February 17, 2018
This is a truth for all writers. JK Rowling. Year 12s – and for any young person writing narratives for the year 7 or 9 writing test this year for NAPLAN.
Create interest from the first line.
You only have a limited number of words, so use them judiciously and deploy them for the right moments. Use your words to focus on the central conflict of your story and the emotional reactions of your character.
Start your story quickly. Drop the reader into the action from the first line. Don’t wait!
Start in the middle
This week, one student defended the slow start to his story by saying, “I’m building up interest”.
To which I replied, “But it’s not interesting to read about packing for a cruise, driving to the cruise liner and boarding the boat”.
“JK Rowling takes her time,” he said.
So we had a look at the first lines of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Mmm. How interesting.
Chapter One is entitled: The Boy who lived
Well that piques the reader’s interest – don’t you think? The reader is left to wonder – well who died?
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Mmm. They are not going to be normal, are they? Rowling crafts the opening line of her story, drops the reader in the middle and keeps the reader wanting to read.
It’s hard but spend some time thinking making sure that you start your story late in the piece, close to the action.
Start with a bang
In addition to starting in the middle of the story, make sure, from the first lines of a story, you hold back information and create anticipation. Knowing what your story is about and what is the best way of telling it are two different things.
A Year 12 student was working on a story that started off with a newspaper extract. Her teacher said she needed to show more rather than tell, so we had to put on our thinking caps and come up with a killer first line. So we came up with this:
My mother always thought I would be murdered.
That works! Intrigue from the first line. We have suggestions in our Creative Writing book.