makes sure to insert sights, sounds, and odors. He may have good control of the language. As I read an opening like this I am impatiently saying to myself, “And your point is?” and “Where is all this leading?”
You as a writer have control of the pace. Think of yourself as having interested passengers in the tour bus you are driving. There’s a sign on the side of your bus and it tells the rider what to expect. “Hollywood Home Murders” or “A Boring Ride Through Traffic Before We Even Begin Having Any Fun”. If you were looking for entertainment, which bus would you take?
So start your story at an exciting point, at a core of your intentions, at a situational climax. If you do not deliver on a promise, your readers will feel letdown. Not only that, you could lose readers.
Be smart. Start sharp.