Monday, September 16, 2013

All In The Details: Write Awesome Opening Paragraphs

Yesterday, I was reading Taken by Robert Crais and I was very impressed by the opening paragraph of his book. So, I thought, hey, do a blog post about opening paragraphs and how it is all in the details.

Whether you are beginning the book or a new chapter, how you begin is important. In fact, it is vital you create an opening that works to capture your reader's interest and orients him to what is going on in the scene. Remember your reader's mind is like a blank movie screen and your words have to put a picture on that screen. Work on finding the right details to convey time, place, setting, mood, and POV. 

Here is the opening paragraph Robert Crais wrote. It is only 2 sentences and they do everything a good opening paragraph should do with the use of great detail.    

Jack Berman wrapped his arms around his girlfriend, Krista Morales, and watched his breath fog in the cold desert air. Twenty minutes after midnight, fourteen miles south of Rancho Mirage in the otherwise impenetrable darkness of the Anza-Borrego Desert, Jack and Krista were lit in the harsh purple glare of the lights that blossomed from Danny Trehorn's truck, Jack so much in love with this girl his heart beat with hers. 

The reader is immediately introduced to the characters and the setting. By the end of the paragraph, we have an image of a young couple. (Krista is referred to as his girlfriend.) They are standing outside (His breath fogs) It is cold and they are in the desert. It is late. (After midnight.) And there is complete darkness except for the headlights of Danny's truck. And this sets up who the POV character will be. Jack. 

Details like cold desert air, impenetrable darkness, harsh purple glare establish a suspenseful tone and the reader senses the young couple is in a dangerous place. I definitely kept reading to see what was going to happen to them. Plus this book has Elvis Cole, Joe Pike and Jon Stone in it. I'm a huge fan of those bad-ass guys!

I think every time you open a new chapter or a scene where you are changing the setting and POV, you need to make sure your first few sentences have enough details to orient the reader to the new location and point-of-view. 

Details are not difficult and they make a lot of difference in the picture your words project in the mind of a reader. I will be doing another blog post soon on details and how to come up with them.

Have a great week!