Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The First Paragraph

Agent Nathan Bransford is hosting the Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge on his blog; entries must be received by Thursday, Oct. 15 4pm Pacific.  I entered my first paragraph of Renegade today after reading some of the early entries when the contest launched two days ago and once again, saw proof of why some struggle to snag an agent - too much competition from so many talented writers.

I've been fortunate to read a lot of good writing lately, the sort of work that hooks you and makes you want to race through the story because you can't wait to find out what happens next.  The common thread in each story has been an excellent opening paragraph; something about the scene, setting or characters just gripped me at the start.  Knowing where to begin a manuscript is key to hooking any reader with your first paragraph.  Sometimes it can be a monumental event in the characters' lives or just something out of the ordinary, but it must be important enough for the reader to care what comes next.  Also, the opening paragraph creates an implicit promise with the reader; the momentum with which the story began is how most expect it will end. 

As a writer or reader, what do you look for in a first paragraph?   

2 comments:

Anita Davison said...

I submitted one too after reading this, the first paragraph of Culloden Spirit - a manuscript that has yet to be shredded, trampled on and treated with disinterest by a jaded editor and receive the dreaded words, 'Not for us'. First time then!!! Ha ha

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Sooo important. After reading the back cover blurb, the first paragraph is what will either interest me to read further or cause me to slide the book back onto the shelf and keep looking.

Scurrying off to have a look at the entries now...

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