And all I can think to do as my first August blog is to share some sentences of no particular import. On a recent trip, I had hours of driving to contemplate the opening sentences of THE DREAM LAND trilogy. Now that Book III is complete and being edited, I must return to that weak spot I've always had: the opening sentence.
Countless author blogs have reported on the necessity of a great first sentence, as though that alone tells potential readers (bookstore browsers, etc.) all they need to know about the book. Alternatively, an old literature professor--the one who actually taught me something useful (as a writer, not as an English professor)--said that a good author will teach the reader how to read the text in the first few pages. Pages! Not one all-important sentence. (Also, note the word 'teach'; thus, it's not 'You stay in your world and try to understand this text'; 'No, you must come into my world, the world of the text, but fear not for I shall guide you....')
Well, I subscribe to the latter notion. If a potential reader will not read the second sentence or others beyond the first, perhaps that reader should stick to graphic novels or Twitter. Not to be disrespectful to a majority of our finer readers, for an opening sentence is still important to setting the story in many ways; however, like much of literature, an opening sentence is intended not to stand alone but to lead to the next sentence, and that second sentence to lead to the third, and so on. It's a whole industry, not a sample bite in a grocery store. Have some patience, dear reader!
To that end (er...beginning, whatever), I look strongly at the second and third sentences and note how they proceed from the opening sentence. That shows me flow. More often than not, there will be a joke or some clever juxtaposition that strikes interest in the reader...several sentences down from that first word of that first sentence. The images, the word play, the introduction of a character or setting...the accumulation of ideas...is what catches the interest of the reader [I suggest].
By way of example, I offer the opening paragraph of each of the three volumes of THE DREAM LAND Trilogy, for your amusement today:
This monologue is intended to come out all in a rush to create a tossing of imagery fast and furious, to create a composite image of a scene...a dire, wintry situation...which may or may not be resolved in the next paragraph.
The yellow sun was beginning to warm the room, the misty, frayed globe high enough that he knew dawn was coming to an end. The blue sun was still below the horizon.
One paragraph, short and sweet. All seems fine in the first sentence. The second, however, adds a twist which is scientifically designed to pique a reader's curiosity.
THE DREAM LAND Book III “Diaspora”
Textures is the theme of this opening paragraph: imagine yourself waking up in the desert. And realizing your Fate is not quite as you expected it to be. You are in trouble!
So there you have it: examples of second (and third, etc.) sentences flowing from first sentences. I hope now that everyone will henceforth pay more attention to those sentences who do not come in first but still try so very hard!
Next time: The importance of a mind-blowing final sentence.
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