I hate to sound like the publishing grinch, but if you don't wow me by the end of page one or so neither wouldn't I expect Mrs. John Q. Reader to plunk down her limited dollars for the privilege of reading those same words. Of course, I realize the criteria for great opening lines vary with each editor. Some experts advise against beginning your story with a line of dialogue. Others say to avoid backstory in the first three chapters. In my own writing, I like to open with something that hints at the story's theme. Consider the opener of your latest work. Are you hooking the reader from the very start?
I've pulled together a random selection of opening lines from my various reading projects this week. Do they leave you wanting to read more? Can you peg the genre by reading the opener? If you can match just one author with his/her opening line, I'll send you a free Barbour book. (A tough assignment, since I'm not listing author names! However, just in case you all know your authors' voices, I'm limiting rewards to the first three winners.)
- You might as well know that Sue Jan and I are fat. I don’t know which one of us is fatter, but we wear the same size clothes.
- Being named in Great-grandma’s will was like hitting bankrupt on Wheel of Fortune. The whole family held their breath while the wheel ticked around and around--or rather while the lawyer opened the envelope. Then they all heaved a sigh of relief when the wheel stopped on Carrie’s name.
- When the desk clerk first mentioned Stefan Lauber's death, I didn't react. The truth is, I was only half-listening.
- No matter how old I get, when I stand in front of the doors of Four Oaks High School, I’m threatened by flashbacks. Some of my high school memories are good, but too many have to do with the rampaging insecurities that consumed me at the time.
- I marched into church on Sunday— not to search for God, but to find a killer.
After studying JUST the opening lines of so many projects, I'm going back to rewrite the opening to my own current WIP. . .for the thousandth time! SKD