Image of a creepy man in a trench coat.

Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m not talking about that weirdo down the street who hangs out on the corner in nothing more than a trench coat. The Grabber is a term I like to use for the very first sentence of a story. The way I see it, it’s the single, most important sentence you’ll come across in an entire piece of work. It’s the first impression of your story, the basis of which your entire work will be judged, and the deciding point as to whether or not a reader will continue on to the next paragraph.

How many stories have you started to read that begin with “My name’s John Doe, and I’m 15, in perfect shape, and have a really, really big cock!” I mean, seriously? I don’t know about you, but any story that starts like that isn’t something I’m about to waste my time reading. I want something more tangible than a basic description of a character I don’t yet care about. I think Anne Rice said it best in the first sentence of her novel Cry to Heaven: “Guido Maffeo was castrated when he was six years old and sent to study with the finest singing masters in Naples.” Now doesn’t that make you want to continue reading? I mean, castrated? Really?

I’m not saying that you have to mutilate your characters at the start of all of your stories. Just make it interesting. Something that gets your readers’ attention can never be a bad thing, especially if someone has just stumbled on your story out of the blue. You want your story to stand out from the crowd, so even if you’ve spent hours, days, or even months thinking of the perfect title for your story, you can still lose a lot of people if your first sentence doesn’t have any thought behind it.

Readers can be incredibly picky. Therefore, even if you have written a beautiful masterpiece, if your first sentence starts with the aforementioned John Doe’s penis size, you’re going to lose a lot of potential fans. Start your story with something thoughtful and creative, and I can personally guarantee you that your fan base will start to grow.

Published March 1, 2012

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