And that Important First Paragraph…

Wow! I had no idea how many of you would respond to my last post. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again! I think at least twice as many people liked the bonnet beginning better. Both will be in the first chapter, but I wanted to get a sense of which line would grab people the most. Those of you who liked Number 1 best gave some good reasons why, though.

Here is my dilemma: I like the bonnet beginning better also, but it happens after the other scene, so if I start with that, I have a bit of a sequencing issue.

I thought I would reveal the rest of the paragraphs to each of the lines I gave. Here is how I’ve written them so far:

A light rain fell as the procession wove its way up the narrow lane to the cemetery, where each horse halted by the hitching post. The drivers stepped off the buggies and tied up the horses. The other occupants of the buggies, the women in their black shawls, bonnets, and dresses, and the men in their black Sunday suits and felt hats, stepped off the buggies and slowly walked over the wet grass. My husband, David, our grown son, Paul, and I followed the last buggy in our Toyota Camry. David parked in a spot off to the side, away from the buggies, and we followed the other mourners toward the gaping hole in the earth next to a mound of dirt under a makeshift tarp.

The day of my mother’s funeral, I bought myself an Amish bonnet. It was a curious thing to do, considering she never gave up trying to convince me to go back to take up what she perceived as my place in the family and community. And now only hours after she’d been buried, I found myself in an Amish store in the little village of Mesopotamia browsing through the black bonnets. First I tried one on and found a mirror in the far corner of the store. Then I had an idea. I walked up to my husband, David, who was browsing through the straw hat section and stood close to him. When he looked up he he stepped back with a startled look on this face and exclaimed, “You look just like your mother!”


I don’t know if the context changes anyone’s mind, but I thought I would reveal the rest of the paragraphs.

Thank you again for your input. To all of you out there, I so love reading your comments. I don’t know if I would still be writing this blog if I didn’t have the most wonderful readers ever!

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27 thoughts on “And that Important First Paragraph…”

  1. Puzzled by “mirror in the Amish store.” Shows how incorrect our perceptions are from apparently reading too much Amish fiction.

  2. When I chose #2 for beginning sentence, I did so, thinking that the bonnet was purchased to wear to the funeral.

  3. Saloma your such a great writer it really does not matter how you address the beginning. Either way will be successful. Waiting patiently for your new book to be completed and published. Thank you for sharing with us insights into your new creation.

  4. I love both paragraphs! But for a reader who has never read any of your other books, the bonnet paragraph builds the intrigue needed to pull them in. Not merely because it’s about an Amish bonnet, but also because the style it’s written in puts the reader in the moment. A person picking up one of your books for the first time needs to be drawn in quickly and the bonnet paragraph does that. I would love to see the entire first chapter in order to help figure out to connect this bonnet paragraph back to the rest of the story!

    1. Marietta, thank you for your perspective. It seems more of you who have lived an Amish life favor the first paragraph. I appreciate your perspective. Thank you so much for weighing in!

  5. Yes, I agree with Carol. I had the same thought as to the reason you bought a bonnet, which would have been intriguing if that happened!

  6. Hi Saloma,

    I still like paragraph #2 better. After all you’d been through with your mother when leaving the Amish, the fact that you purchased an Amish bonnet that day very much draws my attention to keep reading. I WANT TO KNOW THE REASON! The way the paragraph is written, it would be easy to connect with paragraph #1 at some point, even in the next paragraph, by a moment of reflection. I do love paragraph #1–so well written and poetic. Definitely needs to be kept, but seems easy to reflect back upon.

    I think that paragraph 2 as a lead is important for the setting for the whole book. I find it symbolic that you bought a hat that day, and I really want to know the reason! Still! By the way, when I first read it, I didn’t think you bought it for the funeral. I sensed it was a symbolic reason that you bought it. Having this for the lead paragraph sets the tone of the book.

    And as I have said, your life is more interesting than a well written novel.

    As I write this I’m hearing and seeing an Amish buggy and horse drive past our house on our road.

    1. Wow, Denise, you really got it. This is the reason I will likely start with this… it is symbolic of my complicated relationship with Mem. Trying to understand all this 12 years after Mem’s death is exactly what this book is about.

      Thank you for your kind words. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. I’m sure you do, too!

  7. pamela lakits

    Saloma, could you use the second paragraph as your first and use the first as a sort of flash back after/later? I originally liked the first line better, but seeing them in the context of a whole paragraph I do like the second better. I guess they’re right when they say the first line is always the hardest!!

    1. Pamela, it is hard to decide how to start a story. It sets the theme, tone, texture, and mood for the whole book.

      Interesting that you are the only person who has changed your mind after seeing the context. I actually thought more people might.

  8. Hi Saloma! Could #2 be an intro or a foreword… it certainly captures and encapsulates some lingering feelings (good, bad, indifferent) of your earlier years,and with David exclaiming that you look your mom could set the tone for us readers… if that is what you wanted. #1 could then begin the the first chapter. I’m intrigued by both paragraphs!

  9. Hello Saloma:
    I must admit I have always liked #1 and now I like it even more. I think it combines professional “the English” sounding writing style AND the actual sombre Amish event that was and is a huge chapter in your life and Davids. I bet/trust that this new book will be a “Pilgrims Progress” indeed. All the best to you and David as you research and prospect your new chapter in your lives which we could call homeward bound. I well remember that point in my life where I realized, that as much as I loved and lost my dear mother and yes my dear father as well… that “my own life” was suddenly going forward into high gear with an actual urgency I had never felt before. PS: please send me by email the Martin Ancestry family info that you found in SZ:
    Best Regards to both you and David;
    Delmer B. Martin
    (RR4 Elmira)

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