The First Three Hundred Words

Dawn at the River
Dawn on the River

Feeling Productive
On my last post I spoke about the need to get back to my writing, and for the past 18 days I’ve been true to my plans. I’ve completed six chapters of my Reichold Street sequel, and even got started on another story. It’s been a productive time.

I’m pretty comfortable with where the sequel is going, but the other one … the new one … has me in a quandary. I originally wanted to write a suspense story, a la Dean Koontz or Stephen King but, like most of my stories, it seems to have developed a mind of its own.

Conventional wisdom says you have to hook your reader within the first three hundred words, or you’ll never get them to turn the page, yet alone finish reading.

Part of me believes that to be true … not because “conventional wisdom” says so, but because I often decide on a book purchase myself after scanning the first couple of pages.

I’ve actually got several thousand words down already, but none of them seem quite right as the start of the story. So, it’s the second story I need some feedback about, and I decided to put the (current) beginning of it here:

————
Untitled

    The sky was somewhere between indigo and black when the motley family crew we had assembled set out for the lake. Uncle Luther always insisted on an early start. As he rousted me out of my comfortable dreams with a chuckle and a resounding thwack on the soles of my bare feet, he had conveniently beaten the sunrise by a good hour, as if that was the way such days were always supposed to begin.

    “Get your city-boy ass outta bed, Roy, or all the fish gonna be napping under the brush line by the time we get to the water.” Luther was smiling as he clumped around the bedroom in his thick work boots gathering up the clothes I had strewn over the bedpost the night before.

    “Here’s your duds,” he laughed, “Bacon and eggs will be ready in five.” He tossed my loafers at me with a look of distaste. “These the best shoes you brought?”

    “They’re the only ones I brought,” I said, as I wiped the sleep out of the corners of my eyes.

    “Gonna need new ones to go home in then,” he snickered. “They’s gonna be soaked and coated in shit before we get the boat launched. So’s your feet.” He lifted his leg to show me his mud covered Timberlands, laced halfway to his knee.

    “I can hardly wait,” I said.

    Luther smiled and winked as he went back out the door. “I already got the gear in the truck,” he said. “All you gotta do is dress and eat. Piss if you want to.”

    “Lovely.”

    “Don’t take too long city-boy or I’ll eat your breakfast, too,” he shouted down the hall. “It’s a mighty long time to lunch. You get hungry you might have to munch on the bait.”

    The birds hadn’t yet begun to sing their herald to the returning morning but as I dressed the air was already hot with the promise of a sticky, damp kind of day. A day with the air so miserably thick it seemed to suck all the ambition out of a man just to inhale.

    © Ron Herron

————

What Do You Think?
Is this something likely to grab your interest and make you want to know what happens next? Leave a comment.

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I once sold encyclopedias door-to-door. What can you possibly say to me I haven’t already heard?

 

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8 Responses to “The First Three Hundred Words”

  1. mickeyobe Says:

    Not only has it grabbed my interest, it is twisting my arm for more.

    Mickey

    Like

  2. Anthony Ambrogio Says:

    Ron, I understand modern readers’ impatience with “slow beginnings” (heck, I even understand modern viewers’ impatience with “slow beginnings” of movies; I once showed our then-teenage younger daughter THE GODFATHER, and I could tell that the pace of the film, even with its many-charactered wedding beginning, was BORING her, if you can believe that).

    But this is beside the point, since you asked about your story. I would say that a reader would keep going because they want to know how this kid ended up spending time with a guy who seems (to THIS reader’s eyes) like a real asshole (sorry, especially if Uncle Luther turns out to be the hero).

    Your writing is compelling and would make a reader continue, but I think that the thing that gives a reader (or, again, THIS reader) the impetus to read on, even if there are dull patches or a slow beginning, is the teaser, the premise, the “high concept” or “back-cover blurb” that describes the story. “A young city boy coerced into a family fishing trip has to deal with more than an annoying uncle who rousts him out of bed too early when…” [and here’s where you fill in the blank about the horrors to come]

    The promise of a “pay-off” gets a reader going and keeps him/her going. (Of course, it helps if the prose along the way is lively and engaging, as yours is.)

    — Anthony (Ambrogio)

    Like

    • Ron Herron Says:

      Blurbs are tough for authors to write (I’ve blogged about that). Condensing the tens of thousands of words you slaved over into 150 action words designed to urge the reader to “buy” is an art form unto itself.

      But hearing your prose described as “lively and engaging” is enough to make anyone smile.

      Thanks, Anthony.

      Like

  3. John Wickett Says:

    Caught my interest…I would keep reading….

    Like

  4. Sandra Behnke Says:

    Interesting. You get a feel to the difference of the characters, one rural and one city. Good start to character development.

    Like

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