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I’ve mentioned before how I like the Skulduggery Pleasant books and the Doctor Who books, so I thought I should talk about what books I like.

The reason I like these books is not the fact that they are sci-fi/fantasy, but it’s because the first page draws me in.

I HATE books which start something like this-

“They’ve gone now, and I’m alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won’t waste a single moment of it.” (From Private Peaceful, which I read in my English class).

Ok, who’s alone? Whose “they?” Why can’t he waste a single moment of the night? Where is he? How did he get there? WHO IS HE?

THIS is how you open a book-

“Mr and Mrs Dursely, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” (From the first Harry Potter book).

Right, I know who’s in the story, I know their names, where they live and what they’re like. I don’t know how they’ll contribute to the story but I have enough information about the characters in the book to carry on reading about them.

That is how you should open a story, in my opinion, establish one or two characters, where they are and what they’re like.

Comparing the two books, in the next two paragraphs of Private Peaceful, it’s changed to something else. We have a new character, but we don’t know who the narrator is or where either of them are or what they look like. In the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (please get used to the weird titles of Harry Potter books) the next two paragraphs, on the other hand, go on to describe the two characters in the books, what they do and what they look like, to put an image in the reader’s head of what’s happening.

This should tell you what type of reader I am. I am into books which get to the point and set up characters and plot elements to keep me interested. This is what I know of Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo so far  –

A guy somewhere is alone, and he can’t waste a second of the night. Then there is a guy called Charlie dragging the first guy from somewhere to school.

This is what I know of the Harry Potter book –

Mr and Mrs Dursley live in Privet Drive. They have a son called Dudley and they call themselves normal. Mr Dursley owns a drilling company and is fat with a big moustache, while Mrs Dursley is thin and has a long neck to spy on her neighbours. They also think that Dudley is the best child ever.

Characters, personalities, locations, description.

More and more books open like the first one (Private Peaceful), with a narration or weird exposition without revealing what is happening or why the reader should be interested in what’s happening.

I also like books that don’t take place in reality, like Doctor Who and Harry Potter. I do NOT want to spend money or time to read about the war or an important event from a person’s perspective which is trying to be real when I can pick up a history book or a diary of a real person and read that if I want to find out what someone thought of WWI. If I read a historical drama, then it has to be real or based on real people and events.

So that’s the kind of reader I am. What kind of reader are you?


About Ben Williams

I'm 16 years old. I like animals, lasagne, comic books, films, role-playing games and Doctor Who. I write cool stuff - Doctor Who, science fiction, film reviews, and quirks about Britain. I have a blue-tongued skink called Georgy and a cat called Billy.

4 responses »

  1. Graham Williams

    Nice piece of writing.

    The most memorable opening paragraph I ever came across was ” A small dusty man in a small dusty room. That’s how I always thought of him, just a small dusty man in a small dusty room.” (from The Dark Crusader by Alistair Maclean). This grabbed me to such an extent that I still remember it verbatim almost 45 years after I first read it. But would you have read on? If you wouldn’t, then you would have missed out on a first rate thriller by a first rate author. I agree that a book must grab the attention quickly but I try to give it at least a chapter or until I find myself getting irritated with waffle, overblown language or lack of plot progression (usually all 3 go hand in hand). I hate authors who trumpet “Look at me -aren’t I clever” by using unusual words and contrived similes.

    Incidentally, the above book also has one of the most satisfying final paragraphs: “I closed the door with a quiet hand and left him lying there, a small dusty man in a small dusty room.” (I had to look that up!).

  2. Pingback: Must all boys love Lego? | Janet's Notebook

  3. I find that if there isn’t enough information about the characters I forget who they are. So when I get to chapter 3 and it says “Fred walked into the room” I have to go back to chapter 1 to remind myself who Fred is!


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