Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Target by David Baldacci

Four hundred men lived here, most for the rest of their time on earth.

This is the first line and first paragraph of the novel. The next line:

And then hell would get them for the rest of eternity.

Beginning a sentence and a paragraph with "and" is not grammatically sound, so why do writers do this? One possibility is that it makes what follows sound more dramatic. That is to say, grammar and syntax is used to make a sentence more conceptually powerful, suggesting that what is expressed in the sentence is not powerful enough on its own, so the deployment of special grammar and punctuation to ensure that said sentence is gripping is used. This second sentence is also a paragraph left on its own, presumably so it will stand out more. Personally, I feel that if the And then was removed from that second sentence and it was tagged onto the first paragraph, it would have the same power, if not more. It would certainly look less like narrative text. Its writing like this that makes writing look like writing. However, most people do not notice this, nor do they care.

Nevertheless, there is a hook here. The story begins right away, with four hundred characters locked up. This sentence raises questions which pulls the reader into the story with conflict. As well, it's a bonus there are no cliches, which is a breath of fresh air.

The first full proper paragraph (not that the others were absolutely improper) is a descriptive and back story paragraph, which is important (now that conflict has been established) to provide some context. It's effective back story, not only because it's brief, but because it raises more questions. In general, I could do with less description, but in this case, it suggests more conflict in the form of a grimy prison, so it's acceptable.

In the beginning of a story, in the first couple pages, the way to hook is through conflict. Bad things happening to characters, emotional trauma, horrible back story, and/or an oppressive/trying setting, as well as ominous mood, etc. If writers do this, there will always be readers hooked, and hopefully enough to make plenty of money to pay for that second swimming people or those vital botox treatments.

By the end of the first page an actual character is revealed as the conflict is further developed.

First thing said:

"What in the hell do you have to smile about, Earl?"

Verdict: Pass

Theodore Moracht

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