A recent blog post got me thinking:
“People need that first page—no, first line. NO, FIRST WORD to grab them, or they won’t read another. The? Not an explosion. It’s? Not an explosion. Explosion? THE MONEY WORD RIGHT THERE.”
My thought? Gosh, I think he’s right.
I know, I know. Nobody quotes only one word from a book. Quotes are passages, or at least a sentence. Does the first word really matter that much? Why so much pressure on that first word?
Let me explain.
When I open a book to see if I want to buy it—let’s be realistic, check it out from the library—I don’t flip to the middle. If I flip to the back, it’s to see the last page number.
And I avoid eye contact with all the text on the page like I do when I see someone from high school at the mall.
But that’s another story.
No, I flip to the first page of the story. I want to start the story at the beginning. I want to see if the story jives with me.
So the courtship begins.
If we don’t judge a book by its cover, we definitely judge it by its first page. First pages are first impressions, the face of the story. It’s the online dating profile for the culmination of characters, setting and plot.
And a lot is revealed here.
But who has time to read a full page? We spend an average of six seconds on a webpage. It takes a good minute to read an entire page, especially those with six-lined paragraphs.
Skimming is now the new reading.
So I settle for the first paragraph. And if the thought “and then what?” ever pops into my head, it goes into the consideration pile.
Or on my Goodreads’ to-read list.
It’s the first sentence that gets my attention. But it’s the first word that intrigued me enough to get there.
That first word sets up the tone of the story, the pace of the story, the characters of the story, the plot of the story, the should-I-even-care-about-this of the story.
Are you going to waste your first word on the or a?
Does the first word have to be explosions? Of course not. Not every story is about ground-shaking explosions. But the first word must shake the reader in that same way.
That is, if you want to keep them.
Your story should start right away in your first paragraph. Every word counts. Make the first word matter.
Then let the reader fall in love with your story.
What the first word in your story? Should you change it or keep it? Share your word—and words—below.