You adjust your collar, flip your hair, test your breath, touch up the mascara... It's likely that you've done it a few times already, working the cycle nervously over and again. Cold sweat, rapid heartbeat... It's the moment you've been waiting weeks, maybe even months, for... The first date.
We've all been there, to that crucial moment when everything has to be perfect. The moment you meet her family for the first time; the moment he sees you in the dress reserved for only him; the first kiss, the first dance, the first _____. Fill in the blank. How vastly important are these moments to us? We fret over them, labor away in preparation to ensure that they are our dreams come to life. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
First impressions can be critical. And though I use the dating analogy that we can all understand, I want to impress (pun intended) upon you the value of first impressions in your art, specifically literary fiction.
So, you're writing a story. This implies that you want people to read it, to invest in it. If that's the case, then you can't expect your audience to tough it out through the first several pages in order to get to the meat of the story. You have to capture them. Now, this could take several different forms, and may look different for different authors and different genres. But the idea is the same: grab attention. Explode onto the scene with might! Or fade into the corner with tears and emotion... Leap off the precipice into the mystery, or build curiosity and tension with carefully planted words and scenes. Whatever your tale demands, kick it off in a way that impresses the reader from page one.
What exactly does that look like though? At times it can be difficult to visualize your story with a dynamic intro. If you're like most authors, stories develop in your mind and imagination in the same manner as they come to the page: piece by piece beginning with ground zero. Stars may align, and your writing may naturally begin with a bang. But more often than not, there's a slow chronology to every tale that takes time to build until the central point is found. If that's the case for you, and you can't enter with guns blazing and emotions flying wild, then here are a few options for you.
Remember! First impressions can work wonders in your favor, but the opposite bodes ill for any writer! Leave a sour taste in the readers' mouths and they'll repay you with a closed cover and poor reviews! Till next time readers...
Steven C McCullough
Author and Agent to QuickFire.