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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Importance of Opening Lines

By Trish Milburn

We’ve probably all heard that editors/agents only give a manuscript five pages, two pages, a page, insert small amount of our total work here, to make a good impression, to make them care enough to keep reading. Though we might not like this statistic, it’s a fact of the publishing life. So if you want to make your work, including any that will go before judges of the Golden Heart, stand out, start by focusing on your very first line. That first line or opening paragraph will set the tone for the entire book. It’s your manuscript’s first impression, and we all know how important those are.

How you craft an opening line depends on the type of story you’re telling, but regardless of the sub-genre you need it to instantly draw your reader in and give her a tiny snapshot of the type of story that follows. Here are some samples of great opening lines which members of the Wet Noodle Posse used in their Golden Heart-finalist manuscripts.

Want to convey humor right off the bat? Let Esri Rose show you how:

“Claire Pike could not believe her job was in danger because of a man who basically stuffed weasels down his pants.” -- Telling Lies, 2006 Novel with Strong Romantic Elements finalist

If you’re writing novels with romantic suspense or adventure elements, you may consider an opening that causes tension in the reader, like Mary Fechter created in her 2006 single title finalist, Don’t Look Back:

“The attack took place shortly after the morning bell,” the Secretary of State told the roomful of presidential advisors. Dr. Liv Olney gripped the edge of the conference table as she watched the attack on the wall of TV screens behind the Secretary.

There are first lines that practically beg us to read on to find out the meaning behind the author’s catchy and succinct opening, such as Lorelle Marinello’s 2003 romantic suspense finalist, Fairhope:

“Fairhope, Texas had Baptists, Methodists, and ghosts.”

What if you’re writing a little on the steamier side and want to make your reader’s temperature rise from the word “go”? Check out this sample from Jill Monroe’s Share the Darkness, an April 2004 Harlequin Blaze that finaled in the Golden Heart in 2003 as Longest Day of the Year:

“Ward Cassidy could think of better uses for an ice cube.”

For historicals, a sense of time and place, as well as story, are important. Delle Jacobs conveyed these as well as the hero’s goal in the first line of her 2005 Golden Heart winner, Lady Wicked:

“He’d have to marry the richest heiress in England if he meant to salvage this crumbling pile of rocks.”

A mixture of young adult and paranormal? YA is often in first person, so I used that and a hint that all is not normal in the most recent version of my 2007 YA GH winner, Coven:

“Hot tears burn my eyes as I watch the last of the black hair coloring disappear from the tips of my long, blond hair, draining away into nothingness.”

Remember that the first line, at most the first paragraph, is often all you get to make a first impression on contest judges. Yes, they have to read the rest of the manuscript, but it’s hard to recover from a bad first impression. So spend the time and effort necessary to make your opening lines sparkle.

~~~

Opening lines aren’t just important in the Golden Heart. In fact, the first round of the American Title contest, in which my manuscript, Out of Sight, is a finalist, is focusing on first lines. Check out all the finalists’ openers and cast your vote here.

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60 Comments:

At 5:58 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

My first thought was Oh, WOW ladies--what excellent examples!

My second thought was to scurry back to my own WIP and read the beginning for the, oh, 200th time and figure a way to make it shine like these! ;)

May I share a couple of my favorite openings?

"The trouble with Darius Carsington was, he had no heart." Loretta Chase, Not Quite a Lady (I bet a bunch of you already knew that)

"If they caught her, she would die." Karen Robards, Irresistible.

You're right; good openings pull you in and immerse you in the feel of a book from the very start. OK, no pressure there...:)

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger doglady said...

Yeah, right, Gillian. No pressure!! Those are some great opening lines. I like the idea of an opening line that grabs somebody by the throat and says "Read this book!" No I will run back to my WIP and check that opening line!

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger CM said...

Love the opening lines! And there's nothing like a good example to really ramp up the pressure-motivation-cooker. :)

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger CM said...

Okay, I am going to ask a question.

How long is too long for an opening line?

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Knew that opening lines were important and thought I was paying attention until I read those examples. Great way to highlight this topic!

I like the idea of setting the tone of the story with the first line, which is deeper than stringing together words in a catchy turn of phrase.

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Great examples, Trish. I'm definitely going to rethink all of my opening lines, too. These are great!

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger Manda said...

Good question, CM! I've often wondered that myself. Sometimes it seems like the shorter ones really grab the reader, but then other times it takes more than four words to really get things started...

Great examples, Trish! And Gillian I love that Loretta Chase one. She's marvelous.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

CM: Take a look at Delle's opening line. Nineteen humorous, sparkling, plot-defining words, with the natural rhythm of sarcastic speech. Frickin' brilliant.

Unless your first line is a real clunker, they'll read the second line, too. Don't bend your prose out of shape with umpteen clauses and phrases, trying to get bunches of info into that first line.

Have other people read it out loud. If they stumble because they've lost sense of the meaning, it's too long. That goes for any of your prose.

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Well, crap. I just noticed that I gave Trish the wrong info on my example. That line is actually from "Touch Not the Hog," my GH entry that DIDN't final (It was also SRE, which must be where I got mixed up).

The ACTUAL first line from Telling Lies is, "I never set out to be a Tarot reader." (Just in case one of the judges is reading this and thinks, WTF?)

I can't keep my books straight. I'm lucky to remember my characters' names while I'm writing them.

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

LOL, Esri! Okay, even if this line didn't final, I think it's hilarious.

CM, I agree with Esri about length of the first sentence. Shorter to medium-length sentences tend to work well, but it just depends on the needs of your story. I've read some in unpublished manuscripts that were the poster children for run-on sentences. Sometimes less is more. You don't want to lose, confuse or bore your reader right from the start.

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Trish and Esri. I have a question for you. Do you have a story you have written that you feel doesn't have a GREAT opening line, but can't be helped because of where the story begins?

Does that make sense?

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Trish, you're a master of the first line if your American Title one is any example! I think it's fantastic and you sure got my vote. Everyone, get over to the Romantic Times site and vote for Trish!

Great first lines in the blog, Trish. I agree with you that the beginning counts so much. I think you probably have a page to win the reader or not. And I notice with competitions I judge that if someone gives me a good first page, generally the rest of the story will hold up too. So the "You had me at hello" stuff really isn't as silly as it sounds.

One of my favorite first paras is a Jenny Crusie one about the heroine cleaning her husband's car and finding some black lace undies under the front seat. And they weren't hers. Don't have the book with me - I think it's called Tell Me Lies - and JC's rhythm and style outdo my pathetic paraphrase. But honestly, you just go, "Wow, is this woman a master or what?"

Actually, on the point of length, CM, I think shorter is better! I've seen first lines that try and give me the whole story. Doesn't work!

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger CM said...

Esri, fabulous advice about having it read aloud. It worked perfectly--and I even saw where to break the line. I'm appreciating the reality check, Noodlers.

And Anna, how wonderful to see you again! And I love that Jenny Crusie, even though I can't remember the title either. In fact, I just love Jenny Crusie.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

These examples are totally awesome! I love how you can "hear" the different voices in just the few words!

Patricia W, I, too, agree that setting the tone of the story is another way to go with first lines. CM, the first line of my 2003 GH Long Historical winner (that became The Mysterious Miss M) took the "mood setting" route:

Madeleine positioned herself on the couch, adjusting the fine white muslin of her gown and placing her gloved hands demurely in her lap. The light from the branch of candles, arranged to cast a soft glow upon her skin, enhanced the image she was bid to make. Her throat tightened, and her skin crawled from the last man’s attentions.
This wicked life. How she detested it.


In this case, you have to keep reading to see that things are not exactly what they seem at first.

I've also used dialogue, something that shows danger, but nothing particularly surprising or clever.

And I totally encourage everyone to read the American Title first lines. I like Trish's the best!!

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Diane, what a wonderful start to a story! Thanks for sharing.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Gillian, I like the example you gave, too. Darius Carsinton...what a great name.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger TiffinaC said...

I have a question. I have to just come out and say my first line kinda sucks. Yup, I'm admitting that. But it's an opening scene of intro'ing my character. Maybe I'm going about it wrong? My first paragraph on the other hand is what I use to set the tone. Is that okay? or should I seriously try reworking this opening line?

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Tiffany, if you're really brave why don't you post your first paragraph for suggestions? We could all take a look and use your para as a learning tool. :)

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Theresa and Tiffinac: If you have the opportunity to come in with a great first line, take it. Often it's just a matter of pushing past what you would normally settle for.

Sometimes you need more than that first line to let the reader know what the heck is happening and where they are in time and space. I usually read the first paragraph of an unknown book. But if that first paragraph is much like the first paragraph of hundreds of other books I've looked through, I put it back on the shelf.

My work in progress has a pretty ordinary start. Here it is:

My pencil hovered over the small sketch of Mark Speranzi in the margin of my notebook. I had gotten my photography teacher’s shaggy hair and narrow, intelligent face just right, but there was something wrong about the mouth. It was too smiley -- or maybe not smiley enough.

“Is that a drawing of me?”

I looked up to see Mark himself standing next to my classroom table.

At the moment, his mouth was very smiley. “It is me, isn’t it? I should get a haircut.”


That's first draft. Right now, the beginning of this book is fairly relaxed. I have a droll joke ("I need a haircut.") and a nice recognizable moment of human weakness (She gets caught drawing her crush.) Are those enough? Eh. Not sure about that. I'm guessing that I'll still start the same place in the plot, because this book is like a mystery in that it's mostly character-driven in the beginning. The external plot ramps up gradually, so I'm going to have to really woo the reader with my voice. Am I there yet? Probably not.

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Theresa, I think I know what you mean, and I admit that every first line can't be a zinger. But it can't be a disposable line either, I don't think. You gave Tiffany the advice to post her opening for comment (which I was about to suggest as well), so maybe you could post the opening you're referring to as well. Sometimes it's easier to look at and comment on examples rather than making broad generalizations.

 
At 5:16 PM, Blogger TiffinaC said...

Of course I'm taking you up on that offer! How's a girl to refuse. I will say it's not terrible, but a little blasé...

England 1794
Etienne Ferveur, Marquis de Lupiscoeur, set out through wildflowers and tall grasses, his hands dancing on the plants tips as he walked into the forest surrounding his estate. The dawn hours were his time to escape the demands of his pack-mates. They were a constant reminder that he had become Alpha only because the marquisate – and the leadership of the pack – had passed to him upon his father’s recent death.



You ladies have been so awesome with the help this month!!! mucho gracias!

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Okay, Trish. Of course, I'd rather rip apart somebody else's first paragraph (just kidding) but here's mine. It's a FIRST DRAFT of a single-title contemporary I am working on. I have a very short sentence and then a very LONG sentence, probably too long. A few weeks ago I started out with Derek on the couch. Now he's coming in through the back door. Next week, depending on what you all say, he might start out in the bathtub. Oooh, not a bad idea! :) Anyhow, here's the first paragraph of the first chapter. I will give a quick blurb after I see the response. Have at it! Make all the suggestions you want. Make me want to read my own book! :)

Derek Jones opened the back door and headed inside. All he wanted was a glass of iced cold water, a couple of ibuprofen, and a few minutes to himself, but what he got instead was a high-pitched shrill that pierced his skull and made him forget all about the pain in his right knee.

 
At 5:32 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Tiffany, we must have posted at the same time!

I like the name of your hero. I also think we learn a lot in that first para. Great description of his estate. Do most readers know what turning Alpha means? I don't. Does that mean he turns human but others don't? Just curious.

I find myself wanting to know how he feels before I can comment further on the paragraph.

Is he angry about his new position? Worried? I'm thinking that if you know what he's feeling then you might be able to add one great adjective to describe that mood.

What do you think, Trish? Esri? Anyone?

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger TiffinaC said...

Backstory, for Etienne.

Thanks, everyone loves his name. Okay I'll stop gloating at that. He is Alpha (leader) by pack law. something common in werewolf novels/lore. His father died during the Reign of Terror (post-rev France) which they fled, barely. Etienne has pulled the survivors, which are few, together.

Sub-plot: The lupsicoeur design ships, England has declared war on France, and has nothing but a neglected fleet. A traitor stole the plans Lupiscoeur designed for the English, sold them to the bourgeoisie (bringing the massacre) The traitor is no where to be found and might know of their 'other nature' and must be stopped before he can kill the rest of them.

Fav Plot: Etienne needs to replinish his pack numbers or they will die out, he's looking for mates for the survivors. His intended mate was killed so he doesn't like being attracted to another woman. When he meets Claudia he can't get her out of his head -- literally -- they dream constantly about one another, run into one another and Etienne falls for said human, even though as Alpha he's supposed to mate/marry a pure werewolf.

probably more than you wanted *g* Is that what you were looking for?

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

Okay, if what you're wanting is an opening line that grabs maybe cut and combine. Then the rest of the sentences of the opening can be more intro and set the mood you want.

More formal
The dawn hours were Etienne Ferveur's, Marquis de Lupiscoeur, time to escape.

Less formal
The dawn hours were Etienne's time to escape - from his pack, from his command and from the recent death of his father.

Even less formal

The dawn hours - his time to escape.

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Tiffany,

Etienne Ferveur, Marquis de Lupiscoeur, set out through wildflowers and tall grasses, his hands dancing on the plants tips as he walked into the forest surrounding his estate.

I love this part, because I can get a visual picture of a tall man walking through wildflowers and grass. I love his "hands dancing" because I can "feel" that feeling myself. Although I might change the verb from "set out" to strode or strolled or even walked.

The dawn hours were his time to escape the demands of his pack-mates. They were a constant reminder that he had become Alpha only because the marquisate – and the leadership of the pack – had passed to him upon his father’s recent death.

Now this part seems less successful to me, because you are "telling" us stuff, instead of showing us what he is thinking or feeling or seeing or other visceral sensation.

For example, the sentence could be:

He relished the dawn, the solitary time when he could escape --something specific, a list of three demands of his packmates--

then you are deeper in his point of view.

It would probably help me (who knows nothing about werewolves-yours will be my first) if there was something else shown
besides the word "pack" to indicate he is a werewolf. I thought I was reading a Regency at first! (but this could just be me)

I hope this makes some sense.....
Thank you for being brave enough to share your paragraph with us!!

Diane

 
At 6:59 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Derek Jones opened the back door and headed inside. All he wanted was a glass of iced cold water, a couple of ibuprofen, and a few minutes to himself, but what he got instead was a high-pitched shrill that pierced his skull and made him forget all about the pain in his right knee.

Theresa, I wonder if this would be better if you got rid of the opening the door.

All Derek Jones wanted was a glass of iced cold water, a couple of ibuprofen, and a few minutes to himself. What he got instead was a high-pitched shrill that pierced his skull and made him forget all about the pain in his right knee.

Then you could show he had entered the house from the back.

I like the concrete details. What a lot of information in a few words.

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Theresa: Diane's changes are what I would suggest, too. I can't improve for your suggestions for Tiffinac, either, except that "plants" should be "plants'".

 
At 7:32 PM, Blogger Kate Carlisle said...

Bandita sneaking in here to say hi, Trish!

I must agree with everyone else...these are all fabulous first lines and I would definitely continue reading these stories.

I also loved your opening line in the contest, Trish. Really hope you win so I can read the rest of the book! :-)

 
At 7:35 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Tiffinac and Theresa, you have received good suggestions from Jill, Diane and Esri. I was going to suggest the separation of your first two sentences, Theresa, as Diane did. That drops us right into the really catchy parts that make us want to keep reading to find out what is going on.

Perhaps it's because I read paranormal, but I totally got that tiffinac's story was about werewolves but with the cool added twist of him being a noble. Even if someone isn't a paranormal reader, however, I think the words "pack" and "alpha" are out in the general lexicon enough to not have to have explanation right off the bat. Wolves live in packs, and there is an alpha male and an alpha female that rule the pack. The fact that your hero is in human form but using wolf terminology tells me that he's a werewolf.

I like Jill's second suggestion for your opening, but perhaps with a couple of tweaks to the listing after the em dash to:

from his leadership of the pack, from the demands of the aristocracy, from the death of his father.

 
At 7:36 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Thanks for swinging by, Kate! And congrats again on your recent first sale! :)

 
At 7:55 PM, Blogger Elyssa Papa said...

This is fantastic! I definitely agree about opening lines and how it sets up the tone for the story.

I plan on entering the GH with my piece and I think I managed to capture the humor in the piece. Or at least I hope so!

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger banksofmillbrook said...

I've been loving this topic. The examples and the input/advice have all been wonderful.

Trish, you got my vote the first day the first line voting was up!

I have Tell Me Lies (Crusie) and I totally agree the first bit is masterful: "One hot August Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband's Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace bikini underpants. They weren't hers."

Tiffanac, I wouldn't call it blase at all. I love the image of his hands dancing...the touch of whimsy is a great juxtaposition to his rather serious sounding name and problems. I read lots o' paranormals and got the alpha/pack stuff right away. I liked Diane's
suggestions. Diane, you're amazing!

Esri, thanks for sharing your WIP. I found it to be quite awesomely hookworthy.

And, you too, Theresa! I wanna know what happens next...

Here's mine (from my SRE):

"Crashing waves and jagged rocks he could probably handle. But what if there was something else lurking at the base of the cliff?"

(Not sure if I should combine sentences or leave them separate...)

Okay, and I just have to share my all time favorite from The Windflower: "Merry Patricia Wilding was sitting on a cobblestone wall, sketching three rutabagas and daydreaming about the unicorn."

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger TiffinaC said...

Holy cow!

You gals are awesome! What great suggestions and play on the words.

Jill, I have already played up the last one.

Diane, you rock. thanks for the lesson on show don't tell. And for the play on sentence to build tension. I'm learning this slowly but surely in margie lawson's course and obviously missed a great opportunity to do it in the opening. The visceral will be pounded into my brain soon enough.

And thank you trish and banksofmillbrook

 
At 9:07 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Hey, this is fun! Other peoples' manuscripts are always more fun to play with than one's own:-))

Theresa, I'm with Diane and I made exactly the same change, deleting that first line entirely and inserting him bang in the action. Take out the glass of water too, I reckon. It's the painkillers he's after, then it's a bit shorter and snappier. Or maybe that's just me.

Esri, I would love to see that book open with "There was something wrong with the mouth." That would really get me in from the start. Then you could go back to the My pencil hovered over...
Whaddayareckon? Love the feel of the piece!

Tiffinac, you've had some great advice. Like others, I'd go straight with something short and snappy like

'The dawn hours were his time." Then back to the first sentence.

Sometimes it's just that simple thing of rearranging - the start is there, it's just playing hide and seek.

banksofmillbrook, I love what you've written. If you're going to keep it as is, I'd make it one sentence (and again, this is just my opinion, fwiw). However, you could use that break to get some kind of action and/or emotion in there and make the break a bit more natural - ie,

"Crashing waves and jagged rocks he could probably handle." Machohero Guy studied the cliff-face, blinking away the sweat trickling into his eyes. "But what if there was something else lurking at the base of the cliff?"

Great post Trish!

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

"Crashing waves and jagged rocks he could probably handle. But what if there was something else lurking at the base of the cliff?"

this works for me, banks.

I presume you don't want to give away too much. You might think about something more specific besides "something else" like "something really dangerous" or "real danger." But, like I said, yours does work just as it is.

Diane

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

What great suggestions for all the opening paragraphs. This has been a great little workshop on opening lines!

Banks, I really like that opener. What could be worse than jagged rocks and crashing waves?!!! Makes me want to read on to find out what might be lurking down there.

Trish Mo, you are too funny. Machohero Guy. Ha!

Tiffany, I want to see your new Paragraph if you redo it.

My newly revised para so far:

All Derek Jones wanted was a couple of ibuprofen and a few minutes to himself. What he got instead was a high-pitched shrill that pierced his skull and made him forget all about the pain in his right knee.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger TiffinaC said...

I'll probably tweak it later since I never get it right first go-round.

Thanks again ladies!

The dawn hours – his time to escape. Inhaling the crisp morning air, Etienne Ferveur, Marquis de Lupiscoeur, strolled through wildflowers and tall grasses, his hands dancing on the plants’ tips as he walked into the forest surrounding his estate. He relished the solitary time away from the demands of his pack, away from the constant conflict and bickering, the disagreement with living arrangements. Away from the reminder that he was Alpha because his father was dead.

Perhaps, a little overdone, but it'll do for now...like I said, must churn on the synapses for a few days.

 
At 9:56 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Esri, I sort of laughed at Trish Mo's idea of starting your para with the part about his mouth.

How about if the first line was:

Shaggy hair, intelligent face, but there was something wrong with his mouth.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

That's it, Banks! Thank you! I knew it was better than my lamo version. Isn't that just magnificent?

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

You're right, Anna. FABULOUS opening line. JC is amazing.

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

"lamo version" Anne? That's the one that comes with lamingtons -LOL

Love that JC book. That opening is a killer. And it goes on. All the trouble to get that chocolate brownie defrosted and she ends up losing it anyway. Must go dig it out...

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Trish, I think you and I are the only people who will get the lamo/lamington joke (popular Australian cake of sponge dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in coconut - seriously yummy!). And lamos are never lame-o! I love writers who are so good, they put me on my game. JC is definitely one!

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Tiffany, I love your new opening!

I would add just one more word, Away from the reminder that he was Alpha MERELY because his father was dead.

Theresa, you've nailed yours, too. Just that tiny tweak.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

That's why I couldn't let it go, Anna. Goanna, get it? :-)) (Sorry, enough of the Downunder mirth)

Speaking of which, there were two ostrich eggs in the ostrich pen when I was out walking this morning. What could you do with that for an opening line?

#1 "The ostrich had been busy overnight."

#2 "Sally picked up the ostrich eggs and headed greedily back to the kitchen, her stomach rumbling as she wondered just how long was it going to take to boil these suckers."

#3 "'No more than two eggs a day,' Mr Heartattackwaitingtohappen's doctor had warned him..."

I know. I should be doing something useful, like uh, writing a book...

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger doglady said...

I just got home after a rough day at work and this was so much fun to read over. What a great group here and everyone is so helpful and so talented. Okay, here is my opening. What do you we think/

“You are planning to murder me, aren’t you?”
After a mere eighteen years on earth, Adelaide Formsby-Smythe thought, I am going to die for asking the wrong question. To be more precise - for asking a man the wrong question.

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Tiffinac, I like this version a whole lot better. One thing - watch you don't slow down the flow with too many clauses and commas. Every one of those is going to slow your reader down when you want to drag them along with you. I'll show you what I mean (and it might pay to read it out loud) with your current pauses -

The dawn hours/
– his time to escape./
Inhaling the crisp morning air,/
Etienne Ferveur,/
Marquis de Lupiscoeur,/
strolled through wildflowers and tall grasses,/
his hands dancing on the plants’ tips as he walked into the forest surrounding his estate./

You really don't get a flow up until the latter part of the second sentence. Because you're stuck with all those commas around his name, I'd really advise getting rid of that "inhaling the crisp morning air". I'd even go so far as to suggest making that first sentence pauseless (is that a word?)

Gosh, you're brave putting up your work. You're probably gnashing your teeth right about now.

Thing is, gotta stress, this is just my opinion, and every writer will probably have a different one. Consider suggestions, but always stay true to your vision for the book and your voice.

 
At 11:54 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Doglady, I'm supposed to be writing a book! I live in Adelaide - how could I ignore this one?:-))

Okay, here we have it -

"“You are planning to murder me, aren’t you?”
After a mere eighteen years on earth, Adelaide Formsby-Smythe thought, I am going to die for asking the wrong question. To be more precise - for asking a man the wrong question."

I love love love that first line! That's a *killer* opening.
The second sentence I don't think lives up to it though. First, telling the reader she's thinking "Adelaide Formsby-Smythe thought", tends to tell the reader straight away she's reading a book, she's not actually there with the character. Then I have to admit I got a tad confused (I get confused easily) about her thinking she's going to die for askign the wrong question. Of course, as a reader I want to know what the right question is, but I'm still confused.

I'd definitely read on though, because I want to find out what the heck is going on. Something is going on and I wanna find out what! (That's a very good thing!)

 
At 12:18 AM, Blogger doglady said...

How funny is it that you live Adelaide! In addition to being my heroine's name (she had the name first) I now have a dachshund/basset cross puppy named Adelaide. Hmm. I see what you are saying though. The thing is she DID ask the wrong question, the worse question a woman can ask a man. "Are we lost?"

 
At 12:49 AM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Aha! All is explained. Now I'm with you. Here's my suggestion for a different way to tackle it(which you may shred at your leisure)


"It was the wrong question.
Even after a mere eighteen years on earth, Adelaide Formsby-Smythe knew better than to ask a man if they were lost.
People had died for much less. She turned on what she hoped would pass for an apologetic smile and looked up at him.
'Just make it fast, okay?'"

Once again - you know your story, your tone and what you are trying to achieve, so this angle may be way off base. But I do think it's a little clearer, and in those first few sentences, that's vital.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

(Posted this comment on the wrong blog entry. Let's try this again.)

Banks: I like your opening! And that's a hell of an opening for "The Windflower." I haven't read that, but now I probably will.

Tiffinac: I agree with TrishMi that the words "pack" and "alpha" are going to get the werewolf concept across to anyone who is familiar with paranormals. Or wolves. ;)
I also liked TrishMi's suggestion as to the three things he's getting away from.

TrishMo: "There was something wrong with his mouth." That's one grabby hook! The only reason I probably wouldn't use it is that if I read a first line like that, I would assume it was the opening to a scene where someone has been beaten really badly, and that would turn off a delicate plant like myself. Interesting bias, huh?
LOL on the potential ostrich openings. My vote goes to #2!

Theresa: Good suggestion, too. Thanks to both you and TrishMo for the good ideas!

Anna Campbell: Good to see you here!

Doglady: That's a pretty riveting opening! I thought it might be humorous. Now that I know it is, I would only suggest the smallest of tweaks.

“After only eighteen years on earth, Adelaide Formsby-Smythe feared she was going to die for asking the wrong question. To be more precise, for asking a man the wrong question.

"Are we lost?"


TrishMo/Tiffinac: You missed one clause/phrase, TrishMo. "as he walked". And I agree, it slows things down.

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Esri, I do like that one small tweak you made to Doglady's already great opening. Wonderful!

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

banks, thanks so much for the vote! :) I also like your opening lines and would keep them separate. Separating them gives them this good, dramatic pause.

Trish Mo, LOL on the ostrich egg examples!

 
At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Kristin said...

Trish, we met at the M&M conference a few weeks ago (With Missy and Belinda) Glad to have found you. I do love your examples. I'm entering TWO manuscripts so I'll post BOTH oepnings...

(Here Comes The Wedding Planner)
The past is like a revolving door and if you’re not careful it’ll come back and whop you in the backside. Hard. Like mine just did.

(Break A Leg)
I died today. Deliberately plowed down in the middle of the street by the proverbial black, unmarked car. My funeral will be mobbed by the movers and shakers of the fashion world on three continents. And the inquiry into my death will bring about a national manhunt for my killer and spark at least a half a season’s worth of ‘who dunnit?’ episodes.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

kristen,
I'll nudge the posse to come peek at your first lines. we have a tendency to think day-to-day.

I, personally, think they are very intriguing. I would not change them at all. I'm not sure how one can beat "I died today"

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Kristen, I couldn't agree more with Diane. Those are fabulous openings!

 
At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Kristin Wallace said...

Thanks Diane and Nora. I know I'm late coming to the party. lol Your link was on another loop, but I had missed the post until today.

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Hi, Kristin! Sorry I didn't see your comments until now. Thanks, Diane, for the nudge. :)

I have to agree with Diane and Norah -- these are really fabulous first lines. I can definitely see why you were a Maggie finalist. Both openings are very catchy, and I tend to really like first-person since it really puts you in the protagonist's head.

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Kristin, I LOVE your openings. Don't change a thing:-)

And congrats on your Maggie final!

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I agree, Kristin. Great openings. And great to see you here!

 

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