Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Introductory Paragraphs


It's universally agreed by writers and readers alike that the first page of a novel or the introduction to a short story are vitally important, but I think it's more important for the short story. You have limited time to set the tone and develop the plot for a short story.  In a novel, you can draw readers in over several pages, but an entire short story may only be 10 pages. You need pull them in rapidly by disclosing more about the plot, possibly even introducing the primary conflict in the story in the first few lines.

I try to do this by providing a one-paragraph teaser that discloses the tone of the story and as much of the plot as possible without giving away the ending.  I then immediately return to the beginning, which can be days, weeks, even years earlier than the introductory paragraph.  Below are a few examples of short story introductions from my collection, IT GOES ON, coming out in June.
Something for Nothing
There was no master plan. One bad decision had just led to the next.  They were like gamblers, doubling each successive bet as they continued to lose, believing it would take just one good hand to turn their luck around.  The final hand dealt to Rich and Ellen Price was their ruin, and it came from a dealer they never anticipated.  

A Costly Legacy

Going back was not something he thought possible.  He’d vowed never to return.  Five years ago, James Elliott was driven from Benson, Indiana, a victim of his own secret. A majority of the 1,830 townspeople despised him. As he turned off Route 151 and crept along Main Street, James doubted his homecoming would be friendly, but there was someone he needed to see and things he needed to say.  His time was short.

 A Christmas Found

The space between us had widened.  Years ago, reaching my hand to her waist beneath the sheets, she would have instinctively backed her body into mine, grasping my arm and entwining it around her.  She often initiated what came next.  But I couldn’t remember the last time I tested her willingness.  It’d been so long that I no longer thought about trying.  Invisible walls partitioned off our thoughts, our desires, our communication.  Neither of us wanted it that way.  It had just happened.

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