Saturday, February 28, 2009

Firsts and Lasts...How to Use Your Words Effectively

In writing we all learn that you want to grab your reader's attention right away, use that effective hook (excuse the pun) to lure them in. But what about all the writing in between? What about the chapters, the individual paragraphs and sentences? Afterall, you want to keep the reader's attention throughout the story. So, look for those places where you can make your writing more effective, those power positions. Elizabeth Lyon in her book, Manuscript Makeover, lists those positions of "firsts and lasts": 1) first and last words; 2) first and last sentences; 3) first and last paragraphs in sections and chapters; 4) first and last pages in chapters, short stories, and novels; and 5) first and last chapters in novels.

Here's an example of how the choice of words can make a difference:

"I awoke this morning still feeling miserable about the news. Lack of quality sleep left me edgy and irrated. How I would get through the day, dealing with dozens of screaming five-year-olds... well, I wanted to crawl back under the covers. That was my answer. Death of a loved-one didn't really leave me with much. I felt in one word, deflated, like someone stabbed me with so many holes."

Now, add an impacting first sentence: "Aunt Fran was dead. I awoke this morning still feeling miserable about the news....." and so on.

It grabs the reader's attention, urging one to read on. Firsts and lasts may be more for the revision stage. Go back and see where you might need some of those effective power words. Engage your readers throughout the story as well as hooking them in the beginning.

1 comment:

jan said...

i have learned alot from you blog and i hope to i hope the see more of your blogs that help me thank you from janet a