The First Paragraph

I have always had a hard time writing the beginning of stories, mostly because of a conflict I have: I have always been torn between how I want a story to begin and how I think it should begin.

I feel and believe that a first paragraph should be clean and simple.  It should make the audience ask a question and also give the promise that all questions will be answered if the rest of the piece is read.  The question shouldn’t be, ‘what on earth are they trying to write about?’  The writing should be clear, not wordy, so that the reader absolutely understands what is being written.  Know, that I mean the reader understands not the answers to questions raised, but the writing in and of itself.

On the other hand, I have thought a first paragraph should be eloquent and make great use of vocabulary – in a sense, wordy.  It should be interesting – maybe an exciting event or action scene.  It does not have to stand alone.

Nathan Bransford, a writer and past agent, is holding a challenge on his blog.  The challenge is to write a first paragraph, that paragraph is posted in the comments section of the blog entry and very cool prizes are awarded to the winner. Definitely check it out, his blog in general is pretty awesome (

This is the paragraph I wrote this morning while straightening my hair:

The soup was poisoned. Henry knew it. He watched as she carefully lifted the spoon to her lips, tasted it with her tongue, and then let the concoction slide down her throat. With childish glee, he wondered how long it would take her to die.

I like this paragraph because it is simple and clean.  It raises great questions (who is Henry and who is the woman? Did Henry poison the woman? Why does someone want her to die?) These are easy questions for the reader to develop and also there is the potential for very interesting answers.  It maybe not be an action sequence, but it still grabs the readers attention.

Anyways, I’m not sure what most people think a first paragraph should be like, but I think I’ll stick to my idea of clean and simple writing.

I also challenge you all to write a paragraph AND post it here – if you feel so inclined!

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9 thoughts about "The First Paragraph"

  • Patti says:

    I just read your first paragraph and thought I'd let you know that I really liked it. Good job.

  • Juliana L. Brandt says:

    Thank you! I'm so glad you checked out my blog and liked the paragraph 🙂

  • Sophia the Writer says:

    I liked your first paragraph entry so much I had to come to your blog and say hi!

  • Randyman says:

    This first paragraph takes a giant turn with Henry's response, "with childish glee". Obviously that's a completely inapropriate response for a who we assume might be an adult, and so throws LOTS of questions up in the air for the reader! Yep, clean, simple, quick writing in your paragraph, but that one phrase of Henry's response really turns on the story's conflict!

  • Juliana L. Brandt says:

    Sophia, I'm so glad you liked my paragraph and came to visit!

    Thanks, Dad for your thoughts. I liked that little twist too!

  • Susan says:

    Hey Juliana Stumbled on your blog by way of Facebook. Way to go and keep writing. Don't forget you have another writer in your network of support. Haven't posted for a while but for what it's worth …

    🙂 Love from MN, Susie

  • Juliana L. Brandt says:

    Thanks Susie. You should post again on your blog!

  • Bernette says:

    I wish I knew where Henry was in relation to "her." Is he sitting across the table from her? Peeking around the corner from the kitchen? It makes a difference to me, for some reason. I'm guessing he's peeking from somewhere, otherwise the childish glee he exhibits might cue the soup-eater that something is amiss…Does Henry know the soup is poisoned because he actually did it? The apparently simple paragraph has raised a whole host of questions for me–ones that I would love to have answered by continuing to read, so it seems that you've got me hooked. Gosh, what happens next?!?

  • Bernette says:

    FYI–Bernette is Aunt Lynn, and not Grandma Bunny!

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