The most important thing about your writing, is that it starts with a bang. The more explosions, the better. You need to grab your readers by the throat and shake them until they lose consciousness. Rouse them, and then SHAKE THEM SOME MORE. There is literally NO other way to grab and hold the attention of a reader short of being there beside them when they do and MAKING THEM READ IT.
You can’t let the readers breathe for a second. Every word is critical, and if every line isn’t an explosion, a gunshot or sex, I don’t know why you want to be a writer – you may as well make artsy movies and write poetry! How do you expect to hold someone’s attention if you’re not forcing action down their throat?
I had a discussion about this with my writing group last night. It’s unanimous. There is no reason, ever, to not have a major explosion or whatnot in the opening line of your novel. Hell, you can start with a death – the more, the better! The reason we know this, is because of this one truth:
All readers are the same.
Just like people. Everybody is the same. You, me, that guy across the street who considers himself a knife enthusiast… same. It’s why we can follow surefire formulas on how to write – it’s an established recipe you can follow without risk!
People say there’s new stories, and okay, it’s not exactly true. Of course there’s new stories, because nobody’s going to buy the SAME books they already have. What they mean is that there’s no new stories worth telling. You have to stick to proven entities, like The Hero’s Journey, Hollywood blockbuster, or reality TV. A slow build where you gradually raise the tension until a culminating point that has dragged the reader deep into a world of betrayal and intrigue? BOOORRRRING! Nobody wants to read that because as we’ve established, All readers are the same.
When people go to a bookstore (wherever they still are), it’s the explosions and flesh on the cover that draws their attention. Exploding flesh? Oh baby, that’s retail gold right there.
People need that first page- no, first line. NO, FIRST WORD to grab them, or they won’t read another. The? Not an explosion. Its? Not an explosion. Explosion? THE MONEY WORD RIGHT THERE. The title needs to be something just as catchy, or you will not sell. The Sex Explosion. War and Explosions. To Explode a Mockingbird. Random Explosions of the Heart.
I’ll tell you what nobody does? Nobody picks up a random book with a slightly intriguing title or cover, opens to a random page, and reads to see what an author’s style is like. All readers are the same. They will always start at the beginning. If you can write a paragraph without an explosion, guess what? You’ve made editing that paragraph SO MUCH EASIER. It just goes.
There’s no point in writing for a specific audience that doesn’t exist. Don’t even write for yourself if it’s not following this approach of flash-bang-wizardry, because you don’t really want that at all. You know those post-draft jitters you get when you look back on what you’ve written, and want to destroy it all because there’s something missing?
That something is an explosion.