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There’s only so much that can be done with a first line before it ends up turning into a paragraph with no periods. That can be a headache for any reader. Compelling first lines can be tricky. First paragraphs, however, have more to offer a reader wanting to get lost in a story. There’s quite an array of things a first paragraph can do and depending on your approach, there’s things that first paragraph should do.
Create Your Focal Point
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What’s the most important aspect of your story? Is it the protagonist? Is it the location? Perhaps they’re equally important, or maybe it’s all to do with a creature? No matter what, your first paragraph should create the main focus of your WIP. Whether it’s kept simple or it’s a little more complex, give the reader a glimpse into exactly what you want them to see as you take them on your intense journey. It’s great if you can do that with a first line, but it can be nice to take the pressure off by giving yourself some leeway.
Generate the Tone
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Generating a persistent tone goes hand-in-hand with your focal point. How do you want your focal point to make your readers feel? Lightly sprinkle your paragraph with some descriptive-word foreshadowing, which will allow you to make your readers smile or even worry them, it’s up to you. The paragraph doesn’t have to be long, it only has to be just descriptive enough to make the tone clear.
Establish Your Narrative Style
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The most obvious aspect of any strong beginning, yet deserves the inclusion. How is your story going to be told? Is it a personal 1st person tale? Are the events being watched in 3rd person? This can typically depend on the genre. For example, I believe horror could be told best in 2nd person for that extra sense of anxiety and urgency, while non-fiction can benefit from being in 1st person for a sympathetic (or empathetic) connection. Using your first paragraph to explore different narrative styles should be a fun experience and can make up the guise of your WIP in a way you may not have thought of before.
That very first paragraph can be a thing of beauty, laying the groundwork for the luscious garden that will be your WIP. It truly doesn’t have to be long, it simply needs to do its job. This is where it all begins.