The most important thing for a storyteller to do is ground the reader. By the end of the first paragraph the reader should know the name of the narrator or main character and the setting. Some writers like to keep this from the reader, but remember that readers shouldn’t be confused about the story at the beginning.
Think about it this way: You go to the doctor’s office and after your check up the doctor says, “Hmm… that’s not right.” Then walks out of the office. You follow him because you are curious and somewhat terrified about what isn’t right and catch up with him at the counter. He stands in front of you reading his chart.
“Well, what’s wrong with me?” you ask.
“Huh? Oh, hold on.” He walks away from you again and goes into a different room.
You don’t want to disturb the check up but you want to know what’s going on. You return to your exam room and wait on the bed, twiddling your thumbs.
You wait for half an hour before a nurse comes in and says she needs to run some tests on you. You ask what they are looking for and she simply pats your head and guides you onto your back before hooking you up to a large scary machine.
The doctor comes in and says, “This should confirm things for us.”
“Oh,” he waves his hand at you. “Never you mind.”
Aggravating, isn’t it? Imagine doing that to your readers. It is not a great feat to keep your readers in the dark and, quite frankly, it’s insulting. There is no reason for you to keep this information from your readers. It is only a form of over correction. So many writing students think it’s clever to withhold information from the reader, like the anticipation makes a name that much more important or the lack of information makes the writer appear more intelligent. It doesn’t.
Grounding the reader is the first thing you should do. Before the first paragraph is over, the reader should have some semblance of what will occur or what has occurred. If your reader finishes your first page, and has no idea what’s going on-chances are they will put the story down and never come back to it.
Do you do this in your writing? Do you think I’m wrong?