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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Challenge (NOT the FaithWriters Challenge) (06/10/10)

TITLE: How can I get you to read this?
By Graham Starling
06/17/10


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By the time you reach the end of this article I guarantee that you will be able to captivate your readers with the first line of your story EVERY TIME!

That’s the advertisers approach: Each subsequent paragraph titillating the senses with renewed promises of future success until you reach the end of a very long page, your whole being screaming for the answer to be revealed, to find that this will only happen if you buy such and such a book or DVD for the bargain price of only lots of dollars and 99 cents.

OK so it works on a lot of people (myself included sometimes), but I don’t want to alienate you or trick you into parting with your hard earned cash in return for something that will tell you what you probably already know.

Text books – I have never read one with any pleasure, moreover it seems that the higher you climb up the academic ladder, the less readable the books become. Then again, you don’t pay for the author’s sparkling wit or clever turn of phrase, but rather for the content, the new knowledge you will gain. You will toil your weary way through the pages like some explorer hacking a path through dense jungle, not for the pleasure of the journey, but for the promise of the discoveries you will make along the way.

Newspapermen seem to have it easy as well. Short succinct phrases to present the details of the event in a clear manner, probably throw in a cliché or two just to colour it up. In the end it’s going to be something you will read in a few seconds, so if it’s not the most captivating of writing who cares? The details of the news are there to be absorbed, and then the reader moves on.

But this is a story. I want to invite you into my imagination, into my head. I want to show you something that I think is worth sharing, and you are quite free to decline. You will find my piece on the Internet or in a book at the bookstore and you will browse the first paragraph or two. At that point you will decide whether or not you are going to invest your time and possibly your money in reading further. If you choose to put it back on the shelf – to move on – I won’t be standing by your shoulder to say, “It gets really good in a few pages.”

No if I want you to read this the persuasion has to be in the opening lines. I need to draw you in with an intriguing mystery; take you to a place that is enough like one you already know that you feel comfortable being there, yet sufficiently different that you want to stay and explore. I need to introduce you to characters you will like and lead them by dangerous paths so that you will want to stay with them and see them safely home. Villains to hate and see punished in the end, victims to shock and heighten the sense of danger. A plot that twists and turns until all seems lost, then the cleverest twist of all which turns everything around until we reach that quiet moment at the end where we can relax with those we have come to love and reflect on a brighter future and the lessons learned.

Because the story needs those lessons too. My story cannot be all flowing words and beautiful scenery; it needs some purpose, some meaning, some possibility of allowing me to share the truths I have discovered so they can enrich your life too.

This needs its own finesse. Were I to throw them boldly in your face, I might lose your interest. We each of us have opinions that we hold to be true, and to have them confronted with some contradictory idea will do nothing more than bring down a barrier between us. No, if I am to show you something new, I need to be more subtle. A hint here, a clever phrase there, a route in the story that highlights my ideas. In the end I can only show you the way and hope that you will decide to follow.

I pick up my pen, the blank page is a canvas waiting uncritically for my first stroke. Whether this be a masterpiece or not, I smile at the challenge before me and start to write.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Lizzy Ainsworth06/17/10
How can I get you to read this?
The very title sparks interest, and I agree about newspapers and stories being two totally different games.
Very good way to describe the way you have to write to get interest.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/18/10
Your title pulled me in. You are so correct esp. with fiction I need to be caught in the first few pages. It's not always easy to do and can certainly be a challenge.
The Masked Truelovers06/19/10
very well written and good encouragement for fiction writers. (I am hoping that I measured up to your advice in the first few lines of a fantasy novel I'm currently working on, as well as successfully interweaving Christian parallels.) Great article.
Brenda Shipman06/20/10
I like how you used the typical advertising gimmick as an illustration. This flowed well, included a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph (demonstrating your ability to introduce and organize your main ideas nicely!), and concluded satisfactorily in your final paragraph. Saying all that, however, I must say that your seventh paragraph was my absolute favorite - what a terrific spot on description of fiction at its best!