Nonfiction openings #005: Life bites back!

color power punch

          First, read the following opening:

KILLING MY BODY TO SAVE MY MIND, by Lauren Slater, from Elle

My blood is in a blender. It’s just about the only bit of brightness in this drab office of a life insurance company that, before betting on my body, wants to sample its various fluids. First, it was urine in a tiny pleated cup, and now in some sort of centrifuge, my blood. It begins circling slowly, before picking up speed and whipping around until, at last, the lipids separate from the fresh red liquid and rise to the top. That’s cholesterol I’m seeing, a custardy yellow substance that reminds me of the pudding my mother used to make. Damn my mother! It’s her cakes and tarts and tortes that have put me in this position, which is precisely…what? I’m a forty-plus fatso with a penchant for Belgian waffles. In truth, though, it’s neither my mother nor the waffles that are responsible for my body’s breakdown….

“Do you think they’ll insure me?” I ask the phlebotomist as we both peer at my spinning blood and the lipids lining its surface.

 Effective opening, yes?  Here’s why:

1.      Strong opening.  The first sentence contains two strong words we don’t normally see together: “blood” and “blender.”

2.      PATHOS. Even though the woman doesn’t seem to have any self-control, and even though she tries putting the blame on her mother for a brief moment, we still care for her. She’s having a personal battle with food, and the stakes are so high that she may not even be allowed to buy life insurance because of her current state of health. Life insurance isn’t for her—it’s for her family in case she passes away early—some money to make sure they’re taken care of, at least for a little while, after their main income-earner has passed away.

Try this:

Keep in mind that the passage above is nonfiction. It’s a sad state when your life and your future are in other people’s hands. For today, create another scenario, a completely different situation, where that exact thing happens.

Coming tomorrow: Traveling. I’m unsure if I’ll have Internet access for the next four days or not…stay tuned!

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