When I blogged about great opening sentences, I promised to tell you why I think they work. However, I wrote so much about the subject that I decided to break it into two parts.
A story begins with change. You've heard that. Why does it begin with change? Because change has a downstream affect on a person.
You have a great job one day; the next you're fired. This change is perceived as negative. It may change everything including the way you look at yourself. One day you're successful and well-paid. Let the change of unemployment exist for a while, and your self-concept may start to change. Or, one day you seem to be successful. The change of unemployment can force you to confront your true self because perhaps you never saw yourself as successful. What happens when you face the truth? Maybe you felt as if you were a poser - fooling everyone. Change will force you to either admit you were a fake, and you become a loser. Or maybe you change and become the person everyone else already thought you were.
Change can have unexpected and surprising effects on a person or character if we're talking about writing, which we are.
Humans Resist Change
It seems inherently human to resist change. Psychologists say that change of any kind is threatening to the self-concept, and the self-concept is what you will cling to, fight for, and resist changing, regardless of whether change is good or bad. That's why so many therapists now use cognitive therapy - bringing your conscious mind into the battle to change your thinking.
Change means we are no longer in harmony with ourselves and the world around us. Change means we must change, sometimes externally, but external changes create internal changes. However, subconsciously we will struggle to maintain the status quo because of the built-in need to protect our self-concept.
Here's one of the hook sentences I used in the blog about great opening sentences along with my analysis of why they're so good.
There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever. (One for the Money by Janet Evanovich) This is good because it's funny and insightful. It also implies change because something has happened involving this man or why else would she be talking about it? The reader immediately has an expectation of change involving this man, and the reader expects that change to be funny (because of the tone of the sentence) and negative (because of the foreshadowing of screwing up her life forever).
Have you ever tried to change a habit? Was it easy? What kind of external changes have occurred in your life? Did they cause internal changes in how you thought or how you viewed someone or a situation? How did you feel about that? Do you see how those feelings can be mined to create characters that grip the imagination?
Tune In Tomorrow: Part 2