Monday, August 23, 2010

in media res...and other great beginnings

Telling a story from a middle point, a narrative tradition called in media res, is a fantastic technique for children's books. What reader who has ever read E.B. White's Charlotte's Web could ever forget the opening line:

"Where's Papa going with that ax?"

Another great example of an opening hook that utilizes this technique of positioning the main character smack in the middle of the conflict is Jessica Day George's Dragon Slippers:

"It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon."

Kate DiCamillo's Newberry Honor book, Because of Winn-Dixie begins both with an effective character introduction as well as a great hook:

"My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog."

And here is one of my recent favorites from Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly:

"Piper decided to jump off of the roof."

While these beginnings lack the flowery, purple prose of many acclaimed literary works, such language is not missed, nor is it necessary. These children's authors have mastered a valuable skill--get the child reader's attention and keep it!

Now don't those opening hooks make you want to snatch up those books and read them?

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