By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine
At our last writer's group meeting, we read the first paragraph of seven different books. Based on those paragraphs, our moderator asked each of us if we would read the book. Did it catch our attention and make us want to read the book until the words, "The End?"
If the answer was no, we were asked to rewrite the paragraph. All of the original information must be retained in the rewrite but in our voice.
You can then compare your first paragraph style with classics. This allows you to pick out successful tried and true style methods to start your novel.
Here are a few classic first paragraphs; In A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
And from The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde:
"The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn."
And from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters."
And from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury:
"It was a pleasure to burn."
And from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:
"Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."
And from 1984 by George Orwell:
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
And from The Hamlet by William Faulkner:
"Frenchman's Bend was a section of rich river-bottom country lying twenty miles southeast of Jefferson. Hill-cradled and remote, definite yet without boundaries, straddling into two counties and owning allegiance to neither, it had been the original grant and site of a tremendous pre-Civil War plantation, the ruins of which---the gutted shell of an enormous house with its fallen stables and slave quarters and overgrown gardens and brick terraces and promenades---were still known as the Old Frenchman's place, although the original boundaries now existed only on old faded records in the Chancery Clerks office in the county courthouse in Jefferson, and even some of the once-fertile fields had long since reverted to the cane-and-cypress jungle from which their first master had hewed them."
Using this writer’s group method, you will bridge the world of you, the reader, with the world of you, the writer.