How to begin

I’ve been quiet on the blog, but I’ve been studying. One thing I’ve done is stop reading so much literary fiction and instead reading more commercial fiction. I haven’t resorted to “pulp” fiction yet, at least not in the modern sense. I’ve read some Richard Matheson and the like, but I’ve been reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Michael Crichton. I’ve been looking for the perfect beginning to books, the kind of beginning that puts the reader immediately in the place and time of the story. This is the first paragraph of “Sphere” by Michael Crichton:

 

WEST OF TONGA

For a long time the horizon had been a monotonous flat blue line separating the Pacific Ocean from the sky. The Navy helicopter raced forward, flying low, near the waves. Despite the noise and the thumping vibration of the blades, Norman Johnson fell asleep. He was tired; he had been traveling on various military aircraft for more than fourteen hours. It was not the kind of thing a fifty-three-year-old professor of psychology was used to.

 

I’ve not been moved to blog lately, but reading this seemed comment-worthy. There’s a lot going on here, and we have a hook (why is a fifty-three-year-old professor of psychology on this trip), we know that Norman Johnson has been carried to the other side of the world very quickly, in a Navy helicopter, that he’s been in the air a long time, flying low, and the title “West of Tonga” lends the entire thing an air of the exotic. It was a learning moment, I guess, and I wanted to share.

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