Hello, amazing fellow creatives! Here’s to more fun perusing the library’s new releases to see what strikes our fancy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve retitled Story Cuppings to better fit the premise of the podcast.
As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.
Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST 50 PAGES
Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?
Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:
The opening pages of Trust by Hernan Diaz intrigue me, but only to a point. The pages of solid exposition provide portraits of three characters: A wealthy businessman, Solomon, his wife Willie, and their son Benjamin. No one talks to anyone. No one actually does anything. The opening pages are purely descriptions of the lives of these three people.
On the one hand, I do not have patience for so much telling and no showing at all. On the other hand, plenty of other novels have a slow burn with exposition before the story truly starts. Diaz makes every single word count–I definitely feel like I could identify these people if I was ever in the same room with them. I was, admittedly, hoping to hear more about Solomon and Willie; when Diaz notes how they are never in the same residence at the same time, I can’t help but wonder a) how did the baby Benjamin come about then and b) why they married in the first place. By the scene’s end, though, both parents are dead and Benjamin is a wealthy orphan. Apparently, their backstories are only relevant in whatever way they help shape Benjamin, so all else is moot. From a writer’s standpoint, I can appreciate that, but as a reader, you’ve spent the first impression of this story immersing me in the lives of two people only to kill them before the story’s even begun.
There’s also the matter of how the son Benjamin’s life is described. He is utterly cut off from the world, and this detachment affects every facet of his life. As the scene closes, we are seeing the now-college graduate who is devoid of any “appetites to repress,” as Diaz puts it–no vices, no interests, no nothing. A blank slate if we ever knew one. And as anyone knows, blank slates are rarely blank for long. All it takes is for the right person to see find it and fill it with their own ideas and interests. That, I feel, is what will come our way here.
As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. Libraries Rock!
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!