Thursday, June 27, 2013


You only get one chance to hook the reader who has 300 books on his/her Kindle. The first line, first paragraph, first page, first chapter must in effect "sell your story." FAST. Does anyone really care that your story is amazing in chapters two and three if they can't get through chapter one?

 I know how important that first chapter is, so  I utilize a first reader before proceeding with the story. I like a cold read from someone who is a voracious reader, and who is not afraid to give me honest feedback. With my current project I was fortunate that Villager Vince Mooney agreed to read for me, and with his feedback in hand and my notes, I'm ready to dig deep and review hooking the reader.

The First Line Hook

It doesn't get any simpler than this. One line dialogue hooks do the job. They YANK you into the story.

What else do these one liners do?

  • Immediately set the tone.  
  • They put  the reader in the story
  • They ask an unspoken question that can be answered by reading further.
  • They intrigue the reader.

“If there was one thing Josie Miller knew, it was the smell of a rich man. And whoever had just walked into the diner smelled like Fort Knox.” -Her Unlikely Family, Missy Tippens.

“At precisely one o’clock on a sunny September Saturday afternoon, Megan McGuire spied a pirate.” –Dreaming of Home, Glynna Kaye.

“If Annabelle hadn’t found a body lying under “Sherman” she wouldn’t have been late for her appointment with the Python.”-Match Me If YouCan, Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in search of a wife.” -Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

"If you've killed her, Geoffrey, we will never hear the end of it from Lady Thornborough."- An Heiress at Heart, Jennifer Delamere.

 A BORN KILLER. MELVINA ELDORA SMITH KILLED THREE people before the age of one-her mother at birth, her father of a broken heart and her poor, poor Uncle Mutt outside a bar with a runaway buggy... An Ever After Summer (A Bride for All Seasons), Debra Clopton.


Another Method is the Opening Hook

A good opening hook consists of several paragraphs and does the same thing as the one liner:

  • Immediately sets the tone.  
  • Puts  the reader in the story
  • Asks an unspoken question that can be answered by reading further.
  • Intrigues the reader. 
AND it:
  • Establishes viewpoint
  • Introduces a protagonist
  • Makes the reader care
  • Begins to set the story stage
  • Foreshadows

" “The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Lucas Stone’s head around. 

“I’ll shoot if you so much as twitch.” The deputy’s badge gleamed in the dim lantern light of the stable, and his aim was true.

“What’s the problem here?” Luke straightened away from his horse, hands spread wide and raised slightly. He hoped this didn’t count as twitching; he didn’t want to give the deputy an excuse to flinch.” –Swept Away, Mary Connealy.

 "Kate Donovan entered the town of Redbud, Pennsylvania, for the first time driving a car packed with her seventy-six -year old grandmother, a comprehensive set of encyclopedias on American antiques, three sacks of nonperishable groceries, and enough pink luggage to give Mary Kay fits of jealously. It was the end of their three-day car trip from Dallas but only the beginning of their big adventure together." My Stubborn Heart, Becky Wade.

 "Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light that was was winter, through the caps and breaks in show-sheathed mountains toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany.

He wasn't nearly as prepared to die as he'd believed."-Northern Lights, Nora Roberts.

 "Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of a loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men. She looked into the handsome face of the man she'd planned on taking to her sister's wedding and thought, Those days are gone.

"This relationship is not working for me," David said.

I could shove this swizzle stick through his heart, Min thought. She wouldn't do it of course. The stick was plastic and not nearly pointed enough on the end. " Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie.

First Chapters: 

The goals of a first chapter include ALL of the ABOVE plus they:

  • Establish your story world
  • Introduce your hero and heroine and keep them together as much as possible
  • Show what's at stake
  • Prove you've got a fresh and exciting story about to unfold
  • Make the reader worry

Where to start the story?

Three techniques with examples. Each has their own opening hook.

1. Introduce the ordinary world very briefly and then the protagonist's life is about to change forever.


For Nathan Cross, no other word came close to describing the past year. Now all he wanted was to survive this wedding-a double wedding, no less! -then figure out what exactly God had planned for the next stage of his life." -A Horseman's Gift, Myra Johnson. 

"Julia Grace shielded her eyes against the sun as she stood on the bluff and stared south. Far in the distance, a train churned its way west across the plains, a ribbon of smoke trailing from its stack. As always, she wondered about the passengers onboard. What was their destination? Was someone waiting for them once they arrived, or were they all alone in the world? her.-Betrayal, Robin Lee Hatcher.

2.  Start at the exact moment the protagonist's life changes forever -at the inciting incident.

 "He stood hard and unyielding, one arm stretched across the entry as if to block Kayla's approach. Light spilled from the angled farmhouse, warming the mold-hashed porch with a splash of gold, backlighting his rugged frame." -Winter's End, Ruth Logan Herne.

Lily Beaumont gasped for air and fought her way through the dream that came too often. Her heart pounded a warning as she blinked open her eyes, allowing the dark outline of her bedroom to sweep into focus. She lifted her head off the pillow and anticipated the distant thunder before the sound reached her ears.- The General's Secretary, Debby Giusti.

3. Begin in media res- in the middle of the action ( the inciting incident happens before the story began).

 "Lost in the Alaskan wilderness.

Penelope Lear's great adventure was not supposed to end this way, with her standing on a shadowy path in the middle of nowhere. "-Thanksgiving Groom, Brenda Minton.

 "And finally," Jamie said as he pushed the door open, "we come to the main event. Your room."

I was braced for pink. Ruffles or quilting, or maybe even appliqué. Which was probably kind of unfair, but then again, I didn't know my sister anymore, much less her decorating style. With total strangers, it had always been my policy to expect the worst. Usually they-and those that knew you best, for that matter-did not disappoint." Lock and Key, Sarah Dessen.

Words of Wisdom from the experts:

Shelly Thacker, in her Hooks and Grabbers workshop says to use THE THREE Fs.

FAST  (keep the story moving forward)

Michael Hauge says the reader must identify with your hero. Establish empathy with two of these devices:

  • sympathy-the victim of undeserved misfortune
  • put the character in jeopardy
  • make your character likeable 
  • make your hero funny
  • make your character good at what they do 

Above all, live the story as you write it!  Get in their heads and stay there.


The best way to learn how to write great hooks and first chapters is to read great books. The examples I am sharing today were randomly grabbed from my Keeper Shelf (note these are ABA and CBA titles).

I encourage you to take a print copy of one of your keeper books (or a spare copy) and read it, making notes in the margin. Analyze how that author hooked you in.  It’s a given that you should be reading all the finalists (in your targeted sub-genre) of the RITA and the Carol Awards. Not only will you read a great story, but you’ll learn a lot about technique. 

Disclaimer: For every ‘rule’ presented today, there will be an author who does a spectacular job of breaking every one. 'Spectacular rule breaker' should be on all of  our To-Do lists.

So give me your best shot today-give me an example of a one liner or opening hook in your manuscript or in a book on your Keeper Shelf- to get your name in the jar for a first chapter critique and a copy of A Bride for All Seasons. Two separate winners. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Tina Radcliffe writes for Love Inspired. Her latest release is Mending the Doctor's Heart. You can visit her at


  1. Wow! Such great opening lines! I love Debra Clopton's from Bride For All Seasons! Can't wait to dig into that one.

    By the way, don't put me in the drawing, I picked it up last week and it's in my TBR pile. :-)

    Here's the opening paragraph from the book I'm currently reading:
    "Let innocence be your mask. Winter Reeves swished her ivory lace fan and gave Colonel Fairchild the same practiced smile she always did. She squelched the response that wanted to escape, forbade her eyes from so much as flashing. Perhaps her gaze wandered, but he would only think her bored. He thought her very easily bored."
    Ring of Secrets, Roseanna M. White

    Great story and has kept me hooked from that opening.

  2. Sorry, typos.

    About that spare copy, I do that with Ruthy's books.

    Are we doing opening lines? This is from the book I'm reading:

    "Always, there was music.
    It was music-- Puccini, to be precise-- that first dream my grandparents into each other's orbit, more than a hundred years ago."
    A Good American, Alex George

  3. Oh, I see. From our ms?

    My book 'Leaving Liberty' is coming out July 1st.

    First line: It was a perfect day for a funeral.

  4. From our books and others and both of those are great, Virginia.

    Love the Roseanna White one as well, Clari.

  5. Love this Tina!!!!!! I'm guilty of skimming the first few lines in a book when I'm strapped for money and my pile of hopeful purchases is too tall! I snap decision the ones that hook me in a couple of lines and they get carried to the cash desk. No worries though, I'll likely come back for the others (I don't want to hurt their feelings) even though they didn't make the first cut. :-)

    Most recent favourite opening from a recently read book:

    "Miss Arabella Beckett had always been proud of the fact she'd never ended up in jail. She could no longer make that claim."

    Set the tone for the whole book -- and what a great read! Oh and that's from A Most Peculiar Circumstance by Jen Turano.

    This is the first line from a ms I'm hoping to resurrect this summer, just as soon as I've fine tuned my speedbo ms.

    “I have worked too hard and come too far to be turned away by some postulating Neanderthal wannabe.”

    “Did you just call me a Neanderthal?”

    “If the loincloth fits…”

  6. i remember exactly one year ago today (date) It was a wednesday night around 9.30 I started Zero Visibility (a Love Inspired Suspense) the first line got me in. I could not put that book down and 2am I think I finished it I was so tired but could not stop. It was the last book I have read into the wee hours (not counting reading in the wee hours cos of jetlag). The next day thursday the 28th I ended up at the clinic and the next day the ambulance took me to hospital I cant believe it was a year ago.
    But that book I still remember how I felt so cold reading it (was set in the cold and it was freezing her) and I just could not stop it.

  7. What a great post!
    Those opening lines are spectacular.

    Here's my opening lines of Turquoise:

    Angry voices from inside her sister’s house stopped Katelyn Bradshaw from knocking on the screen door. The happy birthday song froze on her lips and she pulled her slender hand down. Why hadn’t she sent Sherry flowers instead of planning a surprise visit? She should have called first.

    I'd love to be entered in the contest. Thanks!

    Jackie L.

  8. Okay, I'm game because I REALLY want to read "Bride for All Seasons."
    Here's the opening line from the last CBA book I read (yesterday):
    "Danielle perched on the edge of the tub. She looked at her watch, then at the pregnancy test in her trembling hand. In two minutes, she'd know if she was going to have a baby." Who -- what woman, at least -- would not be hooked by that? Beth Wiseman, "His Love Endures Forever."
    First line from last ABA book I read (last week): "My father trusted me with the details of his death." Jodi Picoult, "The Storyteller."
    And here's one of mine, from the book I'm shopping around right now:
    "hy him, why here, why now?
    Her heart felt like it could pound its way out of her, from deep under the layers of her camisole, crisp white blouse and light wool jacket. The world slowed around her, the commotion from the street, the murmur of voices in the hotel lobby. She was only dimly aware of Wagon master Pace Williams’ blurted, “You know each other?”
    There was only him, Michael Moriarty, standing there bigger than life. But then he always had been."
    THAT one has been through several iterations with me, my critique partner and a couple of contests. It has been a journey. And that's only the first graf.
    Love to be entered in drawing!
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

  9. Um, that was supposed to be a "Why" in the first graf of my sample. Had blood taken yesterday from finger, hard to type.

  10. Oh --- can't resist sharing this hook of an opening line. Just started reading "Small Town Girl" by Ann H. Gabhart on the bus this morning. She hooked me with her very first sentence:

    "It wasn't a good thing to be in love with the man your sister was going to marry."

  11. Tina knows her beginnings. TINA, I reworked the first chapter of "Town" (remember you did the free critique) per your suggestions, and now I have Pace waiting for the freighters, he sees Oona for the first time, and then she pushes Michael into the water. The ironic thing is that WAS my original first chapter, but I had done it from Caroline's POV. Recognizing that Pace and Oona are the main characters of "Town," I moved it back to the front and put it in Pace's POV. Still need to tweak it to make it interesting, but that's where we are now. Thank you Tina.

  12. KAV, that hook hooked me! I'm going to look for a copy of "Small Town Girl."

  13. Need lots of help with this. And because of that I'm going to cheat and quote my favorite opening line from someone else's book. "A bullet slammed through the door of the stagecoach threading a needle to miss all four passengers." That's from 'Over the Edge' by Mary Connealy. Sigh... Wish I could read those Kincaid brides books again for the first time - and wish I could write an opening line like that. Thank you Tina! SO needed this post. It will be in my keeper file.

  14. He was old.
    That fact was absolutely clear as he watched the auditorium fill with fresh-faced college students.
    A few of the faculty smattered the crowd, and he recognized some of the instructors from his own years at the university. They were still here, still teaching. Their tenured presence made him appreciate that he moved beyond the stodginess of a professor’s life.
    Then, like an arrow straight through his heart, he saw her.

  15. What fun to read all these opening paragraphs!

    Here's the opening from my current manuscript, Her Redeeming Grace. This one breaks all the rules - I introduce twelve characters in the first chapter - but it's doing well in contests :)

    “She’s old. Dat said so.”

    “Ja. Old and mean.”

    “Old and mean, and she has a big nose.”

    Levi Zook gave his four younger boys a meaningful glare before David could add to the list. “We don’t know what she looks like, but she sounded nice enough in her letters.”

  16. I love to read first lines! And I usually for forever on them, tweaking and worrying about every word. The example shared in this post though was the exception. It's mostly the first draft that I jotted on a receipt out of my purse. Except for the Ft. Knox part which my cp Lindi suggested. :)

  17. Kav, I love that line by Ann Gabhart!

  18. hahahaha!!! Kav, I love it. Have I read this msc? I think I have!

  19. BTW, I'm still laughing about that opening line from Bet Me (Crusie). LOLOL! I love it.

  20. Well done, Jackie! You have us asking questions!

    That means we turn the page.

    My only comment would be to consider cutting "slender". We are in her pov and she wouldn't think of her hands as slender.

  21. Oh Small Town Girl is so on my wish list, Kathy!!!

  22. OOPS Sorry, Kav mentioned Ann H Gabhart. Don't you love the cover of that book as well?

  23. Glad it helped, Kathy! Love your hero@!!!

  24. Mary Connealy always starts her books right in the middle of the action. She is the pro at that.

    So if you want to see how it's done, pick up one of her books.

  25. Wow, Boy 7 (and his mom) that is powerful.

    Where is it from?????

  26. You guys always have the best information here. No wonder you were on that Writer's Digest list of best websites.

    Here's the opening line of the first book I wrote:

    Your sperm canister will be shipped and…


  27. LOL, okay, you got me on that one Marilyn.

    Mary told us all about sperm cannisters.

  28. Okay, here's mine from my current manuscript.

    Headmistress Whitacre warned that one day a lack of dedication to Drawing class would be her demise. Who knew there’d be truth in that hyperbole.

  29. See! That's what I'm talking about. How can you NOT read on??? Love it,Gina.

  30. Love to be put into the contest. Okay, I mostly write MG and PBs for children. But I have written a novella very loosely based on my grandparents life. The beginning is this:

    I glanced at the rabbit’s foot hanging around my neck. My little brother, Robert, had given it to me this morning. “Take this,” he whispered, “It’ll protect you from witches.”
    I hesitated and then took it from his hand. But should I wear this on my wedding day?

    Great post, and I have enjoyed reading the openings.

  31. Great article TINA. Super examples of first lines.

    Okay, had to go look mine up.

    "Drop down and pretend to be dead.
    Yeah right. Samantha Reynolds took a tentative step backwards.

  32. Janet, I loved that beginning!! Loved it. So quirky!!

  33. Really makes you think, doesn't it Sandra. I had to go and look at mine too!!! LOL.

  34. Wow! I loved this post. It's definitely a keeper. As I get ready to fast draft my next story, I'm looking at the first line/paragraph/chapter must-haves. I loved the examples, and the tips for crafting great beginnings!

    Okay, here are a few first lines from books I've read recently:
    Rachel Hauck's Once Upon a Prince: "What did he say? The storm gusts moving over the Atlantic must have garbled his words. "I can't marry you?" (this last line in italics)."

    Susan May Warren's You Don't Know Me: "Days like today, Annalise Decker's happily ever after almost seemed unbreakable."

    Beth Vogt's Catch a Falling Star: "What exactly was she celebrating? The question haunted Kendall all day long. It was her birthday—she ought to be able to answer it."

    My first line that I'm working with is: This was life as Charis Brennan knew it, and she wouldn’t change anything. Okay, maybe a few things. But not her job. The Way of Life Pregnancy Center was her baby. If she couldn’t have one to cradle in her arms, she’d pour herself into women struggling with unplanned pregnancies."

    I'd love to be in the drawings, too. :)

    I'm running late today. Looking forward to stopping by later to read comments. :)

  35. Well done, Jeanne. All those books are in fact on my Amazon wish list or my TBR Kindle pile.

    Can't wait until yours is in my TBR pile!!!

  36. Great blog! These are fun..hmmm, my current WIP...

    If John Elder hadn't been so furious with his mutinous crew of cattle hands, he might have noticed the woman dangling above his head sooner.

    It's a bit of a rule-breaker since it implies an omnipotent view point. But I liked it and my editor didn't mind ;)

  37. Fun post, Tina, and thank you for including one of my books--I'm so honored!

    I have to agree with Missy about slaving over those first lines with every manuscript. Getting the opener just right was drummed into me in a Lauraine Snelling workshop at my first Mount Hermon conference several years ago. It isn't easy finding the one catchy word or sentence or bit of action to kick off the story, but it is definitely worth the effort!

    Here's a great opening line from a novel I just read by Gina Holmes, Dry as Rain:

    "When I first became a Christian, I read what Adam and Eve had done in the Garden of Eden and it really ticked me off."

  38. I LOVE IT. Spectacular rule breakers are our friends. And my personal goal.

    See and I wouldn't have even noticed that because I was HOOKED.

    That's the whole point. I mean seriously, many a time I have gobbled down a book as a reader. Then I go back as a writer and unfortunately feel the need to analyze.

    But my reader persona is trumped by the fact that I was ENTERTAINED.

    If the writer did her/his job. The rules do not matter.

  39. Talking to Sherri in my last comment.

  40. Love the Gina Holmes line. She's on my TBR too.

    Trying to make time each night before bed to read.

    Must not forsake our reading time. It's so valuable.

  41. Hubby and I read for a bit every night after we climb into bed. Right now I am laboring through Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. It's nearly 1000 pages!!!

    I will be ready for some MUCH lighter reading (both in size and tone) by the time I finish this thing.

    Here's the first line: "In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house."

    A line that doesn't begin to prepare the reader for the drama to come!!!

    And maybe that's the point.

  42. Wow ! What a great and useful blog Tina. And thanks for including my opening from An Ever After Summer/Bride for All Seasons. I often struggle and work on opening lines for days and then go back and work on them before I send the book in to the editor. That line was a gift lol it just came to me like a lightning bolt!

    Love the others you've posted too! Don't great lines inspire you and push you to produce better work yourself--it does me!

    I'll be using this post bunches!

  43. Tina!!! I love this post!!! Soooooo helpful and fun, talking about what needs to be in the first chapter of a book, what needs to be conveyed.

    I have two books going right now. One is a "Frog Prince" story. Here's the first few lines:
    Colin awoke to his own groaning. He turned to avoid the sunlight as the pain above his right eye spread to the back of his head.
    He had to get up. Had to start walking or he would surely die. And he couldn’t die. Justice must be exacted, and if he didn’t do it, no one would.

  44. Hi Tina:

    This is like a synopsis of the very best ideas for writing an opening line, first few pages, and first chapter all in one! I’ve already placed the whole thing in a Scrivener Project. Now I can pop it up any time I am writing.


    Below are a few of my choices with comments.

    ”The General’s Daughter”
    by Jan Davis Warren.

    Zing! A bullet burned a path across Mary Sheridan’s cheek before lodging into a cornmeal barrel at the opposite end of the covered wagon. An inch closer and the bullet would have struck the defiant two-year-old who stood leaning against the barrel hugging her rag baby and sucking her thumb.

    This puts the reader right into the middle of the action. The wagon train is under attack. Plus there's an adorable kid.

    ”The Light in the Window”
    by Julie Lessman

    I will not throw up … I will not throw up ...

    Eighteen-year-old Marceline Murphy set her overnight case on the O’Rourke’s wraparound porch and pressed a quivering finger to the brass doorbell, a battalion of butterflies barnstorming her stomach.

    This sets the stage for the whole book. Marceline is the main character. There are two heroes. Talk about a physical proxy! Does anyone not feel what this young girl is feeling? This opening will also delight the readers of the first six books in the series.

    “The Sweetest Gift”
    By Mary Connealy

    A spinster with a master's degree who is a world traveler, librarian by day and concert pianist by night, marries a Nebraska rancher with an eighth grade education. Their worlds are so far apart that each is afraid to admit their marriage of convenience is turning into a love match.

    This is the kind of opening that makes the reader think: OMG! This is going to be a great story! Just what I like! Sometimes you don’t have to shoot anyone to delight the reader.

    “The Bossy Bridegroom”
    By Mary Connealy

    Jeanie Davidson believed in miracles because she believed God loved her. And only a miracle could make anyone love her. Exhausted after her long day, she slipped into her favorite faded blue jeans and her pink T-shirt with the buffalo on the front. The shirt made her feel close to her daughter.

    What a powerful way to make the reader care about the heroine. This heroine had me as hooked as any Betty Neels heroines – and it did it quicker. It also said loud and clear “This is a Christan book.”

    Now for me! : )

    “Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer”

    by Vince Mooney

    It wasn’t the best day to eaten by a bear. So when Diana Hunter opened the front door of the secluded mountain cabin, she wasn’t exactly pleased to go ‘eye-to-eye’ with a five hundred pound black bear.
    The shock hit before the fear.
    Frozen in time.
    Diana could smell the bear’s breath. It wasn’t pretty. The fur smelled wet and musky.
    “I might be dead in a few seconds.

    This one is getting ready for the contest tour.

    The Last Romantic
    by Vince Mooney

    In sixty seconds a burst of bullets was going to crash through the student union’s windows and scatter dozens of scholars in all directions.

    “All stories end in death.”
    “Hemingway said that, didn’t he?”
    “Hemingway said it first but Margaret Atwood said it later and she even wrote short story expressing this same sentiment.”
    “You mean her, ‘Happy Endings’?”
    “But wouldn’t you say that Atwood is not exactly in the same league as Hemingway?”
    “No, but Atwood is politically correct and Papa wasn’t.”
    “So greatness today depends on being politically correct?”
    “As far as getting recognition from academia is concerned, it does.”


    The windows exploded into a sea of shinning slivers.

    “Jack! That’s an AK-47!”

    This is my most normal book about thirty year old military buddies now civilians and going to college and having a ball at UC Santa Barbara.

    That’s it. Remember – delight the reader and your readers will always be a delight to you.


  45. Baby sleeping, just got over here...

    Oh, I do not think I have ever read or seen a better or more comprehensive lesson on writing that first line, the first chapter, the first book.


    "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens.”

    Raised in the pews of a sweet country church, New York State Trooper Zach Harrison embraced the poetic lines of Ecclesiastes one hundred percent.

    But it couldn’t and shouldn’t apply to constantly crowing roosters.

  46. Yes, Debra. Reading great stuff really makes me want to dig deep.

    I have been guilty of not making time for reading and am rectifying that because it does inspire me.

    And make me want to really sharpen and hone my craft.

  47. Ooh, Melly, that opening sounds INTRIGUING!!!

  48. Oops, sorry, toddler helper... that's the opening line from "Falling for the Lawman", releasing August 20th...

    It is a truth universally understood that at some point Ruthy (me) had to write a story protecting the rights of CROWING ROOSTERS!!!

    I have done so with this book, and am laughing about it!

  49. delight the reader and your readers will always be a delight to you.

    Well said, Vince. Excellent examples!!!!

  50. Ruthy! Nice peek at your September release!!

  51. Kav, I love that, LOL!

    Oh, I wish I could use a zinger like that....


  52. These are all great hooks. As a reader, I have to read several pages before I know if I like the characters and writer's style, but a good hook helps.

    Of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of books I've read, I only remember one. "Christmas won't be Christmas without presents." Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. As a ten-year-old, I identified with Jo March forever after that line.

    A more recent book from my library. "After two years, they'd finally cut him loose." Karen Witemeyer, To Win Her Heart. So simple, so profound.

    Please put me in the drawing.

  53. I think I've been Jackie's heroine more than once in my life....

    Wishing I'd picked up the phone or placed an order online.

    Jackie, you won me...

  54. Jan Drexler. How did I miss your opening?

    I'll say you're doing well in contests! Double TARA final.

  55. Tina, thanks for the tips on hooking the reader and all the terrific examples of opening lines! Fun to read the great examples from those commenting.

    I struggled to find a strong opening line for The Bride Wore Spurs. Ended up with:

    The wrong man showed up to collect Hannah Parrish at the train station. And he was late.


  56. LOVE that Janet!!!

    LOL. It really is your voice as well.

    With all of these openings the author's voice rings out loud and clear and you really can see how they set the tone for the book.

  57. And here's my other WIP's opening paragraph. It's a Regency:

    Leorah Gilchrist scanned the crowded ballroom for someone with whom she could converse. Several familiar faces were visible around the room, but none of them appealed to her for substantive conversation. Would this be the night she would actually die of tedium, triviality and hypocrisy?

  58. But I don't think either of mine are as good as those you included in this post!!! Those are some great openings. And I agree with Ruthy. This is the most comprehensive and just plain GREAT post I've ever seen on the subject. Loved it!!!

  59. I love the talent here. This was a great post and the comments were just as good. Please forgive me as I'm having a very embittered day wondering why I still put myself through this writing thing. I know I'm supposed to just write and learn and contest and query and trust God with the rest. I KNOW that. And yet I still feel like hurling that plush Egyptian combed cotton towel in the river like it was an engagement ring from a cheating fiance.

  60. LOL, Melly, I laughed at the opening you shared.

    I agree, this research has really made me rethink openings.

    That's a good thing.

  61. That was a good opening hook, Nancy Kimball.

    And here is the reality..once you sell. And you will. Soon. You're going to have even more of those days.

    So throw the towel in the river.

    Then go whine.

    Then go and get the towel and get back to work.

  62. PS. I know you didn't mean it as an opening hook, but see..even when you are commenting you are a great writer.

    I really SAW that scene. :)

  63. Nancy, I know how you feel!!! Believe me!!! Pray about it. Throw a fit to God and let him encourage you. Read some Bible verses, especially the Psalms, and realize that God has a purpose for you. Your purpose and his plan for you is special, and he is letting you go through the refining fire of trying to get published because he knows you can do it and you can learn a lot from it! DON'T GIVE UP.

  64. Thanks, Tina. I know that too. I almost choked several weeks ago when I read an e-mail from an author I have admired over a decade with millions of copies of books all over the world shared a similar feeling.

    This was in the opening paragraphs of To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander and when I laughed out loud, I thought, that's how you do an opening.

    She knew it was wrong, what she was feeling. Because a widow of only a week shouldn't wish to dance a jig. But God help her, that's precisely what part of her wanted to do. Not on the grave of her recently deceased husband, of course--that would be considered rude. Just off to the side would suffice.

    Isn't that awesome?

  65. Thanks, Melanie. I appreciate that. I know pouting and lamenting is all very unbecoming (and I'll be in big trouble with Ruthy if she sees.)

  66. It's okay, Nancy. We all do it (at least I do!) from time to time. We're only human, after all. (Most of us. Not sure about Ruthy. LOL!!!) Just kidding, Ruthy!!!

  67. Thank you SO much! I'm revising my story right now and I have been concerned about my opening line, but this helped me immensely! I would LOVE to be entered to win A BRIDE FOR ALL SEASONS!
    historicalchristianreview at gmail dot com
    God bless all you wonderful Seekers! Love you!

  68. THAT IS AN AWESOME HOOK!!!! Love it, Nancy!!

  69. I've been waiting all week for this blog, Tina! It was well worth the wait!
    Here is my opening scene.

    "Two more minutes and I'm going after them." Harper tried to keep her mind on sitting the table for their group of twelve. Mary Alice was trying to appear unconcerned, as she whisked the pancake batter, but she too was watching the path behind the orphanage when the kitchen went dark as dusk. The sun's shadow moving toward the tree line.

    Here is a good one from Lisa Jordan's Lakeside Reunion
    Any moment now, Lindsey could put the car in Drive, touch the gas pedal, drive past the green-etched Welcome to Shelby Lake sign and return to her past. Another hundred feet and she would be back.

    I can see her in the car on the side of the road trying to muster up the courage to go back to her hometown.

  70. Jeepers, Amber, thank you for the effusive nice stuff.

  71. Well done, Donna!!! And I've been waiting to read your manuscript.

    YOU ARE KILLING ME!!! hehehe

  72. From my current WIP:
    This is the opening to the prologue that introduces the ordinary world briefly because the hero's life is about to change forever. (He's going to lose his entire family in an auto accident.)

    Seth Collier slid his debit card back in his wallet. This had turned into an expensive bathroom break for the kids. After a cash-gobbling week of hotels, theme parks and painfully priced souvenirs, he wanted to get back on the road. Amy would want to stop overnight in Mobile again but he wanted to push on straight through to Dallas. He’d tell her why once they were home.

    This is from Chapter 1, same method, introducing the everyday life because the heroine's life is about to change forever, when she meets the hero.

    So now what? Anna Johnson held the lug nut wrench in one hand and the handle of her black umbrella in the other. Another check of the time on her dinosaur of a cell phone made her want to call roadside assistance back and ask if the arrival time they’d given her was for this time zone. She’d already wrangled the miniature spare and the jack from the trunk, both waiting patiently on the wet concrete at her feet. Uncle Haskell, however, would be anything but patient, and she was supposed to clock in six minutes from now.

    So help me fix them. Seriously, I appreciated the encouragement, it was needed, but I'm not looking for ego stroke. I need help. Because I'm kind of sick of writing manuscripts that win a plethora of awards and then don't get contracted. I have got to keep working hard to move from great writer to crafter of commercially-viable fiction.

  73. This is Ruthy in love with Melly's opening line....

    I may steal it.


  74. Nice hooks, Nancy.

    Nancy, I was in your spot exactly. Three million contest wins and finals only looks good to my mother.

    I hired a professional editor to take me to the next level. Well worth the money. It was not cheap.

    You need to hire a professional. That means a former editor or agent. Or an award winning multi published author.

  75. Oh, I love, Love, LOVE this post, Teenster because heave knows how much I love, Love, LOVE first lines and hooks!!!

    If authors reallllllly realized just how important that first line or paragraph was, they would take it WAY more seriously!! Not just to editors and agents, mind you, but to readers like me who will not only judge a book by its cover, but by its first line. That is just plain reality. It's like a first date -- you want your hair and makeup to be perfect and your outfit wrinkle/dandruff free as well as your nostrils clear and teeth food-free. Because that first split-second impression could be the difference between your book staying on the shelf or going home with somebody looking to snuggle in with a really great read. :)


  76. Thanks, Tina. That's the reason I'm skipping Indy this year. Really want to go, but want to put that $1,200 to use doing exactly what you said. The hard part is deciding which MS.
    I'm hearing from sources I trust that historical fiction is "full up" and even the what we're looking for on the agent and editor tabs of the conference website support that. So I'm focusing on my contemporaries. The second is out in its first contest right now (THANKS TO YOU, TEENSTER) so that's going to help me know more soon.


    You just described in one Egyptian towel-throwing sentence what's missing in the two intros you gave us...

    The humor and immediacy.

    So, okay, not much humor in KILLING THE FAMILY, but I probably wouldn't do a prologue with it because that's a huge downer to start on...

    I'd put him in a somewhat empathetic and humorous setting that for a little while makes him forget the horror of his last two years (or however long it is....)

    While a contest judge might say okay to the prologue, an editor might visualize the readers setting the book back on the shelves and grabbing a different one because they wanted something lighter than a car crash opening...

    Said with the utmost love and respect, my dear girl!!! :)

    Remember that's one person's opinion!!!!

    And the second one, the same thing... Get rid of the introduction-type feeling and have the hero show up... or have her confront her uncle... have dynamite explode... have eyes meet across the hood of the car... have the car start rolling downhill and the hero stops it with his brand new Dodge Charger muscle car he's been saving for half his life...

    And he wrecked it to save something down the hill because your car was about to wipe out three old ladies out for their late-day constitutional.

    I do exactly the same thing you're doing there... and then I chop out that chapter or half a chapter and begin in the action.

    All those explanations can drizzle in like Danish swirl frosting... bit by bit.

    Don't Hate Me.


  78. Oh, you wanted fixes. I was hesitant to fix a second year in a row Genesis finalist's work.

    Ruthy is of course, spot on.

  79. I don't hate you, Ruthy.
    I went with a prologue because at the opening of the story (hero and heroine meet), my hero is homeless. He's sick, roughed up, needs a shave, shower and clean clothes.
    And I knew the only way I could sell the reader on the incredible man he is under all that was to show it in the prologue. The reader falls in love with him in the exchange with his wife and kids over getting a horse.
    So the easy answer is just make my hero not homeless right? But that wrecks my whole plot and take the heart and soul out of the story.

  80. Thank you, Tina. It wasn't even the same MS. 2012 was Chasing the Lion. The short version after everyone requested partials and fulls was too long, unpopular time period. I can't tell you the title of 2013 yet but Ruthy, it's "that" one with the blind girl. And it's long and in the same time period... so... yeah.

    But at least I think it's no longer in dispute if I can write. Except in my own head.

  81. In Person of Interest the series starts with the hero homeless.

    But through his actions we see that this is not an ordinary homeless man. We see that he is a hero.

    That's what you have to do. Show us his character. Not tell us.

    Then weave the incidents in. Let him see something that flashes him back to the accident to impart the backstory.

    The pilot is available on Amazon for $1.99

  82. Ruthy, I know this. We talked about it before. Thank you for not giving up on me. I'm great at taking direction. I strive to be teachable. I really do.

  83. Tina, THANK YOU. I'm downloading it tonight.

    I've been talking over with the crit partners and a few non-author friends about dumping the existing opening and prologue for a new scene that:

    Heroine accidentally throws her wallet away along with the junk mail from her car at the gas station while filling up. Late for work. It's a problem.

    Hero later finds wallet as he's rifling through trash can for aluminum cans. Hero is sorely tempted but does the honorable thing and finds a way to return it. That's when they meet.

    Is this better structure that more closely bundles my objectives?

  84. This was a great post, Tina! Full of excellent advice. I'm honored to be among your examples!

    It's been fun reading all the opening lines in these comments. Here is one of my favorite opening lines. It is from Laura Kinsale's "Lessons in French":
    Lady Callista Taillefaire was a gifted wallflower.

    As for opening paragraphs, I LOVE this from "The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek" by Jane Myers Perrine:

    On a blazing-hot June afternoon in the middle of a clogged US 183 in Austin, Texas, Adam Jordan clenched his hands on the steering wheel of the stalled car and considered the situation. As a newly ordained minister, he probably should pray, but he felt certain the drivers of the vehicles backed up behind him would prefer him to do something less spiritual.

    It totally sets the tone for the whimsical humor that runs throughout the book.

    And since you asked about WIPs, here's the opening line for my next book, "A Lady Most Lovely":

    “Aren’t you the man who rode a horse twenty miles to shore after a shipwreck?”

  85. Opening of my current work:

    "You awake?" Even in a whisper, his voice rumbled.

    My favorite opening from a book was,
    "Oh good heavens! They're auctioning men." The whole first chapter was good.

    I love Kay Hooper openings.

    A lot of talented writers on this blog. Please enter me for the book.

  86. Yes. Nancy!! You are showing he is a hero.

  87. Jennifer Delamere, what an honor to have another 2013 RITA finalist with us.

    Your book sounds wonderful.

    As does your next one.

    I love Jane Perrine's quirky sense of humor!!!!!

  88. Connie Queen!!!

    I love Kay Hooper books.

    Okay, you have to tell me what book this line is from. YOU MUST.

    Oh good heavens! They're auctioning men." The whole first chapter was good.

  89. My TBR pile is growing by leaps and bounds with all these first lines/paragraphs!

    Where's Helen with that coffee? I'm going to need it! lol

  90. Seriously, Pam. You are right. I have been officially, hooked. I gave examples randomly from my Keeper Shelf but the example provided are going to put me over the top.

  91. Ooh, what a lovely treat to come back and read all these openings after wrestling a dresser back into place in the closet (don't ask).

    Kav! I laughed at loud at your opening. Loved that zinger and am still giggling.

    Nancy, I'm sending hugs your direction and prayers to the Lord for your encouragement! Every time I read something you've posted (the-throwing-in-the-towel example is SO funny/potent/descriptive, etc.) I am in awe of your innate writing ability. I have no doubt God has great things in store for you.

  92. really nifty post. i love seeing all the opening lines/scenes from the Seeker ladies and other books. a wealth of information and learning for gleaning. (yay)

    as for an opening line (to be in the draw for crit or book - either please...), here's the one for a YA paranormal novella i'm sort of working on:

    I always thought my Mom was a certifiable nut case, right up until the moment some dude threw a fireball from his hands and turned her into la femme flambé.

  93. LOL,Deb H. I didn't know you write YA paranormal. How cool is that?

  94. Thanks, Clari. Of the awesome shoes. =)

  95. Tina, this is what I need! Help, please!!!

    Not being a humorous person, my writing will not be funny, but I would like it to have emotional impact.

    Here is the opening of my WIP:

    Even now, Kira Harmon missed her mother. Carefully opening the book and taking out the note written on vellum paper, her eyes stung looking at the distinctive handwriting decorating the stationary.
    Why does Mom’s handwriting still bring tears to my eyes?


    I'm considering opening with a scene when the heroine stumbles, colliding with the hero.

    I am grateful for any and all help!!!

    GREAT POST! Thank you, Tina!

  96. You're welcome, Nancy.

    Okay, here's the opening lines from the WIP I'm currently polishing.

    "Lady, you gonna get aboard my coach or not?"
    Charley jerked, her startled gaze flicking from the mud-splattered stagecoach to the owner of the gruff voice. The one leveling an impatient scowl her way as his gloved hands ran over the harness straps on a muscular horse at the back of the team.

  97. I love your first line, Clari.

    The confusion comes in with the second and third. Is this the hero? Make it clear if he is. If not then make less of it.

    The term masculine should be used toward the hero not the horse at the hooking point.

  98. Tina, had to go find the book.

    Actually, I misquoted. It should've read, "Good heavens, they're raffling off men."

    Book is The Bachelor by Kate Bridges by Harlequin Western Historical in 2005.

    The opening has always stuck w/me. Definitely grabbed me.

  99. Sherida, I've asked Ruthy to look at your opening since it will be a cold read for her.

  100. “Freeze!” Her voice shook almost as badly as the Sig Sauer in her hand.

    From my work in progress A Stranger in the Family.

    My heroine is a rookie FBI agent, facing down her Navy SEAL brother-in-law after he murdered (hmmm...or not) her sister.

  101. For a sweeter story there's my current book... One Night in Reno.

    "Come on, come on,..." Jenny Albright coaxed the old Ford Fairlane off the road and coasted to the nearest pump at the Fernley 76 off US Alternate 50.

  102. Good Heavens, Connie -- I like that opening!

  103. Great post!
    Saving this one in my 'read every day' file as a warm up before settling down to write.

  104. Sherida...

    Dagnabbit, just talking about missing mothers makes me get teary-eyed because there are still... almost twenty years later... things that make me realize my mother would have loved to be part of...

    Hang on... tissues needed... Maybe a little sigh and a smile... Okay, back to this opening.

    You don't have to do humor to make this opening sing. You have to evoke emotion, gut-filled, throat closing, something others will recognize as their own physical reaction. Doing that puts instant empathy between you, your character and the reader.

    You can go from a "Push Away For Safety" standpoint and do something like this showing the daughter's emotion by avoidance and distancing herself...

    Anything but vellum.

    The fibrous look. The touch, so regal, distinct, the way her thumb pads reacted to the thickness beneath her fingers.

    Kira Harmon refused to glance left or right as she squeezed by two scrap-booking queens on a mission for wedding invites. She wouldn't look, wouldn't pause, refusing to picture her mother's gracious script on the parchment-like page.

    She'd do it because she had no other choice, not now. And not then. Maybe she never did.


    (and remember I'm not sure what kind of story this is)...

    You can do your set up in an action-packed moment of the story's opening...

    I know, I know, we love SET-UPS!!! Only these days editors don't love set-ups so we get like SIX SENTENCES to engage them...

    Really, they've said that at conference. And a crying woman isn't going to engage them, but a woman FIGHTING EMOTION could...

    And that's the subtle difference these days.

    So what kind of action opens this book? Even if it's chapter two right now, or chapter three? Where does your pulse pick up?

    Because that's where I'd start this... her emotion should bleed through the entire book in small, poignant doses, but you want to engage the reader into the heroine's corner ASAP...

    And that editor's!

    Ruthy caveat: Don't Hate Me!

  105. Oh, that's from One Night In Reno, Rogenna. I have that book. And read it and loved it. LOL.

  106. Thanks, Tina. ☺ The man speaking is the hero. Guess it's time to put away the polish and grab the Windex. (scurries back to the drawing board, spray bottle and drying cloth in hand, to clear up confusion) :D

  107. TINA, I love my hero too. Pace has been to hell and back BEFORE his inciting incident, but he still keeps an essential core of goodness. All he lacks is God.

  108. How fun to read all the examples here! As has been mentioned, my TBR list is growing. Like it needs to. :)

    Okay, since others are asking, can I ask for suggestions to make my first line/parag a little stronger too? I posted it above, but I'll post it here too. :)

    "This was life as Charis Brennan knew it, and she wouldn’t change anything. Okay, maybe a few things. But not her job. The Way of Life Pregnancy Center was her baby. If she couldn’t have one to cradle in her arms, she’d pour herself into women struggling with unplanned pregnancies."

    NANCY—for the record, you are such an encouragement to me and to others. God has given YOU stories He wants YOU to write. No one else can write them. And personally, I look forward to reading your books one day. Don't listen to those questions in your head whether or not you can write. You. Can. Jus' sayin'.

  109. Thanks Tina,
    Great rules of thumb and examples for hooking the reader. I love when examples are given. It makes everything so much clearer. Here's my first lines appearing right under Chapter 1:

    Oh God, please don’t let him be dead. I grabbed my cell phone and called 911.

    “Hello, my name is Grace Grayson. I think my husband had a heart attack. We’re at 12446 North Central Blvd. Don’t ring the doorbell. I won’t be able to open the door. Use the key under the door mat. Please hurry.”

    This is a story about a 50 something woman who experiences her second coming of age after her husband dies of a heart attach.

  110. Hi Nicholas who reminded me I need to share my bio since I went to the trouble of writing the blog! LOL.

    Nicholas is also the coordinator for the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest.

    Delighted to have you.

    Okay, my honest opinion.

    Start after the inciting incident.

    Think about it.

  111. THANK YOU, Ruthy!

    "And a crying woman isn't going to engage them, but a woman FIGHTING EMOTION could..." I believe I GET it! I'll keep working and learning. I want to "evoke emotion."

    Never would I be upset with the help Seekerville gives us! You all are amazing with the HONEST advice you give.

    Thanks, Ruthy and Tina! All the openings mentioned are such perfect examples. I need more time to READ.

  112. Thank you, Jeanne T. I'm mulling all this over. A new opening hook is taking shape. It involves the last time my heroine had a date a Bush as win office, there's a pile of junk mail in the passenger seat where a husband should be, and she'd be more open to online dating if she'd never seen Catfish. But clearly I'm still working on it. =)

  113. Great post and great advice all day! Tina and Ruthy rock!

    I usually open my books with some snippet of conversation, but I must say, all these great examples have me re-evaluating them all!!

    I must say I agree with not opening with ... dare I say ... death? As a reader, I wouldn't buy it. Give me a widower, months or years after the fact, and no problem. But right when the tragedy occurs, nope... Just like I will never voluntarily go to a movie when I know someone dies. Ain't gonna happen.

    But that's only one person. There are lots of others out there! LOL.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  114. Before I read comments, I must share some favorite opening lines:

    When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. -- To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). I wanted to know how he broke his arm and what it had to do with anything in the rest of the book, much less killing a mockingbird :-)

    I didn't wear my gun. They had said that it was going to be easy and, like the fool I am, I believed them. -- Kindness Goes Unpunished (Craig Johnson) How could I not keep reading?

    Looking forward to reading everyone's first lines.

    Nancy C

  115. It's okay, Susan. Lots of people don't. I'm just not one of them. Which is part of the problem. And part of why I'm in LOVE with Cliff Graham's work, haha.

  116. Okay, I've been scrubbing and rearranging, and I would love to have some feedback on this slightly-longer opening.

    “Lady, you gonna git aboard my coach or not?”

    The barked statement jerked Charley out of her worried scrutiny of the mud-splattered stagecoach. Her startled gaze flicked in the direction of the brusque, low-pitched voice.

    She blinked. Yesterday’s driver had been a smiling, wizened old man with more whiskers than teeth. The man leveling an impatient scowl at her from beneath the brim of his beat-up Stetson right now, however, was no more wizened than a full-grown oak tree. And the way his stony eyes regarded her--if his tidy beard did part to show her his teeth, it wouldn't be in the form of a smile.

  117. Terrific opening lines, Tina. Thanks for guidance on crafting them. Enjoyed reading all the others.

    Here's an opening para from Tamara Alexander's Rekindled that grabbed me.

    Dec. 24, 1867
    Larson Jennings peered inside the frosted window of the snow-drifted cabin. Sheet and snow pelted his face, but he was oblivious to winter's biting chill. A slow-burning heat started in his belly and his hot breath fogged the icy pane as he watched the two of them together.

    What do you think?

  118. Craig Johnson. Nancy, Connally, isn't he the guy who wrote the Longmire Series.


  119. ooh, yeah, something is going to happen, Pat Jeanne. Great opening.

  120. Her startled gaze flicked in the direction of the brusque, low-pitched voice.

    I don't think you need this. You did such a nice job with the opening sentence. I already heard his impatience. And her blink tells us she is startled.

    So in effect you nicely show us then you tell us too.

  121. The man leveling an impatient scowl at her from beneath the brim of his beat-up Stetson right now, however, was no more wizened than a full-grown oak tree. And the way his stony eyes regarded her--if his tidy beard did part to show her his teeth, it wouldn't be in the form of a smile.

    This can be tightened too. Right now it's too much work for the reader.

    The man leveled a scowl at her from beneath the brim of his beat-up Stetson. His stony eyes regarded her--but he wasn't smiling.

  122. Thank you, Tina. Having an experienced pair of eyes to give instant feedback is pretty cool. :-)

  123. Well remember,it's from the FWIW (For what it's worth) Department.

    Sleep on it.

  124. Wow, lots and lots of good openers! Such talent!

    Since others have shared their opening lines, here are mine from my Speedbo novella:


    Uncle Bill had bequeathed her a coffin shop? In Cluck, Texas?

    Who was Uncle Bill?

    And where was Cluck?


    I don't like the lack of cadence in the last sentence - when I read it aloud I want to add five or six words between "where" and "was" without slowing the pace. Any suggestions appreciated :-)

    Nancy C


  125. Uncle Bill had bequeathed her a coffin shop? In Cluck, Texas?

    Who was Uncle Bill?

    And where was Cluck?

    I agree, I want to add

    And where the heck was Cluck?

  126. NOW THAT's INTRIGUING, NANCY!! Love it.

  127. Thanks, Tina.
    It's coming together slowly.

  128. LOL!

    That's what I get for commenting so late at night...

    The Alex George quote should be 'that first BROUGHT'.

    Not that anybody noticed, but it actually makes sense with brought, not dream.


  129. :) Virginia you Paris Cafeteria girl, you.

  130. P.S. This post reminded me of a beautiful blog post by Laura Whitcomb (she wrote 'Your First Novel' with Anne Rittenberg and a few of my favorite books).

    Anyway, this blog post she talks about watching a sign language translator 'read' her lines and how she decided to learn the first words of her books in sign language. Called 'Dancing Your Words By Hand' and it's very touching.

  131. Nancy, that opening is so much fun!

    And you could have more fun with that last sentence by putting it in "linguistics" for the reader... Whichever way your heroine speaks:

    "Uncle Bill had left her a coffin shop in Cluck, Texas.

    A coffin shop.?? As in... dead bodies?

    Clara didn't waste time worrying about who Uncle Bill was, or where "Cluck" might be in the whole scheme of vast, uncharted Texas.

    For the first time in her life, something was hers, something concrete, solid and all hers, even if it was a lumber shop for the newly deceased.

    She handed her landlord the keys to her room, packed her valise and less than ninety minutes later she was ready and waiting to board a south-bound train.

    Cluck, Texas, whereever you are? I'm on my way.

    I love that you left this opening wide enough to play with... and you can dress it up any way you want, but just that name, Cluck, Texas made me laugh.


    Oh man, I'm having way too much fun with this!

  132. Nancy K...


    And your towel comment made me laugh.

  133. I remember how stinkin' long and hard those last two years were before being offered a contract.... I won't bore you with the ones that fell through... the people who lost their jobs and IT WAS PROBABLY MY FAULT!!!!


    I'm mostly not even kidding about that, but I can totally sympathize with Nancy and all o' youse... because you know you're good and getting better, and you know you can make the grade.... so stay the course. Be prepared. Go at this with totally encompassing Boy Scout mentality because that preparedness is what launches you.

    Don't wait to write the perfect book because they're going to change it.

    Write a really good book and then go on and write another. And another.... Let it seep from your heart, your soul, your bones.

    I love every time we have a Kiss-the-Island-Goodbye Party, LOL!!! Because watching your success is why we do what we do.

    And it's so thoroughly enjoyable!

  134. P.S. Sherrida, that makes me think of a review I just read. The reviewer said she was going to make it a rule never to read a book that started with the heroine falling, tripping, or collapsing against the hero. She's never read a good book that started that way.

    Made me laugh and search my memory.

    Go with the missing mom.

  135. The book I'm currrently reading is upstairs next to my side of the bed, and all of my other Love Inspireds and Christian fiction are upstairs, as well.

    I could give you the opening line from my current ms, but I know that at least one person on here is judging the contest I'm submitting it to, so I can't really do that. (It's just one word, too...)

    What to do, what to do? Hmm...

    And I really, REALLY want to win that book, too!

    Any suggestions? ;-)

  136. Well Melanie we're drawing from comments until Friday night. So I vote you come back later and post a first line from a book that is upstairs.

  137. i'm enjoying all the opening lines here and looking over the FWIW offerings as well.

    have another opener from another MS i'm attempting. regular romance, hero was a child abandoned at birth, heroine an unwed mother he rescues. so here goes...

    If ever there was a poster child for “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”, she was it.

  138. Thanks, Tina! I hadn't thought how those opening lines reveal voice. As always, you are astute.


  139. >>Tina Radcliffe said...
    I agree, I want to add
    And where the heck was Cluck? <<

    Oh, Tina, that's funny! Here's the way it opened in the first draft:

    Try as she might, Molly could only make sense of the terrible handwriting in the letter one way. Uncle Bill had bequeathed her a coffin shop. In Cluck, Texas.

    She stopped slap dab in the middle of the boardwalk and rested a hand on her hip. Who was Uncle Bill? And where the heck was Cluck?

    Nancy C

  140. Virginia, thanks for telling me about the reviewer's "no-no's"...I've considered ALL those calamities! I'm very confused. :( I guess it's back to the computer for more (different) inspiration. I need ANOTHER retreat, Ruthy! Or an Egyptian cotton towel. Nancy K, will you share yours?

  141. Just finish the book. There will be a serendipitous moment when you finish, Sherida. You will know how to open the book.

    Many authors recommend not even dealing with the opening hook until you type THE END. That way you can create a tone and theme that goes weaves thru the entire story.

  142. Ruthy! Look what you did with those opening sentences! It's so much fun to give a writer a 'jumping off point' and see where the story goes. "A lumber shop for the newly deceased." Gotta love it!

    Glad it made you laugh -- and thanks for the example/suggestions/comments. Much food for thought.

    Nancy C

  143. Great post, Tina! Thanks for including my story. Openings are so important. You nailed it today. Hugs.

  144. Sherida, you bet I will. Thanks to Tina and Ruthy and Melanie and all my Seekerville peeps, I fished it out of the river, LOL. ;-)

  145. Excellent, excellent, excellent, Tina!! Writing first line is SO MUCH FUN. :) It can set the tone for the entire book.

  146. Thanks, Tina. Guess I was having a "Duh" moment there. ;-)

    BTW, thanks for this post! Another to be printed out and saved...

  147. Oh I love this Tina. You can never get enough great opening hooks.

    Missy's still makes me smile, even having read it a dozen times. Set the complete tone of the opening, the chapter and the book. I loved it.

    I'm printing this off and assessing my opening chapter...what a great post!

    Thanks, T!

  148. Thanks Tina and Nancy K! I'm making progress. Good to know you all are here to push or pat my back!

  149. Tina - my first attempt at Inspirational...I should have added the second paragraph (to bring it all together)...but we were talking openers and didn't want to overshare

  150. Okay...let's see if my identity changes from Boy 7 (and his Mom) -- my little blogger's page -- to a more grown-up id

  151. LOL Tina --- well you see if I would have shared the next paragraph, then I would have had to share the third, and then probably it would have led to an entire chapter posted...

    (Book is about woman (psych prof) fighting the big C and coming to terms with religion versus science and reconciling with her ex-husband - a pop psychologist/talk show host)

  152. Love this post! One of my favorite openings ever is from Mary Connealy's The Husband Tree: "Belle Tanner pitched dirt right on Anthony's handsome, worthless face.
    It was spitefulness that made her enjoy doing that. But she was sorely afraid Anthony Santoni's square jaw and curly, dark hair had tricked her into agreeing to marry him.
    Which made her as big an idiot as Anthony.
    Now he was dead and she was left to dig the grave. why oh why didn't she just skip marrying him and save herself all this shoveling?
    She probably should have wrapped him in a blanket, but blankets were hard to come by in Montana...unlike husbands."

    :D Gets me every time.

  153. Okay, Jenny! I thought that was you!

    Wonderful writing.

  154. As a reader I find that the books I tend to love the most, & just devour, are those that hook me right from the very beginning.

    An excellent post thank you.

  155. I'm baaaaack! ;-)

    I pulled a Barbour book I thoroughly enjoyed last year (or the year before) by Kaye Dacus, Menu for Romance.

    The opening:

    "'Happy New Year!'"

    "Her thirty-fourth New Year and still no kiss at the stroke of midnight...or any other day or time. Meredith Guidry stood in the doorway leading into Vue de Ciel--the cavernous, sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre, Louisiana--and swallowed back her longing as she watched hundreds of couples kiss."

    Poor thing...34 and no kisses. [Of course, as I was typing this, I realized the tough phrase of "sky-view event venue" could be a tongue twister--say it 5 times really fast, LOL.] But I loved this book--unrequited love between best friends. Sigh...


  156. This article is answer to my writing prayers! :-)
    My hook..."The answer to Aubrey Jackson’s prayer swaggered through the door."

  157. What a wonderfully educational and interesting post. I'm honored to see some lines from My Stubborn Heart included. Thank you, Tina!

  158. We're excited about your book, Becky.

    That opening is amazing!!!