I’ve written before about the dangers of working too hard to create your hook. That’s what I believe you’re doing here. The big shock of your opening scene is that your narrator was expected to eat a chicken that had become a pet. But I think the drive to hook your readers quickly led you to pack that shock into your opening sentence.
But this reduces that key reveal to simple information. The fact is shocking in the abstract, yes, but your readers learn it before they know anything about your narrator or her situation. They don’t have any emotional connection to the person the shock is happening to. You can create that emotional connection just by delaying the reveal by half a page or so.
You’ve also fallen into the trap of feeding your readers the background they need to know as quickly as possible. Except that you’re doing it at the expense of your narrator’s character – having her think of things that she would, in real life, take for granted. Once again, this gets information to your readers, but undermines the emotional connection they’re forming with the narrator.
Remember, the thing that draws your readers into your story most is that they care about your main character. When you take the focus off your narrator to do other, less important things (like shocking your readers or filling them in on background) you leave them caring less. Every writing book or blog will tell you that you need to hook your readers quickly. But don’t be so obsessed with the hook that you forget where your true story lies.
I couldn’t eat my best friend, even if she was a chicken. You’d think I would have known what to expect after she stopped laying eggs. One day, when I returned home after cleaning hotel rooms, Mama handed me the mixing stick as soon as I walked into the village.  I almost refused, but if I were going to eat, it was only fair I helped cook. Besides, the Ssun warmed my aching shoulders as I stirred the rainwater stew.
Villagers who added rice and yams circled around, singing about the food we would eat. As I listened, m
My mouth watered and my stomach rumbled. But something was missing.  [Read more…]