I’m a huge emotion junkie. I like the book to be interesting pretty quickly. Not necessarily on the first page, but at least it needs to hint that all is not well. Or a change is coming soon. Or maybe the hero/heroine think it is well, but you can tell that something is going to happen.
My upcoming book, RAINING LOVE & MURDER, starts off in a dog’s point of view. I’m planning to add a first scene in the hero’s pov, but since that’s not written yet, I’ll use the dog’s scene as an example. It’s winter in Wisconsin, the weather below freezing, and the first paragraph starts with a starving dog remembering when his family threw him out of the car. He doesn’t know why. He loved them and thought they loved him.
The scene ends soon after that with the dog thinking he can’t trust humans. By this time, I’m hoping the reader will continue to read because she wants to know what will happen to the dog – and to the homeless veteran who feeds the dog.
The new scene that I plan to add has the hero wanting something, and it will end in failure. His problem isn’t that he’s not getting what he wants. His problem is that he realizes the people who’ve known him all his life don’t believe in him.
And the dog’s problem isn’t just food and shelter. His problem is being tossed away like a piece of garbage by the family he loved and trusted.
Here are the first two sentences of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (book 1 in the series):
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of Number 4, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.
By the end of these two sentences, you know that Mr. and Mrs. Dursley aren’t normal, and they will be involved in something very strange and mysterious. You also know they’re pretentious. (That beginning is so good it makes me want to reread the Harry Potter books.)
None of this is effective unless the reader cares about the characters and has empathy for them. Certainly most readers will have empathy for the dog, for my hero, and for Harry Potter. If the character isn’t someone likable, he/she has to be either very interesting, very smart, or very funny.
What story beginning have you read lately – or written lately – that made you feel strong emotion?