(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“The ideal goals of an opening paragraph are: To excite the reader’s curiosity, preferably about a character or a relationship; to introduce a setting; to lend resonance to the story.” Sol Stein

The story [action through time—what happens next] is primitive, it reaches back to the origins of literature, before reading was discovered, and it appeals to what is primitive in us. . . . The story is neither moral nor is it favourable to the understanding of the novel in its other aspects. If we want to understand that we must come out of the cave.” E.M. Forster

Suspense is achieved by arousing the reader’s curiosity and keeping it aroused as long as possible.” Sol Stein

“The very human appetite to know the out come of any narrative, for better or worse.” Madison Smartt Bell

“He [Walter Scott] had the primitive power of keeping the reader in suspense and playing on his curiosity.” E.M. Forster

“She [Scheherazade] only survived because she managed to keep the king wondering what would happen next.” E.M. Forster

“Qua story, it can only have one merit: that of making the audience want to know what happens next. And conversely it can only have one fault: that of making the audience not want to know what happens next.” E.M. Forster

“A craftsman like Cheever will season even the most conventional beginning with just enough that is unconventional to rouse the reader’s curiosity.” Sol Stein

“Your lead must capture the reader immediately and force him to keep reading. It must cajole him with freshness, or novelty, or paradox, or humor, or surprise, or with an unusual idea, or an interesting fact, or a question. Anything will do, as long as it nudges his curiosity and tugs at his sleeve.” William Zinsser

“If one understands the principles of intriguing the reader, one doesn’t need decades of experience.” Sol Stein