Lucy is only partially correct. The proper way to start a story is to grab the reader's attention. In other words, don't wander about, lost, with no direction for the first page or two. Instead, snatch the reader's heart and begin the massage. Show them you are in command.
Pete walked down the dark street. He heard a sound. Was somebody following him? Scared, he picked up speed in a rush to get to his car which was another block away. The light of a lone street light beckoned. He ran.
Let's try it again. Example 2:
Pete stopped. In the darkness he listened to the echo of something following him. His heart beat faster. The sound stopped. The sudden silence pounded in his ears. He strained to hear anything. Nothing. He took three steps. The sound. There was definitely somebody or something following him. Pete gazed into the next block, his car was there. So close, yet so very distant. Ahead, the feeble light of a lone street light beckoned. The sound was suddenly closer. It was moving toward him. He dashed for the light and hoped to make the safety of his car.
Most assuredly the second example is much stronger than the first and I'm pretty sure the reader is now involved in the tale.
The above isn't your genre? How about…
Bill walked into the club wearing the blue shirt he'd promised. Standing over six feet tall, he loomed over most of the customers. He smiled at the blonde as she wiggled her way toward him. She'd be a nice way to pass the night, Bill thought but knew his blind date, Andrea would be sitting at the bar in a blue dress.
And now, Example 2:
Andrea sipped her Manhattan and guardedly watched the front entrance. She knew Bill was over six foot tall and should stand out from the others coming into the club. She spotted him in the agreed upon blue shirt and saw him smile as a blonde dancer wiggled her way toward him. Not tonight, bitch, Andrea thought. He's mine. She grabbed her drink and strode toward Bill to claim her blind date for the night.
Or perhaps a different genre? Example 1:
Pecos Jim strode into the tavern and up to the bar. He flipped a coin on the bar and demanded a whiskey. Finally he took the time to examine the patrons. Wiley Bill sat at the table playing poker. "I'll see you outside, Wiley," Jim said. "Be sure to bring your guns." Jim gulped the whiskey and then walked out of the bar. Wiley watched the man leave.
The saloon doors slammed open. Pecos Jim stood there, his eyes scrutinizing the patrons. He located Wiley Bill who was playing poker at the corner table. Jim strode to the bar. "Whiskey," he demanded while smacking a silver coin on the bar. He turned to face Bill. "I'll see you outside, Wiley. You did my sister wrong and now you'll pay. Bring your guns." Jim slugged the whiskey down and using the back of his hand, wiped it across his lips. "Today, you die." With a swagger, Pecos Jim left the bar, his spurs jangling as he walked. Wiley stared at the swinging doors.
In the above, example 1 was adequate, but usually a weak form of grabbing the reader. The second example was stronger. Part of the method is using stronger words and more vivid images. With the club scene, it was using a different perspective in telling the tale. We, as writers, tend to view our POV from only one possibility, the easy way out. By turning it around, as I did by using Andrea, you can add more tension or excitement in the story.
Grabbing the reader in the first paragraph is paramount. If you don't do that — do it in the first three or four lines, your reader will move on.
Of course, using Lucy's suggestion…
Once upon a time, a dragon lived in a far away land. He called himself Draco but the other dragons called him Fake-O. Although he appeared to be quite ferocious, he was, in fact, a very timid and mild dragon. All the children loved him since he would play with them and give them rides on his back. At least, it was that way until the day a new dragon by the name of Durjon appeared. The new dragon looked nice but he wasn't.
Remember, get your reader's attention at the beginning of the tale. Use that hook.
Click to add a comment - say something!
~ COMMENTS ~
I love how you give examples - it is one of my very favorite tips that you do. I need to see the "good" and the "better" and the "bad" and when I read these tips, I just find them so helpful.
I agree with Elyse. The examples help me actually see good writing vs bad writing. As I reader, I understand how important a good hook is. If I don't get sucked in by the first page, it's very unlikely I'll purchase a book. As a writer, I can appreciate how hard creating that good hook can be. Great Post!
I seldom will read beyond a page if I'm not interested and if I am interested, the sales help usually inform me I need to purchase the item if I intend to finish it. You know, when you're half way thru the book, yeah, it was a good hook.
Good examples. One other aspect unites them, as well: the better versions describe the situations from the character's perspective, very closely. They bring the audience inside the character, allowing them to see, hear and feel from inside the character's head. It's an example of "show, don't tell."
Unfortunately, so many newbie writers insist on the tell method until they learn to show. I've read a couple of books by Indie authors who used the tell method. Fortunately, they were great story tellers but oh, how I wanted to go in and edit.