Monday, February 21, 2011

Does your novels first sentence hide subliminal messages?

Fun: If you can read this you join a group comprising 55% of every 100 readers. This exercise demonstrates that the human mind reads/translates whole words instead of individual letters. You can try this out at home. The first and last letter must be correct. Your mind will unscramble the remaining letters to make sense of the word.
 Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.

The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at

Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a

wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be

in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed

it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed

ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and

I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

I wonder what a query letter in this format would look like. I bet the agent would be shocked...he, he, he.

What can a novel’s first sentence tell you about your protagonist?

Here is mine from my manuscript, MYSTERIOUS GIFT:

Twenty-first birthdays are memorable events in every girl’s life—Jen’s was no exception—it was a complete disaster.

This sentence tells a lot about my protagonist. I count seven different facts. Can you spot others?


• The protagonist is 21 years old.

• BD’s are supposed to be happy events.

• She has expectations that her BD will be unforgettable.

• The protagonist is feminine.

• Her name is Jen.

• Jen’s BD will be etched in her mind forever.

• The outcome of this once in a lifetime day wasn’t what she hoped for.

Wow, a single well crafted sentence at the beginning of your novel is a powerful means of revealing additional information, about your main character, to your reader. The original sentence uses eighteen words vice the sixty-one words needed to explain your hidden edits. I added forty-three extra words into the mind of the reader.

Think of it this way. I edited my first sentence by cutting forty-three words. I call this Hidden Editing. I wanted the information to be presented however; I wanted my first sentence to be as short and revealing as possible.

How does your first sentence save space on paper and at the same time tell more?

No comments:

Post a Comment