How many of you check out the first paragraph when browsing a bookstand? When can’t overestimate the power of the first words in a novel and the importance of the first paragraph.
A friend was reviewing the start of my new book. I trust his judgement; he’s an avid reader. “I liked the first chapter,” he said, “but the opening paragraph just doesn’t draw me in—it gives no sense of place or context.” I agreed and went back to revise it. What is important is that I feel much happier about the opening now. It helps the main character as his arc unfolds, and it propels the plot. It starts with a quote that a senior staff member used when I began a new teaching position. So, here goes;
“Your best is never good enough,” were the words Sir Donald Bradford spoke at my orientation for the Foreign Service. Now, with retirement looming, I had to agree. I had given everything, but there was too much unfinished business and post-covid Europe was a diplomatic nightmare. Now, I needed time to myself and time to heal. With my camera as my companion, I explored The Mall, filled with tourists enjoying an ordinary day in picturesque London.
Lovers share a kiss by the steps. “Click.” Queen Victoria’s statue stares at them, stone-faced and not amused; very English. I lift my camera and to frame my next photo. Damn, a woman steps across the viewfinder, whispering as she passes me.
“You are being followed,” she says, “don’t turn around.”
My camera shakes as I try to focus on the bronze statue above me.
“Eighty-two feet high. If you enjoy royalty, try the Household Cavalry Museum at Hyde Park Barracks at 4pm. Ask for Reginald.”
[PS: This is only a drat. In the coming days I will play with this to get it right :-)]