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When you are checking the opening paragraph of your Story, here are four questions to ask. First, will the reader know whose story it is? If the reader doesn't know who the protagonist is, there will be nothing to give meaning to the events that unfold and worse, no one to root for. Second, is something happening, beginning on the first page? Don't spend pages setting up the scene or giving us background information that we will need later. Don't just set the ball rolling.
Leap in with the ball already careening downhill. What better way to kick-start the reader's curiosity than opening with something that has a clear impending consequence? After all, how can we wonder what happens next unless something is already happening? Third, does something hang in the balance? Ask yourself, is the reader aware that something specific is at stake right there on the first page? Fourth, Is enough of the "big picture" visible from the get-go to give us a sense of where the story is heading? It's the big picture that puts everything in context, supplying perspective and conveying the point of each scene.
Without it, it's like having all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with no idea how they fit together or what the final picture might look like. Now that you've seen the incredible difference a little editing can make to an opening. Give it a try. You'll find a rough draft paragraph in your exercise files. Remember, there are no right answers. Let your imagination be your guide.
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