How do you pick what blogs or books to read? What’s the one thing that will get you to pick up a book or click on a link every single time?
There is no hard and fast rule to determine what one reads. Sometimes it’s a question of what kind of mood. Yet a good first sentence or paragraph is like a singer with a good voice or a song that starts out with a melody that is irresistible: Beethoven’s 5th, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Revel’s Bolero, The Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations, and the Kingsmen’s Louie, Louie all have that quality; it grabs you in a few notes, but, but does not let you go.
The first few sentences or even words must set you or your reader in the middle of something that can’t be left alone.
Frankly, I don’t follow that concept all the time when writing. But when conscious of it, effort is made to do so.
Let’s go back to my first sentence and paragraph. It’s not preachy, a statement is made that all can agree, and examples are given. No one will feel bad or have the feeling they’ve been doing it wrong all their lives. Each of us have a different style.
Earnest questions or a genuinely provocative sentence is one way to start a blog or story. Yet, it should not be so bold as to give a pretentious feeling to the reader.
Writers must be devoid of ego. They can’t feel as though every word and sentence is like nuggets of gold. Like the painter who thinks even his doodles and strokes of the paint brush are masterpieces. Sometimes we get so full of ourselves. Editors have a way of humbling.
Here are examples of the first paragraphs of four novels I’ve written:
Galápagos Man (Currently writing and finishing)
“I figured it was my last chance to be somebody, to make something of my life,” Alex said. “So at thirty during the war. I enlisted. I wanted to be an officer. It seemed like it was all stacked against me.”
The New York Sewer Rats – Baseball’s Greatest Story!
“A baseball with a couple of scuffs sits alone on Pete’s bookshelf next to his desk. It is a reminder of a previous life. A life once lived in the headlines and grassy fields of the great American pastime, baseball.”
Ice Too Thin
“Dead fish. Look! They’re everywhere and take a good sniff. What do you smell?” Ole man Brown said flinging his arm angrily at the lake. “It’s all to do with Herb Adams and Trinity Chemicals. They’re polluting the lake.”
The Id And The Odyssey (Not yet published)
“I peddled north on Old Route 25 past the meadow where I once laid beneath the willows and passing clouds and dreamed of far away places. I coasted around a curve that lead into Beaverdam and came to a four way stop. Looking west toward the grain elevator Uncle Bob’s tractor and wagon waited in a line at the scales. I followed Route 25 to Bluffton and Route 103 to Arlington. A can of sardines from my pack and a bottle of Dr. Pepper from a grocery was my meal. I rode until just before dark. A red brick abandoned school house was where the night was spent. The bike was laid behind it out of sight from the road and my tent erected. I was used to riding a bike, but never at this pace or distance. I was exhausted. After dark the lights from distant farm houses shone across the farm fields. They brought with them a feeling of loneliness and possibility. I wished them peace, tranquility, and love.”
Each meant to set a mood for the reader, but sometimes you just can’t change a mood. Sometimes I want Gershwin and other times I want Johnny Cash.
Write honest and not pretentious. Always remember writing is an art and not just random thoughts. You won’t please everyone.
One piece of advice I heard a long time ago was this: If a person says about your writing, “Wow, that’s good writing.” You failed, they know it‘s writing. But if they say “Wow, that reminds me of a guy I knew,” or “Wow, was that the way it really happened?” It is so real it sucks the reader in.
Write in such a way the reader is in Tuscany, not with you, but with their best friend or alone. Write in such a way the reader wants to know the character and not the writer.