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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Writing Tip: Make a Great First Impression

Let's face it. Good impressions are important. Some people may claim it's superficial and unfair. Isn't it what's inside that counts anyway? To a certain extent, yes. It is what is inside that counts. But to get to the inner core, there has to be a certain something that makes someone want to take a second look. And that's reality, whether we're talking about making friends, getting a job interview, or getting someone wowed by your manuscript.

And I cringe when I say this one, because I'm a rebel at heart. But to a certain extent, good impressions are all about conformity while at the same time allowing your individual stamp to shine through. Now all you rebellious independent beings out there, please don't all grumble at me here. I'll give you your moment to shine.

Think about it. Why do people go off and get themselves all dressed up before going to a party or attending an all important job interview or meeting? Why do people study up on a topic before meeting their professor or approaching someone to invest in their business? Why do people agonize on how to write their resume or query letter? Say it all with me...to make a good impression.

Now making a good impression doesn't always clinch the deal. This is where the rebel lovers everywhere can have their moment of triumph...that's why it's important to show a little of yourself to make yourself memorable. Within reason, of course. I had to add that caveat just so you know I'm not talking about body parts or underwear here.

What is it that's going to create a good impression in the beginning of your manuscript? I've got three of my top picks for what I think will help you create a strong beginning. Now keep in mind, this is my personal opinion, based on all the books I've read and enjoyed. By no means am I an expert in this sort of thing. If you like, you're more than welcome to add other things in the comments section.

1. A great hook: For me, this could be through a great opening line or prologue, interesting characters, the setting, instant conflict or emotion that draws me in and makes me want to read on.

2. An Interesting and Compelling Voice: It doesn't matter whether I love or hate the protagonist. That's actually part of what will make me want to read on. What is their personality and their inner conflict, why are they likeable or not, what is the tone of their voice and does it grab my attention.

3. A Teaser: Some people have all the luck on understanding the nuances of proper teasing. Because it's all about showing just a little, a little bit at a time, to give the reader an idea of what's to come. Do it wrong, and the reader is just going to get frustrated and give up. But do it right, and you're gonna have the reader hanging around until the very end.

Before you go off and study your favorite books or the beginning of your manuscript, what do you think makes a great first impression in the beginning of a novel?

4 comments:

m. thompson said...

I like the way you wrote this post. Thank you for articulating some things I need to watch in my work.

beckylevine said...

For me, I think its voice. I almost hate saying that, because I know (believe me!) how hard it is to create a strong, captivating voice. But I do believe, especially in kids' lit, that voice can often be the most important selling point.

Personally, I like humor. If something makes me smile or grin in the first page, I'm probably hooked. This doesn't necessarily mean the book has to be funny--many books with powerful themes of loss, etc, have a quirky way of talking about that theme, with humor an important part of telling the story.

And, yes, sometimes it does feel like we're playing a game, trying to figure out which is the best way to get noticed, rather than concentrating on the story. But publishing is a business, and most agents and editors do know what it takes for people to pick a book up off a shelf and NOT put it back. That's what we all want for our books, I think!

Patty Palmer said...

I love your blog! Just discovered it last night. Thanks for all the posts on writing. I'm also a passionate,unpublished writer of young adult/middle grade books and have 3 kids. I have a finished novel and one WIP. Keep up with the inspiration and good luck with your own writing endeavors.

HipWriterMama said...

m. thompson-
Glad you found this interesting. Good luck!
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Becky,
I agree, voice is important and I also enjoy books that infuse humor in different situations. Though, personally, I find it difficult to accomplish.
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Patty,
Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your writing, too!