One of my top reasons to be in a bookstore (not the library) is to analyze current fiction. One of my favorite topics of study: story beginnings.
The Art of Storytelling
I base how and what I write on what moves me. If I adore a certain character in a show, I figure out why. If I want to watch a specific movie repeatedly, I wonder what I love about it. If a writer earns my loyalty in the first paragraph, you better believe I’m going to figure out how they did it.
I’m amazed by storytellers whose story beginnings can make even a non-booklover grin, tuck the book under their arm, return the stare of the booklover friend who dragged them to the bookstore in the first place and say with absolute certainty, “This is mine.” As a reader, I crave that feeling. Finding a fantastic opening that can get me to put life on hold and read the rest? Love that.
That quality fascinates me and sometimes I go to the bookstore to hunt for it.
To the Bookstore!
In Barnes and Noble (conveniently across the street from my apartment), I like to pick a genre aisle and shelf and then start with the first book on the end. Without reading the blurb on the back (or title, if I can help it), I read to the first page’s end regardless of whether or not it ends with a period (same goes for a prologue; the writer only gets one chance). Then I go with my gut. Did I love it? Not “Did I like it?” or “Do I think it’s good?” Did I LOVE it?
(I realize “one page” sounds super short but how long do browsing readers really spend on a book before moving on? I’ll usually stay for a chapter if I’ve been won over by the title, cover, blurb, and opening paragraphs, but that’s me.)
Unfortunately, not many books pass muster. (If the first sentence is some kind of phrase slaughter, confusing and stays confusing even after I give it the rest of the chapter to make sense, or so cliché that it’s practically petrified, then I’ve gotta put it back.)
There’s always at least one that inspires a smile. That one. I find a chair or sit on the floor in the aisle and bust out my trusty comp notebook because, once I figure out what that one writer did, I’m going to write it down. Because whatever they did worked.