Over on Nathan Bransford's blog, there is a little contest running on the best first paragraph, http://blog.nathanbransford.com/.
If you haven't entered then hurry up and do so, the contest ends tomorrow. His question today inspired my post. He asks, what makes a good first paragraph?
Exactly how important do you think those first few words are? It can set the tone of our work, maybe impart certain key information, and it is the beginning of our journey. As a reader, I have forgiven a ho hum first paragraph and persisted if the back copy was enticing enough. I might even pursue it for a few chapters if I'm not immediately hooked but that's usually because it was borrowed and I didn't have to pay for it.
As aspiring writers it is vitally important that we be able to capture that attention with the first few paragraphs or pages. At this point that is all the time we are given to make a good impression.
It is exactly like speed dating. You know if you want to spend more time with a person after the first two minutes....don't lie, its the truth. That is what agents and publishers feel every day. We pursue them in droves and they only have a few minutes to decide if they want to spend more time with us.
We know they are looking for that special combination that speaks to them and grabs their attention. We might be a little sloppy, maybe our hair isn't perfectly combed or there's a hole in our shirt. These flaws can be forgiven if they see potential. Is only a few moments, a few words, really fair? Maybe not but life is not fair and we all get an equal shot.
So comb your hair...change your shirt...and make the best first impression you possibly can. Before the bell rings and they move on to the next date.