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In a previous slice, I worked with leads around a circus setting, imagining a story about a young girl named Rosemary who visits the circus with her uncle where her father is the ringmaster. Rosemary has dreamed of walking the tightrope without a net below and amazing the crowd, but her parents have tried their best to discourage her.
The lead can be a sentence, a paragraph, or even a page long. A good beginning “leads” a reader into the story. It makes a reader want to find out more. It provides the hook, reeling in readers like a skilled fisherman reels in fish. Skilled writers start their stories with good leads. A good lead adds to the “voice” a piece of writing has. It helps your reader connect with you. You can communicate a sense of excitement, sadness, mystery, anger, fear, joy or any other emotion with a good lead. A lead paragraph can be the deciding factor for a reader – to read on or to abandon for something else. Here are a few additional leads I have imagined for the circus piece:
Onomatopoeia: Ca..rack! Ca..rack! the lion tamer’s whip whistled through the muggy air of the August night.
Appeal to the Senses (other than sight and sound): The air smelled sweet like cotton candy and salty like roasted peanuts. But it was mixed with an earthy smell of horse manure and elephant droppings and the faint smell of fear. Yes, Rosemary was sure she could smell that, too.
Setting Snapshot: The big tent rose before us. A big crowd of people pushed forward. Inside, the huge tent was decorated with flood-lights and strings of burning bulbs. Film music and songs were being played on loudspeakers. Three areas occupied the arena where the feats were performed. Metal bleachers rose high above the ground level. The notes of the band and the floodlights gave an out-of-this-world look to the atmosphere. A thin wire stretched from pole to pole, about thirty feet above the ground. No net in view.
She spied me as soon as I entered the dressing room. “And what are you doing here, little Rose?” Mary asked with a crooked smile.
“I…I’m not sure….I wanted to try on an outfit,” Rosemary admitted. “I want to try out the high wire,” she added in a whisper. “It’s what I dream about. Every night.”
“Maybe I can help you,” Mary said in a hushed tone. That’s when the door to the dressing room suddenly opened. Rosemary’s father, tall and splendid in his ringmaster’s cape and top hat, filled the doorway.
Weather: The warm June night was thick with fireflies. The moon, big and round, smiled down at us. In great profusion, stars freckled the velvet black sky, and the air was filled with a prickly sensation – excitement, anticipation, wonder. The Royal Circus had come to town.