Here follows the opening paragraph of a novel:
The day was hot. An August sun, with the sky to itself and its zenith passed, loitered lazily along its timeless tract towards the towering contours of the Cromdale Hills, already purple with heather, their feet in the hurrying waters of the River Carglas, new-born in the shrinking snows of Ben Macdhui.
From that sample, what genre would you say it belongs to? What is the target audience? Would it stand any chance of success with a publisher? Would you class that ‘The day was hot’ with the famous Snoopy ‘It was a dark and stormy night’?
In these times one is constantly told that the opening paragraph of a story is vital in grabbing the attention of the reader. One is urged to produce something like:
Nick Dashing swung his automatic rifle in a semicircle and mowed down twenty charging dervishes. With her back to his, Marvella Fearless despatched another twenty-five in her sector. Both scanned the area for any further movement. Then they turned face-to-face, and kissed passionately while ripping one another’s clothes off.
Do you think that sort of opening does work better?
Anyway, back to the extract. It comes from a book published in 1948 and sold for two shillings and sixpence. The title is Gimlet’s Oriental Quest, and it was written by the then famous ‘Biggles’ author Captain (sic) W.E. Johns. Target readers were young boys. This was the sort of children’s adventure I grew up on, and I had no difficulty in having my interest stirred by that first paragraph or, indeed, by a whole opening chapter which describes little more than a failed attempt at fishing and the witnessing of a man being pursued by two others.
From my observations of modern youth, they would be unlikely to read it beyond the first two lines. Is that the fault of overstimulation from other sources, or is it a symptom of the latest couple of generations becoming increasingly lazy readers? Or is it that the system is producing semi-illiterates with the attention spans of gnats?
What are your thoughts?