Thursday, August 28, 2008

Killer openings

A trip to the library earlier today revealed a surprising fact to me. I am currently working on a book about the writing craft so I needed some good opening lines to include on my chapter about getting started on your masterpiece.

We all know the importance of a good opening hook that will pull readers in. I didn't want to use the easily recognizeable openers that you can find anywhere online. Like the one from Rebecca, one of my favorite books. Or Gone With the Wind. Or even To Kill a Mockingbird. I wanted killer openings from modern day writers to illustrate what readers are looking for.

What amazed me was the difficulty I had in finding them. I tried to play fair. I peeked inside espionage thrillers and medical mysteries, romances and cozy mysteries, and even books which the genre was hard to determine by looking at the cover. I must've looked through 50, and wrote down 4 good openings.

I realize captivating openings are subjective. Perhaps Rebecca wasn't your cup of tea. Maybe you never saw the big deal in Pride and Prejudice. But I think I can recognize an opening that draws the reader in, even if it isn't necessarily my type of book. Maybe I'm too tough of a critic. Maybe my taste doesn't reflect the majority of readers.

I did find a few gems and I found a few more, that while the opening wasn't electrifying, the storylines appealed to me and I checked them out.

So here's my question. How's your opening? If a cynical, over-worked writer were to pluck your book off a shelf somewhere in the world in search of an opening line to illustrate to a classroom of students about creating magical beginnings, would yours cut the mustard or go back on the shelf?

Take another peek at your book's opening. Does it draw the reader in? Does it promise a story worth the next three days it will take to read? Or is it just so-so? You only have one chance to make a first impression. That window will only open a crack before some cranky editor slams it shut.

Make your opening shine and make my job easier the next time I go to the library in search of killer openings.

No comments:

Post a Comment