tea berry-blue (teaberryblue) wrote,
tea berry-blue

Topic 0: The Introduction

I had an idea this year, for something I wanted to do for LJ Idol, but that I felt would be inappropriate to do as an actual contestant, so I thought it would be better to do as part of the home game.

What I'd like to do, for as many of the weekly topics as possible, is to ruminate on the topic of writing as it pertains to the subject for the week.

Here's Topic 0: Introduction.

Many people say that the introduction is the most important part of a piece of writing, but I disagree. The introduction is an important thing, but a perfect introduction doesn't make up for a plodding pace or poor word choice or lack of a narrative arc throughout your writing, and a horrible introduction doesn't ruin a respectable book.

I'd like to tell you a story from when I was eight years old.

My best friend moved from New York to Chicago, and I missed her desperately. I remember crying so much when I found out she was moving that I didn't go to school the next day, and my mother had to convince me to go to school at all before she moved.

So my parents paid for me to fly out to spend a week with her family in Chicago. It was so exciting, my first plane trip by myself!

Turns out, that plane trip happened to be during the biggest flood in the history of Chicago. Or one of them; I'm not sure that's part of the story that my parents didn't make up, but it was a pretty big flood- a lot of people had to be rescued from the plane in inflatable rafts.

So, as you can imagine, I was stuck on the plane for a really long time. Long enough that I read all of the books I had packed for a round-trip flight and a week away from home.

One of those books was The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I had tried to read it once before. If you know anything about this book, it's loosely based on themes from The Mabinogion, and the opening of the book stars an Assistant Pig-Keeper who mostly deals with a pig and a master who naps and calls it "meditating."

Anyway, to eight-year-old me, it was pretty boring.

But then I got stuck on that flight, and being eight, my mom had packed some extra books for me, and The Book of Three was one of them. Reluctantly, I opened it back up, and slogged through the boring pig-keeping introduction.

And then I realized how silly I had been to put it down. I learned about hairy Gurgi, and Fflewdur Fflam's lie-detecting harp, and the resourceful Eilonwy of the red-gold hair. The plot raced, much farther than a little white pig could ever run.

So an introduction isn't everything. But it is a big thing. Because if it hadn't been for that act of desperation on a flooded flight, I would never have picked that book back up and discovered how much I loved it. And from there? I read every single book Lloyd Alexander wrote, from the Chronicles of Prydain to the Vesper Holly series to The King's Fountain.

All because of a flood in Chicago.

An introduction is more than just a "hello, I'm so-and-so." It's not just what you say, but how you say it. In person-to-person interaction, it might be the grip of your handshake, the sparkle in your eyes, the eye contact you make. These things say "this is why you should hire me; this is why you should be my friend." In writing, the first few beats of your story say "this is why you should read on."

When you're writing something serialized, like a blog, every post is an introduction. You never know what piece of your writing might be the first that someone sees. Maybe today is a boring post, but for someone reading you for the first time, that might be the only post. Every post should in some way incorporate your voice, every post should tell the people reading "this is who I am; this is why you should read on." Remember that a lot of people reading are reading for the first time. You don't know where they'll jump in, or what order they'll read in from there.

Now, I will say right here that I'm not saying I *do* this. I write some pretty silly blog posts; I write some pretty mundane ideas without putting much spirit into the writing I'm doing. That's a flaw of mine. But a good editor recognizes weaknesses, whether they're in someone else's work or their own work; a good editor is objective. We can all tell each other that junk food is bad for us, and knowing that junk food is bad for us doesn't mean we don't eat a pint of ice cream for dinner and a bag of potato chips for dessert.

And the flip side to the coin is that if you write one bum post, your next one can always redeem you. Because for every person whose first introduction to you was bland and uninteresting, there is someone else whose first introduction to you will be the post after that. People don't always have to read the chapter about the pig-keeper to find out about the magic harp.
Tags: lj idol, on writing

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