I’m reading the last chapters of the fabulous craft book, A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon. I’ve already shared some gems with you from this book and I highly recommend it to include in your writer library.
One of the things that has stood out for me while reading this book is the phrase “power positions.” The author defines it as the following:
“Power positions include the first words of any piece of writing (which is why the narrative hook has such power), including first words or sentences in a paragraph, section, or chapter, and last words or sentences in the same, including a scene.”
My writer mentor has always emphasized the placement of words, especially at the end of a sentence. It’s what makes readers keep reading, especially when you have a strong power position sentence at the end of a chapter.
Author Suzanne Collins does a great job of this in the opening paragraph of The Hunger Games:
“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.”
As a reader, how can you not continue to read on? Why is little sister Prim having bad dreams? What is the reaping? It doesn’t sound good at all. The reader will continue to read to find the answers to these questions.
Author Laini Taylor also captures the reader’s attention with “Goblin Fruit,” the first short story in Lips Touch Three Times:
“There is a certain kind of a girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.”
As a reader, you’re wondering why does the goblin *not* want the lovely ones? And most of all, who is going to be this “certain” girl? Does she know that the goblin has its eye on her? What’s going to happen? Readers will keep reading to find out.
During the revision phase is when you can really use the power positions to your advantage. You can ask yourself, how can I end this scene well? What kind of drama, twist, or complication can I give this paragraph, chapter or sentence to give it more depth?
If you can do this, your readers will be rewarded with a dynamic story that they will not be able to put down. As writers, this is always the goal of good storytelling.