Saturday, August 3, 2013

Richard Peck's Workshop: Shaping Story From The Opening Line

Richard Peck holding his book "The Mouse With The Question Mark Tail"

Richard Peck is an icon of a writer, the first young people's author to receive the National Humanities Medal in a White House ceremony in 2002, and an amazing speaker.

Some of his books include:

Richard calls himself a collector of opening lines, and talks about the difference between opening a novel for adults with how to start a book for young people.

He says, to this room of authors for children and teens,

"Ours is a higher calling."

And advises us that the action in books for young people must have started before the opening line.

"We start in the story, not at the beginning."
He's reading different opening lines, unpacking what works and what might work better.

Richard shares that for his newest novel, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, he found his first line of page 124 of the 5th version of the book.  It took him 11 months to get to it, but "it was worth it" -- and he put it right at the beginning, and then re-wrote the start of the story.  Here's the line:

"Every time a human walks out of a room, something with more feet walks in."

The session is full of quotable and useful tips, anecdotes and advice.

A few highlights:

"You can get twenty words out of the tightest page you ever wrote."


"Think of your opening chapter as a table of contents, because very element of the book has to be there in the beginning."

"You are only as good as your opening line"

He ends the session asking for attendees who feel brave enough to share their own first lines.  Lots of people volunteer.  Richard considers, offers advice (sometimes stunning the room with how much better he made it) and critiques with kindness and humor.

It's a remarkable workshop, and ends with a standing ovation!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE love love the wisdom of the first line!! Applicable in so many ways. And fabulous first line for "Mouse With a Question Mark Tail." Thank you, Richard Peck!!