I grew up in a world of magic. By the time I was ten I understood nature, talked to the trees, and listened to the wind. When the kingdom of men conquered my town, I was murdered by one of my own—the betrayer of my kind. But I didn't stay dead.
I woke to find myself in a strange new world called Los Angeles. The only keys to the life I remembered were my father’s ring, my unique abilities, and the onslaught of demons that seemed hell-bent on finding me. Now I must learn who I really am, protect my friends, get the girl, and find my way back to my beloved hometown of Orenda.
by Rick Chiantaretto
When was the last time you opened your favorite comic book? My favorite is Calvin and Hobbs because we always find Calvin in an amusing situation with a big problem. Comic books use visual medium (thought balloons, narrative boxes, page space, bold text, and exaggerated lines) to engage in dialog, move forward the story, and show the reader the plot.
I wish more books would take a lesson from comic books, and give me something visual in the opening paragraph.
As a horror author I find myself constantly commenting on opening paragraphs, especially those of other horror authors. Most people begin by fixing the setting, but I expect action! If this can’t be done in the first sentence, at least do it in the first paragraph. Remember, setting, imagery, tone, and diction are all important, but if you can’t grab your reader in the first paragraph, chances are they will be on to the next book that does.
In Death of the Body, I start my prologue with Edmund’s death. The entire scene is written from his point of view, so that the reader will experience his death along with him. My intent was to immediately grab the readers attention (all while making it perfectly clear that the book is a dark novel), but also to make it so the reader couldn’t put the book down until they discovered how he got there.
This works in cross genres as well. Why not start your romance with the steamy love scene or your mystery with the murder? Time travel can be a theme in your science fiction, so why not use that to your advantage? The wonderful thing about writing is that you don’t have to have your beginning at the beginning, or your ending at the end.
Just because we aren’t writing comics doesn’t mean that we can’t be as visual, exaggerated, and problematic as they are. The opening paragraph is really the go big or go home moment. Use it to set the visuals for the rest of your story, just as a comic book does.
About the author:
I’ve often been accused of having done more in my life than the average 30 year old, but if I were completely honest I’d have to tell you my secret: I’m really 392.
So after all this time, I’m a pretty crappy writer.
I have one book published but out of print, one coming out soon, and a bunch half written (when you have eternity, where’s the reason to rush?). I’ve been favorably reviewed by horror greats like Nancy Kilpatrick, and my how-to-write-horror articles have been quoted in scholarly (aka community college freshmen’s) papers.
I enjoy the occasional Bloody Mary, although a Bloody Kathy or Susan will suffice.
Mostly, I just try to keep a low profile so people don’t figure out who I REALLY am.
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