Four Ways to Face a Blank Page
by C.K. Thomas
Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” opens with the description of a golden statue of a prince. Early in the story, the statue begins to cry and a swallow perched at its feet feels the tears as they drop on its head. The opening of this precious short story draws the reader in by arousing curiosity. We want to know more about this golden statue and how such a statue could possibly have feelings.
Lead with a Real-Life Situation
Draw the reader in by introducing a familiar scene, like going to the beach. Here is an example from Gift From the Sea, by Anne Marrow Lindbergh:
The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit . . . books remain unread, the pencils break their points, and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even – at least, not at first.
Appeal to One or More of the Five Senses
Set the scene by describing the location so the reader can not only picture it, but feel it. Sue Monk Kidd does it well in this excerpt from The Secret Life Of Bees.
At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.
Arouse an Emotion
Here’s an example I wrote using the emotion of fear.
The barn seemed miles away on a night as black as this. Beth hesitated, holding the screen door open until her mother said, “Beth, go on now. You’re letting in the mosquitoes.” Reluctantly, Beth started across the lot toward the weathered old barn. The milk bucket handle squeaked with each quick step, announcing her presence to whatever lurked outside her lantern’s circle of light.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.