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Decisions, Decisions, So Many to Make

By Margaret Daley

Where do you start a story? You have a few pages (for some a few paragraphs) to catch an editor or reader’s attention. I know of some readers who will read the first page or so of a book, and if you haven’t gotten her interest, she won’t buy it. It is one of the important decisions for a writer when telling a story. If you start too soon, you might lose your reader. Pacing is important. Too slow and the reader will put your book down. Too fast and you will confuse the reader and leave out details and feelings that need to be in your story.

So where do you start? I like to start in the middle of a scene or at a change in your hero or heroine’s life. Start in the middle of action. Watch not to have too much introspection (narrative) at the first.

Check to make sure you have not dump background information at the first of your story. Only give your reader just enough to understand what is going on, but not too much. You want to leave some mystery to your story and characters. So many people put too much information at the first of their story that can be sprinkled through the pages later.

Remember you need to wow the reader at the first and keep her wanting to turn the pages. Your first sentence/paragraph is so important. Work to begin with a dynamic opening. You don’t have to explain everything at the first.

Also at the first you want to create empathy for your protagonist. If your reader cares about your main character, she will keep reading. Ways to make your protagonists emphatic are portraying them in a likeable manner, showing them with humor, putting them in danger, making the reader feel sorry for them, and/or showing them as an expert at a job/task.

In Saving Hope, my romantic suspense out this month from Abingdon Press, is the first book in Men of the Texas Rangers Series. In this book I start with a kidnapping of one of the main characters, a sixteen-year-old girl who is desperately seeking a second chance. The opening few sentences are below:

Rose gripped her cell phone so tightly her muscles ached. “Where are you, Lily?”

“At–Nowhere Motel.” A sob caught on the end of the last word. “Help–me.” Lily’s breath rattled, followed by a clunking sound as though she’d dropped the phone.

I chose to start at the heart of what the book is about: What happened to Rose?

There are many reasons why people might not have empathy for Rose, but she does one overriding thing that creates sympathy for her. She risks her life to save a friend.

So when you plot the beginning of your book, choose carefully. It will be one of the most important scenes you write for your book.

Margaret Daley, an award-winning author of eighty-two books, has been married for over forty years and is a firm believer in romance and love. When she isn’t traveling, she’s writing love stories, often with a suspense thread and corralling her three cats that think they rule her household.

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One Response to Decisions, Decisions, So Many to Make

  1. i’m not a writer, but a reader…and now i know why some authors are more my speed than others. Thinking about the novels i’ve read, and loved, they follow your pattern, if you call it that. Thanks, Margaret!