Once my eyes float over the words Chapter One, widen them with something unexpected. Grab me by the throat and show me I'm going to be in for a great read. Oh, not something frightful...but unexpectedly delightful. Humorous. Passionate. Heartrending. Sigh-worthy. And, baby, I'm yours!
Remember, when we were taught in public school to incorporate who, what, when, where, and why into our openings? Or am I dating myself? Why bog down our opening prose with details that could be sprinkled in later like those pretty multi-colored sprinkles on a cupcake?
I like to think of my opening scene. Play it out in my mind. Hear the dialog or feel the emotion. Watch the character or characters and begin the story mid-scene--at the best part. The part I hope will hook the reader and won't allow them to stop reading. For example, For the Love of a Fireman begins like this:
“Quick! What aisle are the douches in? I’ve got three bitches at the beach cottage and they all stink to high heaven.”
The male customer is talking about his dogs and the female sales clerk thinks he's a dog, talking about his girlfriends. The misunderstanding goes on for pages. This comes from page two.
The customer lifted his blue ball cap with some kind of marine rescue emblem on it, forked his long fingers through straight hair—bleached nearly pale blond by the sun—and resettled the hat. “You do carry Massengill, don’t you? That’s the best brand, according to my research.”
“Ah…” My God, what kind of man researches douches? A man who goes to bed with three women, Molly. Now concentrate.
Sometimes, it takes two or three paragraphs like it did in A Highlander’s Passion.
Kenzie Denune pedaled the bicycle harder, her thighs burning from the exertion. Thanks to a car that refused to start, she was going to be late fer her job interview at Iverson Loch Manor. Grunting and pounding from the shrubs ahead, near the road’s edge, snagged her attention.
Naked shoulders glistened in the afternoon sun. Back muscles bulged and undulated with every thrust. “Bloody hell. Come fer me. Come.”
In all of Mathe Bay in the Scottish Highlands, only one deep masculine voice had the power to raise the hair on her arms like this. A man with braided russet-colored hair that brushed broad shoulders inked with a bear’s claw marks, woven into an intricate tribal design—Bryce Matheson. Damn him to hell. Who’s he shagging in broad daylight? Out in the open, no less. Has he no shame?
I can’t tell you the number of times I rewrote the following opening hook to get it just right. It’s the first paragraph of Storm’s Interlude, part of a multi-genre romance bundle, benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. For 99 cents, these five full-length books are a great deal. Here’s my hook:
Someone swaggered out of the moonlit night toward Rachel Dennison. Exhausted from a long day of driving, she braked and blinked. Either she was hallucinating or her sugar levels had plummeted. Maybe that accounted for the male mirage, albeit a very magnificent male mirage, trekking toward her. She peered once more into the hot July night at the image illuminated by her headlights and the full moon. Sure enough, there he was, cresting the hill on foot—a naked man wearing nothing but a tan cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a go-to-hell sneer.
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Vonnie, you intro paragraphs are hilarious. They always hook me and yank me into your stories.
Great openings. I have a new idol to set my mark to.
You always make me smile from the get go, Vonnie. We like being surprised and we sure do appreciate the humor that rises out of misunderstandings. Thanks for being open about how you write openings :-) Rolynn
Thank you, Diane, Now, if I can just improve on my endings. LOL
Brenda, we all write the way that works for us. Humor and a hit of shock works for me. Editors say, "Drop me in the middle of the action and make me care." That's what I aim for. Plus, it more fun for me.
Part of my system is to combat fear. The first few years of writing were scary. I faced the blank page with trepidation. How should I start this book? So now I spend a couple days, playing the situation out in my mind, then dive into the middle.
Definitely some attention grabbing openings, Vonnie! You're a pro! I always want to start a book at the beginning since my mind works in a linear way. I have a hard time dropping into the action without a little buildup to set the scene. Not an info dump, mind you, but enough to let the reader know what she's getting into. It's a fine line in books to have an exciting beginning without having to use a bunch of internal thoughts later to explain how the characters got to that point. I guess no one ever said writing was easy!
True. I explain mine through dialogue most of the time. Nothing like trying to explain why you're hiking the road naked or that your dogs got sprayed by a skunk. Thanks, Jannine.
I love a great opening line too, and I especially love yours! I work hard to grab readers with that first line, but I've never managed to come up with anything on a par with those. Great work!
Thanks, Alison. For me, it takes part of the fear away from beginnings. I allow them to play out in my mind in slow motion until I hit the spot that makes me smile or chuckle. Bear in mind, though, I have a weird sense of humor.
Always a pleasure, a smiling good pleasure to read you're work, Vonnie! You set an extremely high for the rest of us to shoot for. Thanks for the inspiration.
Oh Margo, you over flatter me. I'm just a grandma who likes to tell stories. Sometimes, I get it right. Other times, I bomb. Thanks for your kind words though. I do appreciate them.
Oh my gosh...these are fantastic! You most definitely hooked me, right away. Made me smile and want to keep reading. I'm going to grab that boxed set right now. And, this is quite timely for me. I wonder...could I possibly share these in a workshop I'm presenting? I am presenting a workshop on Opening Scenes for my RWA chapter this month, and I will present the same workshop at the OWFI conference in May. These would be awesome examples of great openings. If you'd rather I didn't, that's perfectly fine, but it's free exposure, right? :) Just let me know...you can either respond here or email me. AliciaMDean@aol.com - Thanks...excellent post!
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