Grab your reader right from the start. Cast your line and set the hook deep. That’s the way keep readers turning page after page, right? Of course it is. As writers know that and strive to capture the magic each time we begin to craft a scene.
I often sit and think, pace and ponder, searching for the right word or phrase that will create the need to know more about who did what to whom on that fateful night. Or, who said what to Aunt Tilly that sent her packing in such a rush. Or just maybe, how to begin what I hope will be a meaningful conversation with my kids about what happened at school today. Attention can be grabbed or lost in the opening and that kind of pressure can leave a person tongue tied. Or is it finger foiled when using a keyboard for expression?
When it happens to me I start with the most boring opening I can think of and play with it for a while. I know it sounds ridiculous and it often ends up just as awful as it sounds, but, every now and then it results in something magically unexpected.
Who did what to whom?
“Mary served John his favorite meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner,” evolved into:
John stared at the glutinous potatoes Mary insisted on making every stinking Friday night for the last twenty years. He wondered how she got them the exact color and consistency as the cellulite on her sagging thighs and how she had ever convinced him that either one could be appetizing no matter how solicitously they were offered.
Who said what?
“Tilly’s mother forbid her to visit her nephew in the city,” became:
“Tilly, get back into bed this instant!”
“But I must!” she insisted, throwing her petticoats into her traveling case. The very idea of embarking on such an adventure caused her delicate heart to beat even more rapidly than when she suffered one of her frequent spells.
Oh no, not this time, she thought, conquering the urge to give in to Mother again. This time he won’t get away. I’ll kill him myself if I must.
As for how to get more than a few mumbled words out of a teen at the end of a school day? I’m working on it.