It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
A few weeks ago, Jennifer Crusie, one of my favorite writers, wrote a post on her blog about first sentences in stories.
The post could be distilled into one short instruction about the protagonist of your story: “… put her in the first sentence, put her in trouble, put her in motion.”
Crusie is a master of such sentences, but I’m not sure she is 100% correct. For me, it’s not the first sentence that grabs me as a reader but the first couple of paragraphs. Maybe even the first page or two. I would never stop reading, if the first sentence doesn’t tell me anything important about the story, but if I can’t get to the gist of the tale by page 10, I’d probably close the book in disgust.
In my own stories, I try to introduce the main conflict, or at least a conflict, on the first page. I don’t think it should be necessarily the main conflict. It could be a lesser conflict to put the heroine in motion, get her out of her comfort zone, so she could go meet her adventure. Am I wrong?
Examples of my first paragraphs:
My short story Clerk or Hero – still on submission
After a long, terrifying slide, Tiero’s feet touched the ground. The thin rope tying him slithered down and coiled at his feet. Only his weight kept the loop tight for his involuntary descent. As soon as he was down, the witches dropped the rope.
My short story Gift of Nibelung – published in Perihelion SF
“The war was over,” Katya said, glaring at her former friend Stacie. Nobody was a friend anymore, not after her mother’s ship had exploded in the Vergacians’ unprovoked attack. Nobody would look her in the eyes. Nobody understood. “It was already over,” she repeated, swallowing a lump in her throat. “The time box confirmed it. The treaty was already signed, but they just shot mom’s ship. The gray bastards!”
My short story Tail to Treasure – accepted. Will be published in Bloodbond in November.
Yanick slammed the door shut. “They wouldn’t let me in. The stupid snobs wouldn’t accept my application. They laughed in my face. They said I couldn’t carry my share in any expedition with this… twisted arm of mine. What do they know? Rude, ignorant rats. I could’ve led them to amazing riches, but no. Idiots.”
What do you think? Could you tell what the stories are about? Do they grab you? Any suggestions for improvement? What are your first paragraphs?
The new IWSG Day Feature is a question we all should try to answer in our posts. The question for the July 6 posts: What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?
Not easy to answer, because a) not many praise my writing, and b) no praise is actually better than another. But here is one of the most recent. As you can see above, Perihelion SF has published my short story Gift of Nibelung. In our email exchange, the editor, Sam Bellotto, wrote: “Thank you for sending us such great stories. :-)”
I smiled for several hours after I received his email.