Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Hook

''To be or not to be? That is the question.Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer....'
David Tennant as Hamlet
As an opener they don't come much better than Hamlet. Although 'If music be the food of life, play on give me excess if it' is a pretty close second. Shakespeare had the whole first paragraph thing nailed. Centuries ago he knew, instinctively, that if a writer doesn't hook the reader within those vital few words she is danger of being lost forever.
As Bill's brilliance knocks on the door of my sub-conscious with every word I write I question myself, 'Is this boring?' 'Have I just lost another precious reader?'...shush, that was rhetoric!

There are some amazing openers, those already quoted above but how about 'Marley was dead, to begin with'. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Or, 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.' 1984 By George Orwell? Both suggesting intrigue and grabbing the reader very firmly by the short and curlies from the very first sentence.

Writing my own novel I have absolutely no idea how i'm getting on. So I set myself a challenge, I read as many first paragraphs as I could manage in one hour and then went back to my writing from some weeks ago and took a long, hard and analytic look at my own. Wow, you really could waste some paper in this game....thank the lord for technology and the delete button!

Anyway, several attempts later and this is what I have come up with as an opening paragraph.....

'As a child I wondered how someone could slip off the edge of the world, no note. How they could be there and then not. Be missed, then not. How the world you lived in just yesterday is unrecognisable today. The wound they left heals and no one mentions them again. At least ‘no one in their right mind’.

Would you be lured in and want to find out what is happening?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


I have just received an email from a girl (now woman) that I went to school with nearly thirty six years ago and became close friends then sadly drifted in our 20s.

When I told her that I was now writing and that I have had some poetry published recently she said "I'm not surprised, you always were creative, I remember that poem you wrote 'REFLECTIONS'." I couldn't believe someone not only remembered  that I used to write poems but could remember one of them clearly enough from circa 1980 to remind me about it! It just goes to show the power of words. I wrote something all those years ago that resonated with her and her teenage life which has stayed with her ever since, indeed, she told me that she had used the first lines in a letter to someone many years later!

I'm re-reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Some of those lines are so precisely etched in my memory that Jem and Scout's scorched days brought back so clearly my own sweltering classroom where we took turns to read their adventures aloud. Just the names; Jem, Scout and Atticus are enough to conjure up the heat of unnecessary school blazers and BO.
Whoever had this copy from the library before me seems to have a shared love of the words and phrases used by Ms Lee, as the borrower has underlined many throughout and far from being irritated at someone's graffiti I am fascinated that, on the whole, they are the same ones that I remember being mesmerised by. I'm fairly sure that this author understood completely the power of her words, but not all of us do. 
At this point I would love to insert that long-ago penned poem that my lovely friend remembers so clearly - unfortunately I can't remember much past the title! However, I do remember another scribbling, written after someone else's words had completely devastated me! 


Kissing my neck so sweetly
You pushed me through your door
And crushed me so completely
Another of your angels crashes to the floor
Free-falling, Earth-bound
I crack my head on the bannister
Then realise your words were brimstone
When I’d thought they were lavender.

I suppose what I am trying to get at is the power of words, our words. How we talk to others and how we hear what others say to us. In writing I choose my words carefully I just hope that I am as careful when I talk. Written or spoken words can either delight and entertain, congratulate or commiserate or degrade and destroy! Of course, for story-telling purposes go wild with your words but when dealing with the fragility of the human soul, especially those you love, tread lightly, speak kindly. 

I know the adage 'actions speak louder than words' but I disagree. But then i'm a writer not a mime artist!!