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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Opening Paragraph Analysis

OPA in short. Today I wanted to speak of openings. I worked long and hard to develop mine and...Nathan Bransford is holding a contest! Isn't that sweet? Check it out here. Prizes are great.

You are standing in a bookstore and a cover catches your eye. The cover is beautiful, shiny, attractive. You pick up the book and read the blurb. Interesting, very gripping. You flip open to the first page. The book only needs to pass one more test for you to buy it. It starts with a guy waking up and thinking. Boring. Perhaps the rest of the book might be boring and written in this passive and cliche way?

Very many readers go to the first page when buying books. In fact statistics show that the first page determines readership involvement by 80%. They love it or hate it. For me, I never really followed the first page analysis, let alone first paragraph. When I pick up a book and the blurb is interesting, I read it. It might start boring, it may lag and be slow, but I'll read it, because I figure that the story may develop. That was before I understood and learned the publishing world. I viewed books quite differently before I began trying to get published. So if the first page isn't vital to buyers, why is it so darn vital? It is the first thing agents/editors look at. It decides the faith of your novel.

Agents and editors don't have much time. You can see that if you start reading all the entries to Nathan's contest you begin to skim. Go through those comments and try to see what it would be like to be an agent (he actually recommended that himself). You don't have enough time to eat every paragraph. You can't read through that much. You have other things to do. So when the first sentence doesn't grab you, what do you find yourself doing? I find that I pass and move on.

So, with all this talk, get to the point. How do you analyse the grip factor of your paragraph?
Yes, don't get me wrong. I need to get to the point. Now, I am no expert and I won't pretend to be. I am a teen writer that loves imagination and wants to hold her novel in her hands in the next few years while still being a teen. But, I did have great responses from agents on my first pages and had nearly a dozen partial requests. As you might know, I am now revising for a publisher and they told me that my first paragraph pulls you right in, so I imagine I can give some suggestion.

"The Coming" First Paragraph Analysis:

The Coming is what I am devoted to, is what I am revising and is what I intend to sell. I go by the phrase "If you want it enough, you will push till the end". To analyze your first paragraph you have to take each word separately. A good suggestion is reading each sentence separately so that you can separate them and see how they flow. So here is my analysis of my first paragraph.

Someone was going to die today. The first sentence instantly places the reader in tension. Someone is going to die. It sets a dark mood. There was no other choice: it was kill or die. No I set the fact that the MC has no choice and that his life is in danger. Vitiosus stared at the tall, bulky warrior and took a deep breath. Now you can really imagine what is going on. He's fighting. There is a warrior and that sets the setting. You probably are not going to imagine they are in space or in a mall or whatnot. He stepped forward. Gravel crunched below his feet and wisps of wind swirled about his head as he calculated his chances. With one final glance toward his father on the throne, he walked to the middle of the arena. He was determined to make his father proud of him — just this once.  That is the hook. Frome here you can see that he wants to make his father proud just one time. That tells us the backstory without telling backstory. His father clearly thinks the his son is a failure and here Vitiosusu wants to prove him wrong, just this once.

So there you go. My analysis.  I highly recommend you to take your own paragraph and analyze it to death. It you are getting rejected there is a problem. Me, well, I have had people tell me that I shouldn't start with action, but the requests and the feedback speak for themselves. Cheers!