The Smart Way to Open a Story, Courtesy of Charles Baxter

“You don’t have to set a Chevrolet on fire or have someone murdered on the first page to get the reader’s attention.”

You don’t have to set a Chevrolet on fire or have someone murdered on the first page to get the reader’s attention.

We've all watched a lifetime’s worth of TV and movies that put big and often violent events into the first five minutes as a hook to get our attention. The assumption is that we have the attention span of chimpanzees. But hooks are hard to live up to; you can’t stay at that level. Besides, screen culture does violence better than written culture — leave the big violence to the movies. Better to start with a small mystery and build up to a bigger one. The truth about a situation is always big enough to sustain someone’s attention.

Penguin Random House, Inc., the world’s largest English language trade publisher, bringing you the best in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books.

Penguin Random House, Inc., the world’s largest English language trade publisher, bringing you the best in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books.