Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Naming your Setting

So, I'm doing a critique tonight, and I was wondering. What keeps you reading a story?

Me, I love first sentences. Those perfectly crafted sentences hook me and really draw me deep into a story. If a first sentence is beautifully crafted, you get setting, character, and theme shot at you at once. It's the best feeling.

My second favourite thing is the overall phrasing of the first paragraph. In my first paragraphs I really try to get the reader into the setting, to let them know what sort of character and place they're getting.

Fantasy? I'd probably begin like this: "Anair, there is a presence within the stone." Instantly you think, Who is Anair? Who is the person speaking? How can there be a presence in stone? Where is this story taking place?

Isn't that fun?

Do you prefer Steampunk? Let's try this sentence: Kat would have fled before the German soldier turned his head and saw her hovering beneath the steam-powered lantern, but her glider was broken. What do you think when you read this sentence?

Historical Fiction? Peggy grimaced and ran her hands down the belling folds of her corseted dress.

Science Fiction? Don Oden leaned forward and typed a phrase of command into his computer keyboard.

I love getting my characters named right off, so you know who the story is about. I love trying to get the feel for the story right there on the first sentence. Most, I love trying to hook you in, to make you think WHY is this character doing this?

How about you? What is the most favourite thing in writing that you strive to make the best?


  1. My favorite thing is when a story makes me think about something in a new way. I am very opinionated, but I like when a story makes me rethink my opinion. I'm not sure if I do it well as a writer, but I love it as a reader.

    I really like great opening lines, too. J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) is excellent at opening lines. Every one of the "In Death" books I have read has a great opening line. I am sure there are others, but hers stand out in my mind.

  2. Ooh, I've never heard of the "In Death" books. Sounds EEEEEERIEEEE! LOL. :D

  3. I notice you are a singer. Me too - soprano in our church choir. Love the old hymns especially, and good harmonies. What keeps me reading a story: a good solid pace, an intriguing character I can relate to - and something hard to define - the charm of the words maybe - it has to do with good tight writing.

  4. For me it's all about the voice. I read the first paragraph to about the first page and if I love the voice, then I'll read the book. If I love a characters voice, he/she can take me anywhere, a fantasy land, a futuristic world, into the past... you name it. This is why I prefer first person narration. The voice comes through a little more than with third person.

  5. Great post, Cat. I love opening lines too. The opening line to James Patterson's, Maximum Ride is great, "The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective." Love it!!!

    There is a prologue also to this book, and I normally hate prologues but I read it. It was awesome. It's actually what hooked me to the book.

    I have a hard time with my opening lines. The more I read, I keep changing it - wanting something stronger.

  6. My favorite thing in both reading and writing is that first few paragraphs. In reading, they pretty much have to hook me or at least peak my interest a little bit. If I'm reading those first few paragraphs and my mind starts to wander... then you've probably lost me and if I'm picking out a book to read, I'll probably set that one right back on the rack. So when I pick out a book to read, I always read the first paragraph.
    I also love good endings. If the ending is good, it makes me want to read another one QUICK by that same author. Like the Hunger Games. I just finished that and the ending (well the entire book) was so good I can't wait to get onto the next in that series.

    In writing my own stories, it's the same for me. I want to make a big Punch in my opening paragraph and have a bit of a twist to the ending if possible. I've really only written picture books stories and or magazine stories for kids so far so you can't really have too much of a surprise ending or the little kidlets won't get it!

  7. I do love first sentences and first paragraphs. I can usually tell if I'm going to like a book. I like to be hooked by their voice and a little bit of mystery.

  8. I'm a terrible "flipper". I'll open to the first page, and if that doesn't hold my interest, I'll flip forward to see if there are any scenes that might make it worth my while to read the book.

    But yes, I LOVE first sentences. I wish I could write a whole book just full of first sentences!

  9. Loved the post. Gave me a lot to think about when I open up the next book. Donna

  10. I like first sentences too- but if there's a soldier in the first sentence, I probably wouldn't read the book. Just me, I guess.

  11. A writer-friend of mine just got two "almost" acceptances from agents for her YA novel. They wanted to see more character, less narration. One of them specifically circled a sentence in the first chapter and said, "this should be your opening." She's really delving in the process of revising and adding character and interest from the very first line. I will share this post. Thanks for posting, Cat!

  12. Donna, glad I gave you something to think about!

    Desert, why specifically a soldier? Any reason? I'm just curious.

    Miranda, cool! I've never had anyone specifically say they're going to share a post I blogged about! That's the coolest thing that's happened to me today. :)


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