No, this isn’t a self-help seminar. I just wanted to illustrate a few points. You’ve heard it said that “first impressions are last impressions”. The fact is that first impressions are often the ONLY impressions.
The first “simple” step is to select a title for your story, essay or presentation that succinctly tells the reader what to expect. You may have noticed that I like to use song titles or familiar sayings for my blog titles. One way to connect with readers is to give them a starting point that they are already familiar with. Whatever source you draw from, make sure that your title is both interesting and relevant to your work.
Next is your first paragraph. You can find studies floating around about attention span and how long it takes a reader to lose focus. The exact numbers aren’t really our concern here. The point is, if you don’t tell the audience why they are paying attention in the first few minutes, then they probably won’t. Setting the mood is an important part of building tone, but is that fact that it was a cold and rainy night relevant to the story? Is the number of freckles on her face going to make us care more about what happens to her? In a short story or an oral presentation, even in a novel it is important to get to the point. After all, unless you’ve advertised a literary novel, your audience is expecting to a story or to gain information not to find out how many pretty words you know.
There is no third step have a good day.
That would tend to annoy you wouldn’t it? The third “simple” step is the most important. Follow through on your promise. It’s fine to start with an exciting chase scene but make sure the user doesn’t feel ripped off in the next section when you start a narrative that doesn’t seem at all related. Don’t introduce some fascinating character and then say “he left, but who I really want to talk about is…” People don’t like it when unprincipled salesmen do it and they won’t appreciate it from you.
There we have it then, Think about what you want to say then summarize it in your title, add a hook that is relevant to the whole story to your opening paragraph and follow through on whatever you advertise. It’s “simple”, but not necessarily easy. Good luck.
I just finished a space version of “And Then There Were None”. It was dark and delightfully fun. I also finished a submission for a children’s magazine. Changing gears can be challenging, but the payoff is more than worth the investment. I currently have eighteen irons on the fire. I don’t expect any replies for a few weeks, so I can concentrate on better writing and making my deadlines rather than when payday is coming. ;)
Good luck to you all. Feel free to drop a line and let me know how you are doing in your writing regimen.