What makes a great first line?

Some people say that the first line of a book, movie, play, essay or e-mail is the most important one.

It sets the tone for the rest of a story. But most important, it magically compels the reader to read the next sentence. And then the next. And then…

I am a “setting” writer. I try to begin every story by describing a scene or a mood. That’s sometimes hard to do, but I believe it’s critical. Let’s look at a few classic first sentences from famous books.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984 by George Orwell

“I am an invisible man.” — Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Each sentence offers few words, but those words immediately create a picture in our minds. We want that picture to come into better focus, and that’s what makes us continue to read.

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

What are thumbnail biographies?

  • As a trade magazine editor for about 20 years, I wrote “thumbnail” biographies.
  • Most of the thumbnails I wrote were about 200-250 words, and usually discussed a person who had either invented a new product or been named to leadership of a company. Here’s the format I followed:
  • = Primary information — I began with a sentence highlighting the individual’s name, plus his/her discovery or new position. Example: “David Author created the Paragraph Link System to help students write better, and the concept has now been purchased by a national organization.”
  • = Background — This offers reasons the inventor created a product, or details the jobs a person held prior to the position described in this story.
  • = Future — How has the inventor changed the industry, or what are the new executive’s plans?
  • = Contact info — Provides whom the reader can call or e-mail for more information on the subject.
  • Look to your left…subscribe to the Quinn Minute blog today.

Turn on your radio…

Question: Where can you find examples of captivating, brief writing?

The best place to hear powerful writing is on radio. Sure, music, talk, and interview shows abound. But next time you listen, pay special attention to the advertisements.

Here’s the reason. To be effective, a radio message must make strong, instant impressions. It can reach only your sense of hearing. It cannot be reinforced by a vivid photo, an inviting smell, or by touch or taste.

Good radio writing engages you immediately. Even if you don’t write for radio, we encourage you to pretend that you do. The best wordsmiths don’t fear their words being spoken. Accomplished writers in pre-radio times knew the power of sound. Says Abraham Lincoln scholar Charles Strozier, “Lincoln wrote to be read aloud.”

Rix Quinn’s new e-book: https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/how-to-sell-ideas-with-the-minute-message?utm_campaign=shopping_feed_se_en&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc

Where do I begin?

One of writing’s most-discussed topics is “How should I begin my essay (or e-mail, letter, etc.)?”

When the subject arises, an oft-quoted phrase is the opening sentence of the famous writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Paul Clifford: “It was a dark and stormy night.” I personally love that line, and I’ll tell you why:

I’m a “mood” person. I think it’s important to first set the mood of any essay. Other options are to begin with a question, or a quote, or maybe dialog.

Think of how many movies start by creating a “mood.” The camera first offers a distant view of a farm house on a snowy day, then zooms in for a close-up of a window, then moves into the living room for the first view of the main characters.

Consider how many ways a “mood” style first sentence might help you begin what you want to say.

Rix Quinn’s new e-book is called “How to Sell Ideas with the Minute Message.” https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/how-to-sell-ideas-with-the-minute-message?utm_campaign=shopping_feed_se_en&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc

Best samples of 1 minute writing?

During each day, you’re likely to hear dozens of 200-word writing examples. Where might those ideas come from?

Radio and TV commercials are generally under 200 words, yet they tell a complete story. Single panel cartoons are only a few words. Cartoons strips are also very short.

Jokes are often brief. Sometimes they are just a set-up sentence and a punch line. Others tell a brief story that offers a surprise ending.

How about e-mailings? Each day I receive at least one very good, brief e-mail message!

What’s the best one-minute writing you’ve seen? If you’ll e-mail it to me I’ll print it in this blog, and give you credit by name! Good writing is a community process. We can all help each other. Send your ideas to me at rix@rixquinn.com.

See Rix’s new e-book “How to Sell Ideas with the Minute Message.” https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/how-to-sell-ideas-with-the-minute-message?utm_campaign=shopping_feed_se_en&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc