Grab Your Reader Fast
No advice for any writer is more important than crafting an opening chapter that will keep his or her readers interested in continuing. Today, most published books have a presence on Amazon. Type an author’s name into a Google search and all of that author’s published books will appear.
Every day Google adds hundreds, if not thousands of new books to its roster. The vast majority of those new additions are self-published. Self-publishing does not automatically mean ‘bad’, but good or bad, you will have fierce competition for your readers’ attention.
Google, like many other search engines for books, allow the reader (potential buyer) to “look inside”. In short, they are giving potential buyers the chance to see what you are made of.
In today’s blog post, I have provided the first 5 opening paragraphs of my novel The Sinai Artifact, http://www.solsticepublishing.com Copyright 2017 to examine what the author (me) was looking for in the book’s opening.
“Gretchen Bell sat on a metal stool in front of a microscope and nervously turned her head toward a glass-faced cabinet, one of several mounted to the walls lining the laboratory’s perimeter. Petite at five-foot-one, with short blonde hair, the Harvard graduate student wore a short miniskirt that fell to mid-thigh. Shoulder length blonde hair framed a pretty face much younger than her actual age. She paid little attention to what was under the lens, her mind instead focused on one thing, the priceless artifact she’d been trying to steal since she first arrived at the Smithsonian in late May.
For Bell, time was running out. She’d taken risks all summer long trying to secure the stone, an innocuous-looking piece of granite the Smithsonian was not even aware it possessed. On one occasion, she sneaked back into the building late at night using a master key lifted from her boss’s key ring.
Her boss, curator Dimitri Kastianich had a penchant for downing large amounts of Russian vodka, then, passing out on the couch of his suburban Virginia apartment.
Bell spent hours in the Smithsonian’s storage areas, poking through boxes and crates, until finally, she found it, mislabeled in a crate of pottery shards. Six inches wide, and heart-shaped, its curved top tapered to a point at the lower edge with small inward and outward projecting notches. Lettering in an alphabet Bell did not recognize covered one side.
Bell’s Russian handler, Hans Richter, a German national working for the FSB, Russia’s secret service, had been correct about the artifact being lost somewhere in Smithsonian’s bowels. How Richter knew, and where she needed to look, Bell never asked. Questioning Hans Richter was not a wise career move, or so she’d been warned.”
In the book’s opening scene, the reader is first introduced to an important character in the plot, (by the nature of her early reference). She is a graduate student named Gretchen Bell. The name Bell, was a purposeful choice of the author to use an American name for this character. The choice is meant to make the reader wonder. Why is this young woman surrounded thus far by non-Americans, questionable characters, who are definitely not Americans and who may be bad guys?
So, who is she, and why are they involved with an ordinary graduate student of archeology? What do they want from her? The reader is given a short preview of what Bell looks like along with a foreshadowing that her appearance (young grad student) may not be as advertised. She looks younger than her actual age. How old is she?
Bell works in a Smithsonian Institution archeology lab and is attempting to steal a strange rock that the Smithsonian may even not know they possess. Is this rock the Sinai artifact? She’s been taking risks all summer to secure it. What is it? The title word Sinai is meant to take the readers mind to Mt. Sinai and ask if this has anything to do with Mt Sinai’s historical significance.
The reader is told about but does not actually meet a second important character yet, her boss, a Russian curator, Dimitri Kastianich, who is a sloppy drunk. Is his drinking important to the plot? The reader will have read on to know.
Gretchen Bell we are told has a Russian handler, curiously, with a German surname. What is that all about? Not only is the reader informed that Richter is dangerous, but that he is dangerous even to those who work for him and implies that Gretchen Bell dare not even ask questions about him. Use of the word ‘handler’ brings up the thought of spies and espionage.
If written correctly the goal of your opening paragraphs is to ask more questions than provide answers. Hint at the plot line but do not give anything away too early. Keep in mind that you are writing a novel and will have up to 100,000 words to further develop your characters and your plot.
It is my experience in reading books by new, (first time authors); that they are so full of energy and eager to get their story onto the printed page that they rush the plot.