I Was A Middle Aged Writer

July 22, 2010

Opening Lines

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 2:05 pm
Tags: , ,

I hang out over at Magical Words and a recent post on Beginnings by Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent at The Knight Agency, got me thinking about opening lines.

I’ve always been big on getting opening lines right. You have very little time to catch the attention of your audience, be they consumers or editors or agents, and get them to continue reading. Sometimes the first sentences can mean the difference between a sale and getting the book put back on the store shelf. One of my own personal rules has always been, interest your reader in the first couple sentences; firmly hook them in the first paragraph. Now, the rule is a little subjective. Sometimes I use three sentences, sometimes I have the hook slowly insert over two paragraphs, but the idea is to get the reader to keep reading. In screenplays, the rule is to have something that grips or interests the viewer, something that makes them sit up and take notice, within the first five pages, which they say is approximately the first five minutes of the film.

This is the best advice any editor, agent, or author can give a writer and it’s one of the best pieces of advice this humble and hopeful novelist can give. I’ve been writing for a while. I’ve had a lot of practice writing novel beginnings and the one thing I’m always told when I’ve had people read the beginnings of my stories is that they can’t wait to read the rest. This is what you want. And if the opening shines, not only will it hook a reader, but it’ll stick in the memory of the reader. Some of my favorite novels also had some of the best openings.

It’s a skill that takes some practice, but if you can get this one down you’ll be that much closer to getting your novel sold.

And just for fun I’ll toss some of my own beginnings out here:

“Servos whined and jet retros flared as Ahlia Jensen’s Battle Suit pirouetted in a dizzying one-eighty to face the Palantine class suit that had just blasted by.”
–Rogue 5—

“It was a small room, more of an antechamber than a real room. It made Kel’s back itch just between the shoulder blades, the place where an assassin’s knife might slide.”
–The Dagger’s Champion—

“Micah Rhiannen stood in the middle of the sparring room, padded staff held loosely in one hand and the butt of one end resting on the floor behind her heel.”
–One Who Calls Gods—

“The Starflare tore into the atmosphere of Sargassi far faster than any Hopper had a right to.”
–The Darkling War Saga: The Darkness Between—

“Ryak slid his sword as silently as he could from its sheath; its weight reassuring in his hand.”
–Huntsmen–

D

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