Writers writing about writing don’t always write stuff which is interesting to passersby, but this sort of shop talk (about beginnings, endings, story-architecture, etc.) also interests me as a reader, so I thought I’d indulge myself here. Also, it’s certainly less dull than posting about Heroes again (in summary: now the shark is jumping the show) or complaining about the latest LJ squeakfest I’ve become entangled in.
So: there are three ways to start a story, as I see it.
You grab the reader by the ear with a conversational opener that lures him into a conspiracy with the storyteller: “Call me Ishmael.”
You grab the reader by the eye with a sensory description that begs for further narration and explanation: “The doorknob opened a blue eye and winked at him.”
You push the reader off a cliff so that she finds herself swimming in the thick of the action: “The Skydiver dropped out of hyperspace an even million miles above the neutron star.”
Stories that take a couple of pages to hook the reader usually won’t. But it may be a mistake, as Jay Lake suggests, to try too hard. I like his last lines about first lines: “the first sentence will be what it is. The more you can load there, the better, but don’t force it. Stories, like wine or cheese, have to breathe.”