Monday, March 14, 2005

That Annoying First Chapter

One of the things I have to revisit several times is the first few pages of the book. My last few novels have all started out in the here and now, with ordinary people in ordinary lives, but by the end of the tale, the protagonist has become powerful, or famous -- an inventor, an explorer, or a ruler. I want the development to be incremental and progress easily from the mundane to the extraordinary. I want to start out normal, and build the strange.

But the demands of marketting are different from the demands of storytelling. Without a killer hook in that first chapter, first paragraph, even the first few words, people won't buy the book. And by 'people', I include the editor or agent who holds the power of life and death over the work.

I wonder if this is an artifact of our current culture? Is the hook, so demanded by our fast-paced life with its thousands of demands on our attention, something universal? Will this feature of modern publishing change in fifty years? Will future readers find the predictable and artifical hook in the first sentence a laughable affection of a harried culture?

It doesn't matter today. Today, I have to work on that sentence. Let's see. How can I add a little danger and mystery here, before anything happens? Hmm. 'Sharp' is a nice word. Let's use it.

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