The opening sentence, the first page: they must wow. So I’ve been told and I must agree. I read a great deal, and the best books are the ones where I read one page and then I want to read it again – it is that good.
Take The Outsiders, “WHEN I STEPPED OUT into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
And Lord of the Rings, “When Mr. Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”
It’s not just the first sentence that must make me swoon, but the first page. And then I know we’re off to a good start.
Naturally, I want my readers to feel the same way when they read the first page of my book. And like all serious writers I researched the subject on Google. I came across a blog that turned out to be a satirical step-by-step guide for westerners writing books about India. The blogger advises:
“…Your piece has to start well. Therefore you first create, with good vocabulary, a nice paragraph on the social inequities in India. Keywords to be used are caste, poverty, illiteracy. Statistics like 80% of India lives on farms or 50% of India is illiterate or 70% of India does not use soap can be very handy…mention child marriage.”
That is why I fear my book is doomed. I have neither started my book by writing about poverty, caste or illiteracy, nor have I mentioned the above statistics.
I began to wonder, do all other books set in India start like that? I looked up my own reading list of Books set in India.
I found that The Toss of a Lemon author Padma Viswanathan is a pro. Her first sentence mentions child marriage right off the bat: “The year of the marriage proposal, Sivakami is ten.”
Author Suketu Mehta (Maximum City) is on the right track too: “There will soon be more people living in the city of Bombay than on the continent of Australia.”
The blogger (remember it’s satirical) also advises “avoid talking to maids…Try not to talk to people who are working hard so that their children are educated and their next generation gets out of poverty.”
Again, I feel my book is ill-fated. I have not mentioned child marriage once, but I do talk to maids, gardeners, drivers, photojournalists and chefs who work hard to educate their children and get them out of poverty. Oh look, I just mentioned poverty. Maybe I’m on the right track after all?