Sorry for the long absence. But I'm back with a new tip!
When I submitted my new book, Prince of the Sun, Princess of the Moon
, to my publisher, I had already written the second book in the series and had a rough draft of the third ready. My release day came and went, and I set down to prepare the second book to send to my publisher. But when I read the draft, I noticed something odd. The first few chapters felt . . . dry. Normally, I like to use the first few chapters as an introduction to the point of view characters (those characters whose POV I’ll be telling the story from). But this time, it felt like I was tossing the characters at the reader saying, “Here. This is so-and-so. Let’s get the intros out of the way so we can get to the story.” To be frank, it was boring.
And I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. The content of the chapters themselves were interesting; the characters felt compelling to me; but the presentation was off. Then it hit me. It was the structure of my opening sentences. In the first five chapters, four of them started in roughly the same manner. That made the text come off as stale.
I had known for a long time that the first sentence in a story will draw your reader in or will put them off. But now I’m realizing that the first few sentences in your early chapters could just as easily color your story in a negative way.
For an example, I’d like to share with you the first sentences of the first five chapters in the sequel while in revision:
1. The human world had a saying that always made Plandte smile: “Great things come in small packages.”
2. Alandri lifted her hair and examined herself in the mirror.
3. Lumina alighted on the sun and blinked in its brilliance.
4. Marcos tapped his fingers on the desk in his apartment, listening to the hold music on the other end of the phone.
5. Shielle narrowed her eyes at her computer and continued to type.
Do you see it? After the first chapter, there is no variation in sentence structure. They follow the pattern “character, verb, object/prepositional phrase.” Having the same type of sentence over and over again gets monotonous and boring. The solution: vary the sentences.
There are several ways to change up the sentence structures so that your old standbys don’t get stale. Here are some examples:
-Start with dialogue. Some writers don’t like this technique because it sort of throws the reader in with no context, but I am a fan. I just try to explain what’s happening quickly and smoothly without an infodump.
-start with a gerund. For example, “Looking in the mirror never gave Amber an accurate view of herself.” In this case, the phrase “Looking in the mirror” is the subject of the sentence even though it contains the verb “looking.”
-Start with some background descriptions. I don’t like doing this unless I tie it into a character. For example, “The setting sun sparkled off the lake water, dazzling Kevin’s eyes.”
There are other ways to vary your sentences to make your writing interesting. So don’t settle for just one. Find different and interesting ways to give your sentences a punch and see if it doesn’t make your story that much more interesting.
This post is also featured on the Best Words
M.R. Anglin’s newest YA fantasy novel, Prince of the Sun, Princess of the Moon released Feb. 20, 2018 and is available on Amazon along with her middle grade novel, Lucas, Guardian of Truth (LampPost 2012) and the self-published Silver Foxes series. Her work has also been included in the Coyotl Award winning anthology, Gods With Fur (FurPlanet 2016), Extinct? (Wolfsinger 2017), and Dogs of War Vol. 2 (FurPlanet 2017).