Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Got that first line hook? Yes? How about the 14th?

My daughter's soccer coach started the season with a pep talk.

"We're only as good as our 14th player," he said. Then he added, "Of course, we don't have any '14th players.' Everyone on the team brings something unique and different to the field."

I loved it when he said that. The girls did, too. Their eyes lit up, they nodded, looked around at each other; because they knew it was true.

Sure, there are a few strong players on the team, but they can't hold their own in every position. And they can't win the game alone. They definitely need the whole team.

The fourteenth player statement got me thinking about my own work -- my books and my writing -- because I think the philosophy is a good one to apply.

Writers hear over and over again how important it is to have a great opening line, an intriguing first scene. As readers, we've experienced this. Some first lines even stay with us, long after the book is closed. . . . It was a dark and stormy night. . . . But what about every other line that follows? Do they deliver everything the first line has promised by way of a satisfying story?

If it's a good book it does.

Writers and readers may focus a lot of their attention on the first line, but it's the fourteenth line, the fourteenth page, the fourteenth scene, the fourteenth chapter, the fourteenth character . . . that keep the reader turning the page. The fourteens may be what make a book a best seller.

In a good book, from the very first line, every word that comes after is intricately tied to every word that came before. In a good book, every sentence contributes something unique and important in moving the plot forward. In a good book, every detail, every sigh, every twist, every new discovery, is what keeps the reader reading until the end; and sometimes, when the end is reached, a good book drives her to return to the beginning to read the story all over again.

What a great place to bring a story--full circle. Literally. Because of number 14.

From now on, I think I'm going to weigh my writings there.

(photo credit of #14 Thierry Henry: Eddie Keogh)

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