Friday 4 November 2011

Attention Grabber #4: The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven

Attention Grabber is my new weekly feature where I post what I think is a great opening paragraph to a book, the sort of opening that pulls young readers in and hooks them from the start.

This week's Attention Grabber is the opening couple of paragraphs from the brilliant The Black Tattoo by the immensely talented Sam Enthoven. It is another one that I have used with my group at school to show them how adjectives and similes can make a piece of writing so interesting that you just can't help but read on. Having just started my first ever attempt at NaNoWriMo I am all of a sudden feeling a small amount of hate for Sam, and many others - I wish I could write this well!

LONDON. The West End. A little after four in the morning. At the base of the skyscraper known as Centre Point Tower, in the darkness at the end of a dank concrete walkway, something stirred. The shadows there began to ripple and coalesce. The dark became a manlike shape of pure liquid black. Then the demon emerged, taking its first leisurely step towards the woman who stood there watching it.

‘Jessica,’ it said.

Hearing that voice again, and the way the sound of it seemed to take shape inside her head like black flowers blossoming behind her eyelids, it was all Jessica could do to stop her legs from trembling. She’d been so close! Another few minutes and she’d’ve made it! She gritted her teeth and told herself to concentrate. The demon took another step. It was clear of the shadows now, and the rainy orange streetlight glinted off its inky wet skin. Its face was a blank, but she could feel it looking at her.


  1. The opening to 'I Am Not A Serial Killer' by Dan Wells has probably the most memorable opening out of the last few YA novels I have read.

    Mrs, Anderson was dead. Nothing flashy, just old age — she went to bed one night and never woke up.

    They say it was a peaceful, dignified way to die, which I suppose is technically true, but the three days it took for someone to realize they hadn't seen her in a while removed most of the dignity from the situation.

    Her daughter eventually dropped by to check on her and found her corpse three days rotted and stinking like roadkill.

  2. I am honoured and thrilled that the opening of The Black Tattoo has been chosen for this week's Attention Grabber. Hearing that you use it as an example for your students makes me very happy! :D

    Re the 'small amount of hate', I understand completely. But NaNoWriMo is about FIRST DRAFT, which is about putting down everything you've got, as raw and as rough-edged and lumpy as it comes. Worrying is natural, but polishing comes /later/. Fyi, I lost count of how many drafts Black Tat (and particularly these paras) went through: seven or eight at least; maybe more. In first draft the book didn't even start with this scene, and I remember that in the second or even third draft Jessica spent a ten-line paragraph climbing out of a dumpster before the Scourge even appeared! Nothing comes out perfect first time. But if you don't let yourself write - and keep writing - /something/ for the first time, then nothing will come out at all.

    Best of luck, Darren. And thanks! :D


    PS: @Anonymous: I /adore/ Dan Wells' John Cleaver books - excellent choice of opening! :DD