Monday, May 7, 2012

Openers

Sorry I've been MIA for a little bit. I needed a little break after blogging for thirty straight days!

Anway, I'm back and I'm curious to know something. You know how the first few sentences in a book are critical for hooking the reader, well I would love to know your imput on this little paragraph:

The hammer in her hand felt smooth and comfortable, and as cool as a glass of water.  Cleopatra Riley grabbed the key from her pocket and walked to the cabinet in her darkened closet. She unlocked it, and after opening both wooden doors wide, took out all of her porcelain horses, setting them on top of the dresser. In a few seconds, what had taken almost ten years to collect, was gone – smashed to hundreds of pieces

Does it draw you in? Is it too wordy? Do you want to read more? I know beginnings are SO important. Important as in, getting an agent to request a partial, or having them say "thanks, but no thanks."

What are some of your favorite openers? Some book openers are hilarious, some are serious, some are just confusing -- but appropriately so. But, almost all of the ones I've read are good because they are to-the-point, in the middle of conflict, and drawing me in from the first few sentences. The way books should be.

For example, here's my opener from The Puzzle Master.

The sun peered through the window and Marshall’s eyes opened with a start. What time was it? He sat up in bed and checked his clock. 7:05. Perfect, still early enough. He scrambled out of the sheets, already hot and sticky, and headed for his closet, tiptoeing past his older brother.

My goal was to have Marshall in the middle of a conflict. He had to get to his favorite store before it opened, but that was because he was looking for his special "treasure" and because he only had thirty minutes in there. He also wanted to get out before his family woke up, thereby further delaying his mission.

If your opener doesn't suggest a problem, or conflict, or isn't in the middle of said conflict, you've got the wrong opening. You want to bring the person into the room, so to speak; welcome them in with tea and cookies and get them to put their feet up on the ottoman because they're enthralled with the room (book.)

Rework it, make it snappy, like the opening of a movie -- because that's about the patience people have for reading anymore -- and then you've got something an agent will beg to see.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Heather, just dropping by to repay your follow and visit. Interesting post about story beginnings! Something which is really important - you definitely need to catch your reader's attention on the first page, or you will loose their interest very quickly!

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    1. So true! Thanks for coming by here too.

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  2. Too true. You want your reader to be right in the thick of things ore else they'll leave. I also like to open with a a shock or sharing something that will make the reader go "wait, what?"

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    1. Absolutely! Shock and awe... always makes for a great opening.

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  3. Hi Heather. I did say "Wait, what?" You sure got my attention. I say "Go by your gut feeling." Let it sit awhile and work on the rest of the rewrite. Then go back to it. I changed the beginning of my first novel a dozen times before I settled with the Prologue and cut the first four chapters. When it was done, I knew it, and it felt right. I've heard nothing but raves about "how I hooked them," or "you sure know how to hook someone" kind of comments. So I guess I did my job.
    Anyway, you will know when it is exactly what you want.
    But, I did say "Hey, wait, what's going on?" and it made me want to know more.

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    1. Awesome! Thanks Kathy. That's great advice. Sounds like you know how to "hook" your readers. You've accomplished a GREAT feat with that one.

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  4. Ah, first lines... gotta love 'em. I think that a first line should be compelling, but not just for the first line's sake. The first line is a promise made to the reader. I as a writer must make a good promise, and then I've gotta keep it through the whole book.

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    1. I completely agree. The first line is a promise, and when it starts good, it's true that we've got to keep that promise throughout the entire work. Good point Joseph!

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