currently playing on my iPod: Goodbye by Apparat
That Suzanne Collins really knows what she’s doing. Let’s take a peek at the first paragraph, shall we?
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.
By the end of the second sentence, we know that the main character a) has a sis and they are close and b) they have a crappy bed and are therefore poor or something along those lines. With the third sentence we learn that sis is young and, most likely, Dad is not in the picture. The final two sentences are the true hook, tugging you right on into the second paragraph and into the world of Katniss Everdeen.
Writers, I dare you to create, as Ms. Collins has done, an opening paragraph for your current short story, novella, novel, or whathaveyou which includes what is most important to the main character (in this case it was the sister), a feel for the setting (cold, rough, canvas), and the conflict, or, at the very least, a hint at the conflict that hooks readers (sis losing sleep over something called the reaping). But you cannot simply puke it all out on your fantastic new laptop. You must make it simple and smooth. The paragraph’s voice must match the voice of the rest of the story. And the most difficult task of all, you must make the lines read as something a real person would say/think. No information dumps please.
This is tough stuff, people, but I believe that if we read (and reread and then read again) stellar authors like Ms. Collins, we have a much better shot at succeeding in our goal of a great beginning.