Good. Because Biddy's post on Endings got me thinking of Beginnings, and the different ways we writers start our stories.
Nearly every writing guide I own warns me that readers these days don't have the same patience readers used to have, and that to hold their attention we writers should cut to the chase, in the literal sense. We should start with a 'hook', in the midst of the action, and not waste time painting the scenery or - horror of horrors - describing the weather.
Which often makes me wonder just how many classic novels, ones I've read, re-read and loved, would even make it past an editor these days, with opening sentences like: 'When the east wind blows up Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed, and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores.'
And how's this for an opening paragraph? 'James Macfadden died in March 1905 when he was forty-seven years old; he was riding in the Driffield Point-to-Point. He left the bulk of his money to his son Douglas. The Macfaddens and the Dalhousies at that time lived in Perth, and Douglas was a school friend of Jock Dalhousie, who was a young man then, and had gone to London to become a junior partner in a firm of solicitors in Chancery Lane, Owen, Dalhousie, and Peters. I am now the senior partner, and Owen and Dalhousie and Peters have been dead for many years, but I never changed the name of the firm.'
I can all but hear a modern agent or editor screaming, 'Who CARES?', and yet, although that particular book goes on for several more pages in the same leisurely vein before anything actually happens to the narrator - before he first meets the young woman who will be the catalyst for all the story that follows - I love it all the same, and always have.
Most of my own books, admittedly, start rather slowly. Like a filmmaker who opens with a wide establishing shot and then comes closer, I like to let my readers see my heroines in context, maybe even get to know them just a little, before setting things in motion.
Not to say I don't like books that start with action - some writers are amazingly good at it, and some, like Dean Koontz, can work both weather and a strong hook into their opening sentences, as he does in Dragon Tears: 'Tuesday was a fine California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch.'
I'm just saying that we all have different voices, and a storyteller's voice can sometimes draw me in as surely as a 'hook', no matter what the writing gurus of the moment say.
Are you the same? Or do you need to have your interest grabbed by that first sentence?
(By the way, bragging rights go to the first commenter who can correctly identify BOTH novels from which the 'slow' openings above are taken!)
Don't forget to come back on Sunday, when Anna will be posting.