The Power of First Paragraphs


In honour of Nathan Bransford’s “3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge,” I herewith paste my WIP’s first paragraph:

The hour before the earthquake was utterly unremarkable. Twelve year-old Ned Bixby threw on some clothes, swooped past the breakfast table – mumbling a quick thanks as he grabbed the last piece of toast and jam – and as usual departed the home of Fred and Eunice Allenby as fast as humanly possible.

As I write this, the most excellent Mr. Bransford’s blog entry specific to the contest boasts more than 1,500 comments – most of them entries. Wowza.

He’s going to need an army of readers to get a shortlist up for Friday, and I don’t envy him the task!

The few dozen entries that I read were really fascinating. I find good first paragraphs to be powerful and intriguing doorways into a story. In isolation as they are for this contest, however, they raise a question for me. Should they really stand alone, to maximize their impact, or should they be knit into the fabric of the rest of the page? If the latter, it would follow that they would be difficult to evaluate on their own.

I’m thinking it’s “a little from column A, and a little from column B”, if that’s possible. What about you?

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2 thoughts on “The Power of First Paragraphs

  1. I think it depends on the book. Sometimes, yes, I am hooked right away. Janice Hardy’s opening paragraph for The Shifter is a good example. I read it months before the book was released and I was hooked (so much so that I remembered to pick up the book).

    Often, though, I don’t mind a slow build.

  2. I’ll have to look The Shifter up! Do you know what’s funny? These days I have no patience for slow builds. Perhaps that’s because I have exactly 5 minutes of spare time each day… I should start a stack of literary fiction I will read when I retire. Sigh.

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