I wrote a wonderful forest scene. The description was spot on.
The full branches of the maple trees created a cool green canopy over the neglected trail. A gentle breeze played through the leaves and made them dance ever so gracefully. The sun light, falling in broad shafts, pierced through the trees and bathed the ground in great golden pools. The fragrance of wild flowers and herbs filled the early spring air with a delicate perfume.
My critique partner, and several other readers, said it put them there but, it didn’t put them in the story. They didn’t like it, well, not for the opening paragraph. I thought it set the stage for the following action which was in contrast to the calm idyllic setting. Wrong. It didn’t grab them.
They pointed me to Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages. The sub-title was compelling, a writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. Dutifully, I did my assigned reading. The essence of one point he made – the hook is more than a marketing tool to draw the reader in. It sets the tone of the story, the characters, the setting, the mood, and more. The care you take to the opening line should be the same care you give to the first paragraph, page, and chapter all the way through to the last sentence. But let’s get back to the opening sentence.
According to author, Barbara Dawson Smith, the common thread in most opening lines/paragraphs is change. Your hero or heroine’s current situation is about to change. Something has happened, or will happen that will result in dramatic consequences. The author’s goal is to pique the reader’s curiosity, give them the promise of what they will find when they read your story.
Here are some opening sentences from some romance novels. One of them is from my debut novel scheduled for released on November 14. Does it hold up with the others?
- “As their elegant traveling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh.”
- “How does a person reenter a life she left behind years earlier?”
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
- “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.”
- “The noon whistle blew and the saws stopped whining.”
- “I should not have stayed away from the Manor so long. Something stirs.”
- “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?”
- “Dougles Montgomery sat in the back seat of the rental car, Robert and his pudgy thirteen-year-old daughter, Gloria, in the front.”
- “Cam called in markers, pulled strings, begged favors and threw money around in a dozen directions.”
- “They said he killed his first wife.”
- “Come to me.”
- “There were pictures in the fire. Dragons.”
- “Fae archers stood at the Sidhe wall and trained their arrows toward the tree line as a slow, unseasonable frost overtook the branches.”
- “When the rumbling Cessna heaved into the sky, Kate Jansen completely lost her nerve.”
- “As darkness slowly fled from his eyes, the boy woke, his head aching and his body sore, as if he had been beaten.”
- “It is always a mistake to underestimate the possibilities of a train compartment.”
Contest: I love trivia. Guess the book title and author for each of these opening lines. See if you can guess the book title and author. I’ll post the answers next week. Have fun!