“The risk of crossing boundaries is not just limited to trespassing on another's privacy: the ultimate challenge may lie in breaking through our reluctance to move into the tender and vulnerable places of our own lives. As writers, we must be willing to take those risks, not for journalistic reasons of the truth as fact, but for the sake of shaping the work into an art that transcends the circumstances about which we are writing. Writing hard truths with candor and compassion legitimizes and validates not only one's personal experience but, when artfully done, offers a passageway to universal truths that can illuminate and liberate.” – Kaylene Johnson
Tonight six brave writers joined the Tangled Roots Writing Revision workshop, a 4 month series to study craft and strengthen fiction and non-fiction pieces. Using Nancy Kress's book Beginnings, Middles, & Ends as a guide for our theme tonight, we explored the opening chapters of our work and considered Kress's thesis: what if you only have three paragraphs to make a good first impression?
Four qualities make an opening interesting and original: character, conflict, specificity, and credibility.
- Your opening should give your reader a character to focus on
- Conflict arises because something is not going as expected, or someone is experiencing disturbing emotions, or something is about to change
- Effective use of details distinguishes publishable manuscripts from those that “aren’t right for us” by anchoring your story, set your opening apart from all others, and convince the reader that you know what you are talking about.
- Credibility comes from credible prose that is in control of words, sentences, paragraphs by using: understanding of diction, economy of words, sentence construction and variety, and tone