I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Friday, November 19, 2010

CRAFT: How good is your opening line? (part 2)

Searching for how to write that good opening line? Well, look no further. Here's a couple of examples and what to look for in your own writing to make sure yours has that "hook the reader" appeal.

Here's an opening line from another Maya Banks novel.

"Do you know of anyone who fulfills sexual fantasies?" Serena James asked.

Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
There are three that leap out at me. Bet you can pick them. :-)
  • fulfills sexual fantasies - lots of curiousity attached to these words
  • dialogue - the story starts with it; a great hook as it's active as opposed to narrative which can be passive
Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered? Hell, yeah!
  • Why does Serena need someone to fulfill sexual fantasies?
  • Is she the one needing her sexual fantasies fulfilled?
  • Is she asking for a friend?
  • Who's she asking this question of? And why/how would they know someone with this skill?
  • Is she in a relationship?
  • Is she fed up or left unsatisfied by this relationship?
Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
Again, look at the questions I raised. If she's already in a relationship then what's prompted her to seek out someone who fulfills sexual fantasies? Does she find the relationship, or lack of one, unsatisfying? Assuming she meets this someone, how will she handle that meeting? With confidence? Embarrassment? etc.

My last example comes from a sci-fi romance novel.

Cyn always liked watching women move, but there was nothing sexier than an angry woman moving with purpose.
(BEYOND THE SHADOWS by Jess Granger)

Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
  • sexier - one of those words that just draws the eye
  • angry woman - adjective, noun
  • moving with purpose - what an image that conjures up when linked with an angry woman

Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered?
  • Why is Cyn watching the woman?
  • Why is the woman angry?
  • Is there are going to be trouble?
  • Did Cyn have something to do with it?
  • What else does Cyn like about women?
Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
An angry woman is conflict on two legs, folks. And from the tone implied in the opening sentence, Cyn is probably in trouble of some sort, or he caused it, or he's going to and there's going to a confrontation of some sort. Lots and lots of conflict loaded into this one line.

Check out at these examples and ask yourself are they good opening sentences?
  • Travis Jones had come home.
  • Joe Smith was smiling.
  • His horse, a Black Arab mare whose name he couldn't pronounce, was saddled and waiting, cropping dry grass sprouting on the banks of the wadi.
  • The book signing was mobbed.
  • Kane sat on the flattest rock in the center of the pool.
  • She was wearing red shoes.
If any of these don't quite do it for you then how would you improve them so that they would?

The Goldilocks factor ("it's jusssstttt right") is hard to accomplish first off but with some elbow grease - and a lot of hair pulling, deleting, rewriting, throwing of things, and maybe some judicious analysing of your favourite author's work - you can create a ripper of an opening line that hooks the reader and pulls them into your story.

Now that you've read this post here's some homework for you - analyse your own work using these questions. If you have a good opening line post it in my comments section, I'd love to see it!


  1. Hey Kylie!

    Well, I loved my original first line from my third book, but it got cut :-( But it's definitely going in another story! The line?

    "Where the hell are my knickers?"

  2. Who cut it? You or your editor? And, more importantly, what did you replace it with!?!? :-) Or maybe there's NO knickers! LOL

  3. At some stage there were no knickers . My editor suggested I start the book further in so I had to cut 10p, including that one 'escaping the one night stand' scene I still love :-) Looking back I can see the point, and the book moves a lot quicker because of the cut. But that scene was quirky and I loved writing so I matched it up with a brief story outline and now it's sitting in my 'partials' folder. I'm envisioning a road trip/chick lit story, with a hybrid family and a drug dealing gangster... ;-)

  4. The mind just boggles with that premise, Paula! LOL (thanks for the giggle on envisaging it)

    The excerpt would be a good one to post on your website if you do deleted excerpts. Good for those rabid "Paula Roe" fans looking for extras.