First Lines and Writing That Grabs Readers

123113_2030_Resolutions1.jpgMost writers will tell you that the most important sentence in their novel is the first one. It is the hook, the thing that is going to turn readers on and get them to finish the book. Without that first sentence, you could have a best seller but it never makes it off the shelves. Readers perusing Barnes and Nobel will lift a book off the shelf because of the cover art. They will skim the storyline on the back or inside front flap and then read that first sentence. If that sentence grabs their attention then, they will read on. A great example can be seen in Barbara Delinsky’s best selling book Suddenly. “Paige Pfeiffer ran at the front of the pack, setting a pace that a less bold thirty-nine-year-old might not dare, but she had a point to prove and a bet to win.” With Suddenly readers are drawn in and want to know what bet Paige is trying to win, and why it is so important.
Richard Paul Evans is a mastermind when it comes to fiction. He wrote perhaps one of my all time favorite first lines. “Italians think of God as a fellow countryman, and walking a gravel incline alongside a Chianti vineyard, I wonder if they might not be right.” The Last Promise. Wow! I can feel myself there in Italy and I have never set foot on foreign soil.
These are just some examples of how best selling authors write their opening lines. Richard Paul Evans was not always the best selling author though. Before he became the author, he is today he was a struggling writer just like the rest of us. Struggling authors now number in the millions, and with social media, self-publishing, sites like WattPad and Fanfiction there is a lot of writing out there. Not all of the self-published books are worth reading. I have down loaded for free or bought for a dollar e-books that were not worth the time it took to down load them. Authors who couldn’t hook me with the first line, and then proceeded to butcher the rest of the book. Sadly though I have purchase print books that were just as bad, print books that made it through the scrutinty of a publishing house and still lack that certain something needed to draw the reader in.
Some of the better and yet still less known authors include Lisa Tucker, whose novel In The Winters in Bloom, has that certain special hook.“He was the only child in a house full of doubt.” While I just recently picked it up, I cannot wait to read this book. I long to know more about the child. Another first line that I came across the other day was from James Marrow’s book The Last Witchfinder. In it Marrow writes, “May I speak candidly, fleshing, one rational creature to another, myself a book and you the reader.” What a unique way to present the opening of the novel.
Authors who write first lines that border on hooking their reader but do not quite make it shouldn’t be too concerned if the second-line sinks in. Take Lisa Unger for example. In Black Out, Unger writes,“Today something interesting happened.” But then she follows that up with “I died.” And goes into her opening paragraph “How awful, they’ll say. How tragic. And she was so young, with everything ahead of her.” Another example is a new author I met through a writing group on Facebook. Jennifer McArdle has the knack for first lines down as well. Her opening of Back By Dawn, “My parents are vampires.” While the first line is intriguing, it is the follow up that makes the reader what to know more, to find out where the story is going and keeps them on the page.
When trying to develop the first line that works and hooks the readers, join critique groups. Work with others and always be willing to have an open mind.

*Jennifer McArdle can be found on Facebook

**Find Back by Dawn @ Amazon

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Where have all the good manner’s gone?

Look around, you may wonder why there is a huge lack of manners. Whether we are discussing adults or children, there is simply a lack of manners going around. Most people no longer hold the door open for others, offer up kind words like please and thank you. Are parent’s not teaching manners? Were they not taught manner’s themselves? There was a time when children were taught to say “yes sir, no sir, or yes ma’am, no ma’am.” These common courtesy were not just common but expected. Now rather than shock at not hearing pleasantries such as these we are shocked we do hear them. The other day a young girl responded to a question “no ma’am,” and the adult who asked stuttered asking first who said that and then congratulated the young girl on her manners. It showed effectively how far we have come from manners being expected to the mere shock at anyone who still uses them. Showing respect for your elders, answering people when ask a question, have become a thing that some take for granted, while it is lost on others because they never had manners.

Almost on a daily basis I see children who ignore adults. A parent asks a question, and the child ignores him or her. A teacher requests children stop talking in class, and the conversation goes on. Running, yelling, screaming, shouting, all take place in our churches and libraries, places that used to demand respect from all who enter are now simply buildings where anything goes. It is not just children who are disrespectful, no in a lot of cases I watch and see adults carry on loud abrupt conversations with themselves via cell phones in the library or even at church. Who is shocked when a cell phone rings during service? Who appreciates that there is a conversation going on in the stacks next to you at the library? I even find it a little bit embarrassing when people carry on loud abrupt conversations with themselves in the public restroom. I watched the other day as a child was rude, blatantly ignoring the adult when asked a question, and I began to wonder, are all children like this? Is this the world that we are going into now, where Manners are missing from day to day conversation. Where children can and will be brats because no one speaks up and demands respect.

What happens when we lose respect for others and ourselves? Do we grow as a nation, as the world? Are people able to live, and thrive in a land where there is no respect at all? Are respect and manners the same thing? I believe they are; that to show respect you have good manners. Someone cannot be rude and show respect. The two go hand in hand.

What are some examples of Good Manners

You should always look someone in the eye when talking to them. When asked a question, one needs to answer politely; polite responses should include sir or ma’am. Simple things such as saying please, thank you, and you’re welcome, show that you have good manners.

Another example of good manners is to speak to others as you would like to be spoken to. In other words, if you are negative then you should not only expect people to be negative to you, but also be completely okay with that. However, who is okay with being treated badly? No one. If we are honest, we want to be treated respectfully, regardless of how we treat others. Remember that manners are the golden rule of life.
Parents, who do not teach manners, aren’t doing their children any favors. It might be easier to not correct bad behavior, but by doing so you are hurting more than helping your child. So where do children or adults learn good manners? Children can learn manners in the home; parents should not expect anyone else to teach their children manners. Adults can teach themselves manners. Good manners lead to better employment opportunities, people who are polite to their bosses, and customers are more likely to succeed than people who are rude. It doesn’t matter how good you are at a job if you are rude to your boss or your customers you aren’t going to last.

Good table manners at home will translate over to good table manners out in public. I remember being taught as a child which side of the plate to put the fork, spoon and knife. I remember being taught to keep my elbows off the table. We had a lot of different rules growing up, and we knew how to behave in public. It doesn’t seem that children are being taught the same things. Children do not know how to react at a restaurant, which suggests that they do not have good table manners at home. You might not care if your child behaves themselves at your table, but teaching them how to behave at home will guide them in how to behave in public or at a friends home. Good table manners are important because when your child grows up him, or her, will be eating at a boy friend/girl friend’s house or their bosses house. It is important to know how to react, especially when they are looking to impress someone. Its never to late to learn. If you are an adult who lacks manners, and can recognize the fact that you lack manners, you are on the right road. Figuring out that you lack manners, is the first step toward making things better.

I Quit

Depression is a strange thing. For example, in the last few weeks things have been rather difficult. So difficult that I have stopped blogging. So difficult that I want to stop writing, stop home school, stop just about everything. Some days I do not want to get out of bed. I am so worried about money that I do not want to work. Wait, what? Worried about money that I do not want to work. See, that is why I say that depression is a strange thing. Instead of saying or thinking ‘well things are difficult I will just try harder’, the more difficult things become, the harder it is to try.
I have written and re-written this post. Because I feel like I need to explain myself. I am not sure exactly how to go about doing that. You see I do not believe in depression as a disease. I firmly believe that we can control our moods, and that if I am feeling melancholy than I can change that. Generally speaking, I am a very happy person. While these last few weeks have been difficult, I can always find a moment to smile throughout the day, so I do not believe that I am suffering from depression.
To explain how I have been feeling I wrote the other day that:

It’s funny how our words and actions can make someone feel. Things that are totally overwhelming a person can also play a part in how we view simple comments made that the wrong time. Take, for example, this last week. For me, it has been one of those hard to breathe weeks. I just haven’t wanted to do anything at all. Not write, not take care of the kids, most days I do not even want to get out of bed. It has just been one of those weeks. I have been building for awhile now. Various things happening that have made it hard for me to stay focused. Things that just made it hard to breathe. Some mornings I wake up and feel like there is an elephant on my chest. I do not want to do school work with my son, or even take him bowling or do AWANA. Sunday rolled around after this long, difficult week, and we went to church. My favorite part of the day, I am blessed with three wonderful children and doubly blessed with being able to teach Sunday school to the best age group out there. Three-year-olds fill my classroom. Filled with the wonder of God, to me this is the best age. So I am in my classroom getting ready to start the lesson when the preschool director comes to get me. My two-year-old is sick, and they need me to come get him before he makes others in his class sick.
I can completely understand where she is coming from; I used to do daycare. I was careful not to take children who were infectious, I always felt a certain amount of guilt if a child in my care was sick and then others got sick. I rushed from my classroom to pick up my son only to be told by his teacher that he was fine, and I could go back to my room. There was no need; she said to pick him up. I was instantly confused, hurt and angry. They pulled me out of my classroom because they were concerned he would make others sick. Someone in his classroom was worried enough to alert the preschool director. Now I was being treated like an over protective mom. Finally after being able to convince the teacher that I was there only because I was told I had to pick him up we left church early. I felt hurt, I felt angry, and I felt now more than ever ready to quit. quit AWANA, quit teaching Sunday School, and quit the church that I love. I could do all of that and justify it in my mind. I might not be able to quit any of the other things that were bringing me down, but I could quit this.

Before people reading this get the wrong idea, I am neither depressed, by the clinical definition or planning on quitting any of my activities including church or homeschooling. I just needed to show how the struggle has been.
Life is a struggle. If it were easy anyone could do it. Struggling isn’t a bad thing; neither is quitting. When you know that you are doing too much, there is nothing wrong with saying, I need a day off today. I need to not do this activity, or that. It is perfectly okay to reassess and revisit issues. It is okay to have a bad day, bad week or even a bad month. At the end of the day, I hope this reaches someone who is also ready just to quit, and they know that it is okay to feel that way. I also hope that if you are reading this that you know it does get better. If you have depression, please do not think that I am making light of your situation, I simply do not believe that I am struggling with depression. Instead of quitting the things that I love I think I will just quit the struggle. Quit letting things I love make me miserable and start enjoying them again. Quit struggling against home-school and start loving it. Quitting the struggle just makes more sense than quitting anything else.