Thursday, February 4, 2010

I dare ya

I love to start things. I love even more to end things.

Take chapters for instance. The first line of a chapter needs to give the reader a reason to continue. Consider this opening line from chapter 27 of my WIP (Work In Progress):

"I was wrong," Patrick said.

You want to know what Patrick was wrong about, don't you? It's simple, but it's enough.

I'm certainly not an expert, but I do spend a good amount of time carefully considering how I start each chapter. I've learned from my own reading what does and doesn't work for me.

Long, drawn out paragraphs involving mostly the thoughts of the character are not very inviting to me. Openings like these can work if they are far enough into the novel that I already care about the character, but I don't want to know all the emotional and psychological problems of the character before I even know where they are, how they talk, what they're doing, and if they have nice hair or not.

Nice hair is important in a character. Bad hair is even more important.

More than starting a chapter, I like to end one. When a reader comes to the end of a chapter, they are reaching for their bookmark. It's a reasonable place to stop reading, especially if the chapter is a real long one (which they never should be, by the way--I'm just too impatient for long chapters, and so are you).

If the first line of a chapter is the bait, the last should be the hook.

"But I can't stop reading! I have to find out if they get out of their car before the semi rams into them! Also, he was about to tell her that he loved her, but now they might die before he can! And besides, the next chapter is only four pages, so I can start making dinner in five minutes. I have not been reading already for two hours."

Here's the last line of chapter 21 of my WIP:

She was carrying a gun.

Now close the book and don't read the next line. Come on, I dare ya.

What is one of the best chapter openings or endings you've ever read?

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