How to Velcro Your Readers in Place

Some writers enjoy meandering into their stories, with scenics and details and moods that carry the story through for pages, or chapters, before anything really “happens.” We’ve all read at least a few books whose openings are slow but that pulled us right in anyway. So why all the talk about needing to start page 1 with a bang? The issue is that a slow and mood-setting, era-infused opening needs to be so strongly written, so touching at emotional and sensory levels, that the reader loves the writing and doesn’t really care that the story itself hasn’t started.

Are you that strong of a writer? Maybe you are and know it. Maybe you don’t know for sure if you are or not (it is hard to judge ourselves). If it turns out you are not quite to that level (and many, many successful, published and rich writers never have skills that strong!) readers may never read the rest of your story if you don’t offer a specific reason to read beyond page 1. Which is why most of the even very successful writers start with a bang of sorts. And there is no reason to NOT start with at least a bit of fireworks.

I suggest opening any book with a bang versus a whimper. The reason is simple:

  • If you walked into a room and heard one person whimpering in the corner and another banging out a rip-roaring tale, which would you notice first? The loud tale teller, of course.
  • Later you might notice the poor guy whimpering in the corner and feel sorry enough for him to wonder what’s going on and ask him. But that is only after the tall tale teller’s story has gone off track or you’ve somehow been bored with it.
  • It is better to grab the attention in some way at the outset, but do it in a way that fits the rest of the story as well, of course. (Just being a tall tale isn’t enough—there needs to be more story skills at work after the opening lines.)

So, again, why NOT start with a bang of at least some sort?

  1. a dilemma
  2. an argument
  3. a tough decision
  4. a fear
  5. an accident
  6. a demanding need

Gosh, there are so many “bangs” to choose from, small to large. I suggest to my writers that they provide at least a bit of a hook to Velcro those readers into place at the outset. Then they can then use their other writing tools and skills to build up the rest of the story more slowly after that if they wish.

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