I have read many articles that state that description in the first paragraph/page will not hook the reader properly. However, I have always used this technique to set the scene for my story.
In my opinion, if the readers want to be hooked from the first sentence on, shouldn't they know where and what's going on?
BUT that's just my opinion. So I want to hear yours. Slow beginning or a smack 'em right in the face, killer hook first sentence?
May 14th, 2007, 12:18 PM
I've heard of that.
And that's the way I usually start my writing off too.
I know what you're saying, and descriptions in the first paragraph have never detered me from reading anything. I pick books based on the content and whether or not they appeal to me. I don't know how other people feel about this, but it's a good quesion.
I always like to start off with a description, but then "they" say it doesn't hook the reader. What do you think?
May 14th, 2007, 04:47 PM
You can use description to set the scene, if it is done really, really well.
In my own writing, I try to slip descrptive words and phrases into the story as I go, especially in the beginning.
There is never just one way of doing something though, so find something that works for you and your story.
May 14th, 2007, 04:58 PM
I, personally, try to start off w/ a prologue usually containing some mystery to it. After that Chapter 1 can be somewhat slow and you have the time to define characters and places b/c the prologue already has them interested as to what actually took place. Just my opinion :)
May 14th, 2007, 05:42 PM
I'm not expert, but I think the epic style 'in medias res' beginning is almost always a good hook. If told well, I'm compelled to speculate about what's going on, and the curiosity keeps me reading. Personally I think anything is better than starting with a long description of world history...
May 14th, 2007, 06:42 PM
To Dujen, it seemed as if the sun had never risen. Shimmering golden rays withered and waned in the dark, murky gloom, their luster trimmed and clipped by stormy clouds. The mist was thick—thick like sheets of dusty gray metal, its dull color strewn with pale streaks of wintry flurries.
Bloodcurdling shrieks emanated from the beaked throat of a hungry raven. The bay of a wolf sent chills snaking down the merchant’s spine. His jaw tightened; teeth gritted and gnashed as his short legs planted themselves in the waist-deep snow. With every sound he made he cringed like an old wretch, grimacing as the lower rings of his hauberk crackled and clinked, brushing against the soft, cold mantle that blanketed the ground. For in the wild throes of his imagination he envisioned savage hounds surrounding his lone caravan, waiting to pounce, to ambush the dwelfar and tear them apart, limb from limb, while they struggled with their pair of covered wagons.
Horses snorted and plodded. Wheels turned. The frozen timber revolved and rolled to a rhythmic pulse of creaks and groans, rotating upon the icy ground. Moist wood scraped against dirt, flattened mud. Dujen stooped over and plucked a strand of grass, spinning it between finger and thumb. It was a lifeless shade of brown—frostbitten and left for dead by the harsh winter.
He let go, but the blade stuck to his leather gauntlet. He frowned when it drifted off. It let the wind gust it away into the steely fog. The merchant rubbed his hands, but warmth eluded him. The hard material of his gloves was cold and rimed, and offered little shelter.
Okay, this is the beginning of one of my many unfinished stories. Descriptive, I know, but is it that bad? It's only one double-spaced page. I love a medium amount of description in the beginning. Then let the scenes write themselves.
May 14th, 2007, 07:19 PM
It's all a matter of style and preference. What kind of story are you trying to tell and how are you wanting to tell it?
Do you start in reception battalion? The middle of BCT? The graduation ceremony? Embarking on the ship to England? Those tense moments on the landing craft in the Channel? Or do you start in the thick of it at Omaha Beach? If you were writing about a soldier's experience on D-Day, any one of these places would be a good place to start the story, but the one you choose determines how you kick things off. The last option in particular wouldn't give you the liesure of appreciating the scenery, for instance.
As for the so-called rules to writing, let me tell you something. Our craft is like the Thunderdome. No, not "two man enter, one man leave". I meant this line: "I know you won't break the rules. There aren't any." It doesn't hurt to know what people say the rules are. Just don't feel bound by them. (Most of the lucid people writing on the subject say the final rule is "Ignore all of the above.") Whether a technique flies or flops depends entirely on your ability.
As for the sample you provided, I'd actually recommend that you scale it back a bit. You're not bursting with excessive description, but the seams are stretching a bit. Still, the key question you were asking was "Is this a good way to start a story?" Sure. I don't see anything wrong with it. No point in kicking things off with the wolves tearing out poor Dujen's throat unless you feel really strongly about it.
May 14th, 2007, 08:48 PM
This is a fun question. I went through the various stories I've written and almost universally I've started with someone's thoughts. This technique is both descriptive as well as a method for establishing character. For example, the following is the first paragraph of the book I published:
"Isabel pulled the pillow over her head to shut out the noise from her brothers shouting downstairs. It sounded as though Matt was holding the box of Citrus Loop cereal and Rich was angrily telling his older brother where he could stick his spoon. The clouds of sleep started to clear from her mind replaced with a twinge of anger and frustration that every Saturday morning had to start with such drama. Her mother liked to blame it on the violent video games and the cartoons that flickered on the television, but Isabel reasoned it was just boys being boys."
I suppose my preference would be not to start with a narrative, but with something active. However, that can start with an attention getting description that sets the tone.
May 14th, 2007, 09:25 PM
I am a describer.
Sometimes starting with a character and going out. Sometimes with the atmosphere/location and going in. I think I story is much better if you have some understanding about it. Hooks are good, curosity is good. But curiosity that is not anchored in some sort of understanding treads very close to the lands of WTF.
That's my buck fifty.
May 15th, 2007, 01:24 AM
It is not about description being good of bad at the beginning of a novel. It is about catching your reader's interest. That is what a "hook" is. It doesn't have to be a snappy one liner, or plunge the reader into the action right off. It has to a piece of writing that makes the reader want to read on.
If you waffle on, seemingly not sure where you are going on the first page, then *shrugs* shoulders, I don't thing that bodes well for the rest of the story.
Paragraphs of description, that go no where and when you look at them in the cold light of day do nothing to move the story forward can be a deathnell for that sotry, be they at the beginning or not. Part of the craft of writing is learning when to describe something in detail and when to let the reader imagine it. Often the later is better, it brings the reader into the story.
Unlike a film, which is created in the visual style of one person (the director), a novel can and should be re-created again and again by the imgination of every one that reads it. So you suggest what the surroundings are, what the clothes look like, etc and leave the rest up to the reader's imagination. When it comes to the character's actions, thoughts, speech, then you, through them paint the character as you see him/her, but remember the reader will see the character through their own knowledge and experience, always remember that.