Monday, August 19, 2013

Opening The Story Lid to Engage Your Reader



You had a long, trying day. Now, unexpectedly—blessedly--you have a window of time to yourself. What to do with it? Check email? Facebook? Watch another TV rerun? No, you’re in the mood to curl up with a good book.
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You pick up a few volumes from your to-be-read pile, glance at the titles, then at the back blurbs. Hmm. Or maybe you reach for your Kindle and scan what’s in the queue of all those books you downloaded months ago. You decide to read a few first lines to see if one sucks you in. Admittedly, no matter how great a writer is, sometimes a particular opening doesn't “hit the spot” on a given day. But aren't we all guilty of searching for a story that grabs us from the get-go? One that plants questions in our mind and makes us want to keep turning the pages? 
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There are a number of ways to kick off a story and each has its own appeal. Dialogue. Description. A mysterious or funny or profound thought. Openings do all sorts of delicious things—establish the setting, the tone, the point of view and character empathy. But most importantly, a good opening paragraph—opening lines—should anchor questions in a reader’s mind. Questions they’ll want to stick around to see the answers to. Openings shouldn't induce them to reach for the next book in the TBR stack or flip to the next Kindle selection.
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Mary Buckham and Dianna Love in their Break Into Fiction write: “Your job is to drop us into the story at the moment when a character’s life is about to change drastically. Think forward movement when you think ‘opening’ instead of events that have happened in the past.”
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Today let’s take a look at story openings, using a few examples from Seeker and Seeker Villager books. Let’s think about how they make us think forward movement and what questions they plant in our mind. Then you can take a look at your own manuscripts and evaluate them accordingly!
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So, here we go!
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1 - “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. (Falling for the Lawman, September 2013, Ruth Logan Herne)
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I love the subtle humor here, don’t you? And I can’t help but wonder if this Trooper will end up tangling with those irritating roosters—and their owner!
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2 - The gathering dark clouds had mirrored Stephanie Upton’s mood since she’d returned home to Freemont, Georgia, two days earlier. Grateful as she was to get the job as the Army Wounded Warrior advocate at nearby Fort Rickman where her brother Ted was convalescing from his war injuries, she was frustrated that he had refused to see her or answer her phone calls. (The Soldier’s Sister, September 2013, Debby Giusti)
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This one sets the stage with an impending storm that foreshadows the action yet to come. Why is Stephanie’s brother refusing to see her or take her calls? Inquiring minds need to know!
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3 - Welcome to Paradise. Ben Rogers stared at the glossy white sign posted in front of a row of tall Colorado conifers. Paradise? Doubtful. Salvation? Possibly. (Mending the Doctor’s Heart, Tina Radcliffe)
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Why is Ben arriving at this Colorado town? Why does he doubt the accuracy of its name? What makes him think it might possibly hold salvation—and from what?  This opening hints at a past, but communicates a forward movement that arouses my curiosity.
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4 - The wrong man showed up to collect Hannah Parrish at the train station. And he was late. (The Bride Wore Spurs, Janet Dean)
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Doesn't this make you want to read on? I want to find out who this “wrong man” is whose lateness has left Hannah perturbed—and who was supposed to be the RIGHT man? It appears the stage is set for a “drastic change” in Hannah’s—and possibly the “wrong” man’s—life!
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5- Asking for forgiveness from a man like Red Ryker was sure to backfire. (A House Full of Hope, Missy Tippens)
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Here we are, poised for conflict, because we anticipate that for some reason this opening character is in need of forgiveness and  must ask Red for it. And don’t you want to know WHY doing so is guaranteed to backfire?
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6 - The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Lucas Stone’s head around. (Swept Away, Mary Connealy)
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I didn't need to label that one as belonging to Mary, did I? It starts with her signature lights-camera-action! It throws you right into the middle of a conflict and ignites questions in your mind.  Who is pointing a pistol at poor Lucas and why? What’s going to happen to him?
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7- “I’m in trouble, Kip.”  (A Horseman’s Hope, Myra Johnson)
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This one’s short and sweet and packs a punch. It puts us in the middle of a conflict. Who is in trouble? What kind of trouble? Who is Kip and why does this character feel compelled to confide in him?
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And here’s another one that delivers a boatload of questions in just a few words…
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8 - It was a perfect day for a funeral. (Leaving Liberty, Virginia Carmichael)
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And another...
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9 - I will not throw up…I will not throw up.  (A Light In The Window, Julie Lessman)
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Get the idea?  What questions do the following examples pose? What makes you sense that the story is poised to launch?
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10 - Katherine Osborne couldn't escape the numbers. She dragged her gaze from the lush orange groves right outside her office window to the ledger open on her desk. (A Path Toward Love, Cara Lynn James)
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11 - “C'mon! Just a few more gates!” Jason Hunter shook his video game. Beeps and twangs filled the air.  (Rocky Mountain Hero, Audra Harders)
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12 - A high-pitched scream forced Bram Lapp’s feet into a run even before his mind could identify the source. (The Prodigal Son Returns,  Jan Drexler)
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13 - Pushing his father in the wheelchair, Everett Jamison III eyed the long lines in the large waiting area and bit back an oath. Rett didn't have time to spend two weeks on this cruise up the Mississippi, let alone the hours he’d waste on the deck waiting around to board. Hours he couldn’t afford to lose. (Current of Love, Sandra Leesmith)
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14 – Perfect. Just perfect. Amanda Gardiner pulled onto the side of the deserted country road as what she’d assumed was steam took on the alarming smell of smoke. (A Place for Family, Mia Ross)
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15 - Meri McIsaac stepped through the door of Van Deusen’s Dry Goods and Mercantile into the enveloping aromas of dried spices, leather goods and pickle barrels and right into the even more enveloping arms of Mrs. Van Deusen.  (The Marshall Meets His Match, Clari Dees)
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16 - Sheena Montgomery stood completely still at the top of Bracklinn Falls. The sound of rushing water filled the gorge. The rock underfoot felt hard and cold, a mirror image of her heart. (Highland Hearts,  Eva Maria Hamilton)
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17 - “Where’s my little brother?” Luke glared at the man with the jagged scar on his right cheek.” (Stealing Jake, Pam Hillman).
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And here are some opening lines from MY books!  What questions do they pose that make you want to continue reading?
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18 - The last time she saw Rob McGuire, he was down on one knee in front of all their friends, diamond ring in hand, and gazing up in hopeful expectation—at her college roommate. So what on earth was he doing seven years later on her parents’ doorstep? And with a cop no less. (High Country Hearts, Glynna Kaye)
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19 - Cowboys ain’t nothin' but trouble. (Second Chance Courtship, Glynna Kaye)
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20 - Oh, man. Just his luck. Sandi Bradshaw. Keith’s widow. (At Home In His Heart, Glynna Kaye)
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21 - At precisely one o’clock on a sunny September Saturday afternoon, Megan McGuire spied the pirate. (Dreaming of Home, Glynna Kaye)
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22 - Now he’d done it. He’d unthinkingly stuck his nose smack into Macy Colston’s business. The last thing he had any intention of doing. (A Canyon Springs Courtship, September 2013, Glynna Kaye)
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You can see by now that there are unlimited ways to draw a reader into a story. Some woo you in gently but intriguingly and others start with a literal bang! Is your imagination bubbling now—overflowing with ideas for your own work in progress? 
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Pick out a few opening examples here and share in the comments section the questions they evoked for you. Then feel free to share one of YOUR opening lines and solicit feedback from your fellow Villagers. What questions do you want your opening lines to pose to a reader? Do they communicate forward movement--that something is about to happen that will turn your hero or heroine’s world upside down?
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If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a September release set of Glynna-Ruthy-Debby books, please mention it in the comments section, then check our Weekend Edition for the winner announcement!
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Glynna
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Glynna Kaye's debut book “Dreaming of Home” was a finalist in the ACFW Carol and Maggie awards, as well as a first place winner of the “Booksellers Best” and “Beacon” awards. Her 4 1/2 star “At Home In His Heart” was chosen as a Reviewers Choice finalist by national magazine RT Book Reviews. “A Canyon Springs Courtship,” her sixth Love Inspired book (and the fifth set in the mountain country of Arizona), releases in September 2013--with two more contracted for 2014!

119 comments :

  1. Oh this was fun! Openings are so tough and this post is perfectly timely as I've got to really "plus" mine on a contest entry this week.

    #8 has me completely intrigued. What does a perfect day for a funeral look like? Hot, cold, rainy, not rainy, and more importantly, whose funeral is it and why does the POV character care?

    #18 intrigued me because I saw that going a different way. It was a jarring contrast "at her college roommate" and engages me with what feels like a "passed over" heroine whose hero has reappeared. But why and why with a cop?

    I still think my best opening line ever is from Chasing the Lion.

    My mother is a liar.

    But I'm hoping to change that one day. This week, hehe.

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  2. I read all of the books you list. The questions vary but, most importantly, the questions are answered! I've read quite a few I was thrilled to start because of the questions in my mind. But sadly lost me.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Peace, Julie

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  3. This post is very timely as I have been working on the opening line of my romantic suspense and wondering if readers will take it the way it is meant. "If he was going to rape and murder a girl, Charlie's would be his first stop."
    Obviously, my hero is not going to act on that thought, but is getting into the head of the killer he's hunting.
    The openings posted here all leave me with one gigantic question, how many more books can I add to my TBR pile before it tumbles over. They all hooked me in. Great blog.

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  4. love reading the openings and some I want to see more.
    Im reading one of Debby's earlier books right now (last years) and have to say the opening did hook me.
    I remember reading Zero visibility by Sharon Dunn (I think thats the right name) and right from the first sentence I was hooked. I was so hooked I could not put it down and read the whole book that night and it was a late night. I think the fact it was set in winter and it was really cold here also.
    I would love to win the books. I am now reading a little more. (still slow but am now reading more)

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  5. Glynna, what a great way to illustrate the limitless possibilities when you start a new book! I'm looking forward to seeing some more during the day :)

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  6. These are great examples. Thanks for sharing today.

    Instead of flipping through a bunch of books for opening line inspiration, I can come back here.

    Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

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  7. Good morning, NANCY! I find opening lines so much FUN to write! Sometimes I nail it the first time around--it's the opening line that kicks off the story in my mind and it stays like that all the way to publication. Other times, I play around with it throughout the writing of the book and it gradually morphs into its final format. :)

    "My mother is a liar" definitely catches my attention and raises LOTS of questions in my mind.

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  8. Hi, JULIE! It IS so important that if you write a 'grabber' opening that the remainder of the book follows through and continues to engage the reader page after page.

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  9. Hello, REAGAN! I totally "get" your proposed opening for a suspense where the hero is searching for the murderer and trying to figure out where he'll put in an appearance next. I wonder what kind of place "Charlie's" is and if/why the heroine might be there? I don't know which market you're targeting, but the mention of "rape" in the opening line might not fly with some CBA publishers. It would still be very effective, though, with solely the mention of murder. Good job!

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  10. Good Morning, JENNY! So glad you're able to read more now and that one of Debby's suspense openings has you hooked!

    Yes, "Zero Visibility" that kept you up late into the night is by Sharon Dunn.

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  11. Hello, MIA! There ARE so many effective way to open a story. You just have to work out the one that best fits your "voice" and your book. But planting strong questions in a readers mind from the get-go seldom goes wrong. :)

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  12. Hi, JACKIE! I'm glad you enjoyed the opening examples. It's always interesting to observe shoppers at a bookstore...they'll pick up a book and look at the cover, flip to the back blurb, then if that interests them they'll open it to the first page and read the opening lines. THEN the book either goes right back on the shelf--or into their shopping basket for a trip to the check-out counter. So, as writers we only have a few seconds to grab a potential reader's attention!

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  13. Oh, MY, how I LOVE first lines!!! I honestly think I could spend all day reading them because you are SO right, Glynna -- all of those listed above just suck you in!!

    And I had to laugh at your opening where you ask, "But aren't we all guilty of searching for a story that grabs us from the get-go?"

    Because I did this VERY thing, both last night and a few weeks ago! You see, I was searching for that perfect "getaway" book that would not be too serious or sad following a difficult time I had a few weeks ago. Or one that would help me transition from a book that was so good, I ached that it was over.

    So you are SO dead-on that that first line has a lot of work to do, and we have to make the most of it.

    Great post, Glynna, and I LOVE the examples you picked. Oh, and thanks for using one of mine too! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  14. Good morning! I think a great first line (along with a great first paragraph) are often hard to write and often take a lot of revision. So I start with one that seems good, but go back to it again and again while I continue to write the book. Don't get stuck on the first line because you can always go back to it and improve it.

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  15. JULIE -- I SHOULD have thrown in that classic "Gone With the Wind" opener in honor of you! :) As you mentioned, opening lines help us decide "is this what I'm in the mood for?" Sometimes we're searching for a "certain something." Of course the certain something YOU are searching for on a given day may not be the same something I'M searching for. But those opening lines give us a hint to answering this question: "Is this something I can get lost in few a few hours?"

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  16. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

    That line has stuck with me since junior high!

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  17. Good morning,CARA! Yes, that opening often needs to be revisited again and again as it is so critical to a good story launch. You're right -- you definitely don't want to get hung up on it, but move ahead in your writing and come back to it later. Quite often as you get to know your story and your characters, you have a better idea of what that opening NEEDS to be to reflect the heart of the story and which questions it needs to propose.

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  18. SHERRI -- WOW! That intriguing opener really DID catch your attention!

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  19. Great opening line examples. COuldn't possibly do better than that - in fact I struggle in this area - a lot! Mary Connealy is my inspiration. How does that woman ever get to sleep at night thinking up opening lines? I usually skip the opening line and come back to it once the rest of the story is done or at least outlined. Please enter me.

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  20. I LOVE to read first lines, and quite often that is the way I decide what I want to read on a given day.

    What calls to me on a sunny, free day, may not appeal to me at all on a cool, cloudy, reading day.

    Thanks Glynna, it was fun reading all those. Some great examples!

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  21. Good Morning, CINDY! I know what you mean about some story openers grabbing you by the throat and dragging you in--and Mary Connealy is the master of them!

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  22. Hello MARY H! So true about what calls to us on a given day. I've had times when absolutely NOTHING appeals--and I have BOOK CASES filled with old favorites and brand new TBRs. Sometimes I might struggle to get into a story and set it aside, yet the next time I open it I'm immediately swept away!

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  23. This was great, Glynna! First lines are hard for me. I'm working on refining my current wip's first line, but I'd love input, if you all are willing. :)


    This was life as Charis Brennan knew it, and she wouldn’t change anything. Okay, maybe a few things.

    From 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'?"

    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."

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

    I'm coming back later to see other great first lines. ;)

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  24. Good morning, Seekerville! I know I've mentioned here before that my all-time favorite opening line from a novel is from To The Hilt, a mystery/thriller by Dick Francis:

    "I don't think my stepfather much minded dying. That he almost took me with him wasn't really his fault."

    A first line from one of my own works, a novella collection titled Sagebrush Knights:

    "The final eviction notice and the marriage proposals arrived in the same post."

    A fun post, Glynna. I'll have to check in to see everyone else's lines. :)

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  25. Good morning, JEANNE T! I think that's a VERY intriguing opening line! I immediately wonder WHAT would she change and WHY? :)

    Great examples from the other authors as well. They definitely plant questions in my mind and make me want to read on.

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  26. Hi, ERICA! I love your novella opening! You've definitely poised the story on a brink of something drastic happening to your character! The quote from the Dick Francis book reminds me that I haven't read him in ever so long and need to!

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  27. Glynna, Beginnings in books are so important and the ones you showed were great. I have read many LIH books and love how they can be read so fast and make for great enjoyment in your day. I have been gone for awhile and stopping by today to catch up with all the seekers. thanks for sharing
    Paula O

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  28. Hi, PAULA! Welcome back and thanks so much for stopping by to check up on us! There's always SOMETHING going on in Seekerville! :)

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  29. I have to be out-of-pocket for a bit, but I shall return! Have fun sharing opening lines and ones you especially like!

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  30. I love opening lines and when I read a really good one I'm green with envy.

    My favorite one ever is:

    There's just no good way to pick up a human head.

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  31. I love opening lines done well. . . All of these were eye-catching! I'm hoping mine brings the reader (when it has a reader) in as well as these examples. It's so fun to play around with different scenes to find the right one.
    Here is mine: Alexis Walker hated hearing noises in the middle of the night, specifically tonight, when darkness flooded her room and Ross barked his warning.

    I'm still in the first draft stage, but I like how it's coming along. Please enter me!

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  32. In the book, a novella collection, The Claybourne Brides, I particularly love all three beginnings to these romances.
    Three books
    Three opening paragraphs.

    1. Travis Claybourne was thinking hard about killing a man.

    2. The little woman was in trouble. Big trouble. No one, male or female, pointed a gun at Douglas Claybourne without paying the consequences, and just as soon as he could get the weapon away from her, he would tell her so.

    and

    3. He found her in his bed.

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  33. I love the second example, Mary! Well, all of them would keep me reading, but specifically the second.

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  34. Great post, Glynna! I love reading opening lines...but don't like coming up with my own so much :)

    One of my favorite opening lines is from Tolkein's "The Hobbit": In a hole in the ground there live a hobbit.

    So simple! But it always draws me in.

    And this one is from Jennifer Rogers Spinola's "Southern Fried Sushi": "Uh-oh." Kyoko peeked over the cubicle at me with suspicious black-lined eyes. "They got your work address."


    And this is from my new book (edits due tomorrow! I should be working!):
    "She's old. Dat said so."
    "Ja. Old and mean."
    "Old and mean, and she has a big nose."

    Such fun! I hope to pop in through the day to see what everyone else is sharing!

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  35. Such a fun post!

    Love your opening in AT HOME IN HIS HEART, Glynna:

    "Oh, man. Just his luck. Sandi Bradshaw. Keith’s widow."

    The short phrases strung together appeal to my suspense writer's heart and pull me into the story. I'm hooked and ready to know more about Keith's widow and the frustrated hero who doesn't want to see Sandi Bradshaw...at least not at the moment the story opens.

    I, of course, want to know why! :)

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  36. Waving to Jenny!

    Glad you were hooked. :)

    Thanks for reading on...

    BTW, saw a friend yesterday who's traveling to Australia for two weeks. I told her she'd loved the wonderful people who are so warm and welcoming.

    Wish I could be taking that trip with her. :)

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  37. This was really fun, Glynna! Great examples from our Seeker mentors. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  38. Congrats to my cp Natalie, Lyndee and Nancy Kimball (there's your RWA contest, you diva you,) for finaling in the Lonestar contest!

    And yes, this was a great post, Glynna, but notice how smoothly I have avoided posting any of my opening lInes--too intimidating-- so congrats to all who have posted.

    Piper

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  39. A zinger opening line is a good thing, however, I am the kind of reader that reads Chapter 1 and if I am not intrigued by then, I do not finish the story.
    Enjoyed reading the comments.
    JWIsley(at)aol(dot)com

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  40. Yay to Natalie, Lyndee and Nancy!!!

    Congrats on your Lonestar finals, ladies.

    Thanks, Piper, for spreading the good news!

    Anyone want to share the opening lines of their winning manuscripts?

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  41. Hi Glynna:

    I enjoyed all those wonderful first lines. Opening lines are fun. However, as a marketing person, I have a slightly different take on novel openings.

    I think the most important thing about an opening is that it fulfills the reader’s expectations created by the promise made in the title, cover art, theme and blurb.

    After reading the first line or two the reader should think, “Oh, my God, I’m going to love this book!”

    So this approach is more than a sentence ‘hook’. This is a whole body and mind ‘capture’.

    If the story is a ‘hidden child’ theme in a beautiful resort location, with a scuba diver hero, then open with the hero in the water looking at a woman and her child on the shore. He’s thinking “She’d be a real catch if she didn’t have that kid.” Then someone shouts ‘HELP’ and the hero and the woman on shore both swim to save the drowning victim. (She was a lifeguard who he’d had an affair with a few years before on the other side of the world.) They reach the drowning victim at the same time and begin to fight over who is going to bring the victim in to shore. (The fight is reminisent of the fights they had over him never wanting to have children or settle down.)

    If I read the above opening, I’d be firmly hooked because I’d know the story was just what I wanted to find in this book when I bought it.

    I think the best creative effort would be spent in creating an opening like this rather than trying to come up with clever first lines.


    The opening I like best is Julie’s, “I will not throw up…I will not throw up.” (#9)

    After reading these lines I immediately thought, ‘this is just what I wanted in this book’. And what was that? A story which I could ‘feel’. A story where Marcy was young, vounarable, and highly sympathetic. As a person who used to not like to speak in public, I could also feel what the heroine was feeling. As a reader I was 'owned' at the point in the story.

    In Mary’s novella “A Bride for all Seasons” – the story opens with a Prologue which is just a classified ad for a wife. This is followed by letters between the hero and heroine. There is nothing real cutesy here but it was made very clear to the reader that this was going to be a very good Mail Order Bride story with a very interesting twist.

    This opening is an excellent example of what I am talking about in fulfilling the promise of the title, theme, and cover art.

    A quotable first line may make the reader think, “That was a clever first line. I think I read a little more.”

    An opening that fulfills the reader’s expectations of the promises made in the art work, blurb, title and theme may cause the reader to think:

    “This is just the story I’m wanting to read. I can’t wait to get started.”

    Make it notable not just quotable.

    Vince

    P.S. I'd love to win a book if there is one I don't already have. : )

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  42. "Make it notable not just quotable."

    Perhaps the first line on a future how-to book about story openings, Vince? Just a thought...

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  43. I just love opening lines! Someone should publish a book just of those. :)

    Great examples, Glynna!

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  44. First lines! What a nice break to my work day. I've been dealing with computer issues at work since 8:30 this morning and decided I needed a Seekerville break. And now I'm hooked. I want to go read all these books not go back to dealing with internet/computer security techs. :-)

    Thanks for the escape to refresh my brain, and thanks for using my book as one of your examples. Cool!

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  45. Fun post, Glynna! I loved your selection of opening lines. So many intriguing stories!

    Great to be back in Seekerville! I missed all of you while we were traveling through Ethiopia and Kenya the last couple of weeks. I was able to check email from time to time, but hotel Internet was painfully slow, so loading a website was pretty much impossible. I can see I have a LOT to catch up on around here!!!

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  47. MARY CONNEALY! Where on earth did you get that "There's just no good way to pick up a human head"???!!!!

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  48. Welcome back, Myra!

    Hope you'll share pictures in a future blog post! :)

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  49. Hi, COURTNEY! It IS fun to play around with different openings. And that's a very intriguing one.

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  50. MARY -- The Claybourne Brides has some very compellings first lines!

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  51. The Duel on the Delta Conference, held in Memphis, used to include all the first lines in a booklet from the manuscripts that finaled in their contest by the same name. It was always fun reading the beginnings of all those winning manuscripts!

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  52. PAM--can't wait to read that next one. Your opening has me wondering if she IS REALLY old and mean. :)

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  53. Be still my heart!

    The sun is shining in GA for the first time in days...

    ...leaving computer to go outside and soak in the Vitamin D!

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  54. Hi, DEBBY! Glad you found hero Bryce Harding's first thoughts about Sandi Bradshaw appealing! :)

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  55. Hello, LYNDEE! I'm glad you enjoyed the Seeker/Seeker Villager opening examples. Everyone has their own style, own voice.

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  56. PIPER -- you can get away with not posting your first lines NOW -- but as soon as you get published (which I anticipate will be in the not-too-distant future), NO EXCUSES!

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  57. Hi, JOYE! Yes, it SO important for the "hook" to carry throughout the first--and ALL--the chapters, luring the reader thru page by page by page all the way to The End.

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  58. WOW THREE Seeker Villager Lone Star finalists??? Tjat reminds me of how the Seekers first "met" each other -- bumping into each other in the finals circles and taking turns knocking each other out of the top spots! :)

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  59. Glynna, I love first lines! I was raised in a time of "story building" where you practically preambled your way into the story by setting the stage...

    It's different now, and that's a fun turnaround!!!!

    Jan Drexler, I remember the first time I saw your story!!!! Yours too, Clari Dees!!! And I still love them... and the stories.... so much!!!!

    I'm always willing to give a story a chance, though, especially if I trust the author.

    So if it takes a few pages to grab me, I don't mind. Sometimes I like to creep along with the author, open those closed doors.

    But it totally depends on the author!!!

    Hey, we need afternoon coffee. CORRECTION: I need afternoon coffee!!!!

    Join me, please!!!

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  60. Reagan that's a great, attention-drawing opening line!!!!

    (Ruthy runs to hide head under pillows!!! And vows to steer clear of Charlie's place!)

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  61. Good points, VINCE! I TOTALLY agree that a book has to carry thru on a promise to the readers. I think it's especially important once you start to get established as an author -- your readers will come to expect a certain type of story from you.

    People expect a humor/romance/action combo from Mary. From another Seeker they migh Connealy. A suspenseful tale from Debby Giusti a heartwarming small-town romance from another Seeker.

    I agree about fulfilling expections of the cover, title and blurb -- IDEALLY that SHOULD be the case, but many authors with traditional publishing houses don't have control over the cover, the final title or the back-cover blurb and often don't see either the cover or the blurb until it shows up on Amazon. So they hope and pray the two match up and meet the potential reader's expectations! :)

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  62. Hi, MISSY! I elect YOU to publish a book of titles. As many books as the Seekers and Seeker Villagers are getting out now, we're getting to the point where we might be able to fill a volume! :)

    PAM H - Are you keeping a spreadsheet on HOW MANY books Seekers have published since we joined forces in 2005?

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  63. CLARI -- "Computer issues" -- NOT FUN. I'm glad you could come out and "play" for a few minutes!

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  64. WELCOME BACK, MYRA! I hope you're somehow able to tie your trip to a Seekerville post in the very near future! I want to see photos!

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  65. One of my favorite opening lines is from "Hazardous Duty" by Christy Barritt:

    "Whistling a tune from Fiddler on the Roof, I used my tweezers to work a piece of Gloria Cunningham's skull out of the sky blue wall."

    It's been years since I read that book, but that line came to mind immediately when I read this post. :)

    Here's the first line of my WIP:

    "Dabbing makeup on her bruises was the last thing Allie Harper thought she'd be doing on her wedding day."

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  66. Hi, RUTHY! It IS so much fun to see books out now by our Seekerville friends.

    If I have authors I love, I definitely give them the benefit of the doubt, too! I have such little time available to read that when I'm perusing the bookshelves at a library or bookstore or books I've downloaded to my Kindle, I'm looking for opening pages that pull me into the fictional world and raise questions in my mind that I want to see answered. How much leeway I give an opening often depends on the KIND of book--as Vince touched on--what the promise of the book is.

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  67. Hello ANNA! Oh, my goodness, now THAT Cunningham example is an opening line for sure! YIKES!

    VERY intriguing first line YOU have there, too! Well done!

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  68. Have to run! Lunchtime is over! Back in a bit!!

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  69. "I hink the most important thing about an opening is that it fulfills the reader’s expectations created by the promise made in the title, cover art, theme and blurb.

    So this approach is more than a sentence ‘hook’. This is a whole body and mind ‘capture’."


    YES!!! EXACTLY, VINCE!!!

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  70. Thank you, Glynna, for this article! Every writer wants to write that catchy first line. Examples always help us stretch our own ideas as to what will move the reader into the first and second pages and then be unable to put the book down.

    Vince, I like how you summed up the "hook" as an experience of both mind and body. A writer has to reach the reader's heart so that she's hooked by empathy, curiosity, mood, and voice, and also immersed in setting. This way she doesn't want to put down that book.

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  71. Thank you, Glynna, for this article! Every writer wants to write that catchy first line. Examples always help us stretch our own ideas as to what will move the reader into the first and second pages and then be unable to put the book down.

    Vince, I like how you summed up the "hook" as an experience of both mind and body. A writer has to reach the reader's heart so that she's hooked by empathy, curiosity, mood, and voice, and also immersed in setting. This way she doesn't want to put down that book.

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  72. What I love most about a good opening line is the feeling of anticipation! Great article and a fun collection of first lines! Please enter me in the giveaway :)

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  73. Anna R...I want to know what happened to Allie Harper on her wedding day. :)

    Great line!!!

    Just a bit of FYI trivia: The LI editors mentioned some years back that heroine names starting with the letter "A" were seen most often.

    Go figure.

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  75. Thanks for the nod, ladies. I was keeping it a secret! Piper, you have good eyes. I didn't see the Lone Star list anywhere.

    Congrats to Nancy and Natalie!

    Debby, I'm not sure if I should put my first line out there before final judging. Tempting, though.

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  76. Jeanne T, I like it! She sounds spunky and it makes me want to know what she would change.

    Piper, thank you. I had no idea you were Natalie's crit partner. But not suprised at all, hehe. She's got some great stuff.
    Thank you, Debby. Here's the opening line of that MS in Lonestar, the BEFORE that just finaled.

    Seth Collier slid his debit card back in his wallet.

    This will be the AFTER in response to this amazing post and my contest feedback once the CP's and you guys vet it.

    Seth Collier screwed the valve stem cap back in place, planning the strongly worded letter to the corporate office of In and Out Tires whose negligence had almost gotten his wife and kids killed.

    Thanks, Lyndee, you too. =)

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  77. 19 - Cowboys ain’t nothin' but trouble. (Second Chance Courtship, Glynna Kaye) Ooooh! Sounds like one I'd love! Who is speaking? The heroine? Why does she think this? Why do I get the feeling she's going to be falling in love with one? :)

    6 - The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Lucas Stone’s head around. (Swept Away, Mary Connealy) Oh, the joy of a good western. Love it. Who's gonna shoot him? If I know Mary, it's either a big galoot, or a pretty woman. :)

    I'd love to share my opening line, and my new opening line I'm going to run by the CPs (Elaine Manders and Piper Huguley, who are awesome, btw), but is it ok? I don't know about contest rules and such. I mean, they've already pubbed our names and the titles on the finalists list. Anybody know if this would be ok?

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  78. Wonderful post Glynna. I've been picking up books all evening just to read the opening lines. Thank you for sharing. I found the books that have the best opening lines usually become some of my favorites and find a home on my keeper shelves.

    I would love to be entered into your giveaway.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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  79. Natalie, nope, but if they don't tell me I can't, I generally embrace it means I can, hehe.

    The reason that Category 5 withheld entry names is because we inquired of National if we could announce them or not because Genesis was not complete. ACFW National asked us not to in keeping with the Genesis, so we respected that. Even though I disagreed with it. =)
    But you aren't allowed to offer an opinion on my new opening line, because I'm not sure I can trust you to be objective, LOL. *KIDDING* Mostly.

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  80. Oh, man. Just his luck. Sandi Bradshaw. Keith’s widow.

    That's the opener that grabbed me most. I want to know just why he doesn't want to see Keith's widow.

    Of course, I always enjoy the action of a Mary C opening.

    Hmmm, two from my WIPs:
    Contemp -
    If ever there was a poster child for “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”, she was it.

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

    It's been neat to read the post and the comments! only problem is it is making my book wish list longer too.

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  81. oh, p.s.
    put me in the draw please. had car accident on sat., so there's goes book budget for awhile...

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  82. I'm late, but I've got to get in a chance for the book drawing. First line of one of my mss:

    Somebody was going to a lot of trouble to drive Ryan Cason crazy--and making good progress.

    Congratulations to the contest finalists (I lost count) especially to Natalie. I had a feeling she needed encouragement, and this should do it.

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  83. Great post, Glynna. Love all those opening lines!

    Sue

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  84. Congrats to Lyndee and Nancy!!! Praying for your mss to do well!
    And thanks, Piper, Debby, Lyndee, and Elaine!!!

    And you're probably right, Nancy. :D LOVE the foreshadowing you've got in that opener.

    My opening line when I entered Lone Star:
    Opportunity wafted through the log camp kitchen as the sweet odor of butter and lemon met his nose.

    My new opener I'm strongly considering along with other changes:
    The train slowed through Charity Creek but didn’t stop.
    Blast it. He’d have to jump with the wheels moving.

    :)




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  85. Loved this post, Glynna! (sorry I'm so late joining in today)

    A catchy opening line (and a lovely book cover) are what almost ALWAYS draw me into a story--especially if I'm not very familiar with the author.

    I LOVE Janet Dean's books, and this opening from AN INCONVENIENT MATCH definitely pulled me into this story: One glance at the rogue across the way curled Abigail Wilson's gloved hands into a stranglehold on her skirts.

    WOW! Before I read another word I was already visualizing that "rogue across the way" wondering why he affected Abigail like that! (and of course, I have NEVER been disappointed in any of Janet's books---or ANY of the Seeker's books, for that matter) *smile*

    Hugs, Patti Jo

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  86. Hello, DARLENE! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and examples. I always finds examples help to get my creative juices flowing!

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  87. HEIDI -- That's SO true! Planting that sense of anticipation in a potential reader is critically important.

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  88. Interesting, DEBBY! Do you have any "A" heroins? I don't think I had one until Book #7.

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  89. Hi, CINDY W! Now everyone will be doing what you're doing...checking out boatloads of first lines! Which is SO MUCH FUN! :)

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  90. Hello, DebH! Those are some good openers you have there! They definitely have me asking questions, wondering what will happen next!

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  91. DebH -- So sorry to hear about the car accident. Hope you and yours are okay!!

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  92. Good opener, ELAINE! I love these opening lines you all are coming up with--they're planting good questions and have that sense of "forward movement."

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  93. Thank you for stopping by, SUSAN!

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  94. Oohh, I REALLY that new opener, NATALIE! I'm wondering WHY he MUST get to Charity Creek & why the train doesn't stop there -- and there's a strong feeling of forward movement that drastic action is about to take place!

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  95. PATTI JO -- That IS a great opening! Leave it to Janet to get our attention from the get-go!

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  96. Oops, missed you, NANCY! I like the details in that "after" version. It eally sets the stage!

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  97. What a fun post, Glynna! I loved reliving so many opening moments of great books.

    Dialogue draws me into a story. I don't care if it's internal or external, I just like commentary rather than reflection. Just look at all the examples you cited. They all have the forward movement that invites you deeper into the book.

    And that's the writing tip we should all keep in the front of our minds.

    Thanks for reminder and excellent examples!!

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  98. No 3 did it for me - a doctor (I'm assuming he's the doctor of the title), who sounds like he's there reluctantly (why?) and is looking for some kind of salvation (again, what happened?) A lot of questions posed there in such a short excerpt. Fabulous -- Joanne

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  99. Hi, AUDRA! Internal/external dialogue really can put you right into the head of the POV character, can't it? Immediately drawing you in the empathize with them and what's about to happen to them.

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  100. Hello, JOANNE! Our Tina really did a nice job on that one, didn't she!? Just a few lines and she's hinted at a past that's in need of future redemption.

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  101. This is completely off the subject--but I'm curious about how many words y'all write daily. What goal do y'all set for yourselves?

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  102. Local Woman Arrested For Stalking Favorite Author


    Yes. I'm late. But here it is ;).

    This story sprang out of a convo with Casey Herringshaw. Who wanted to join me in stalking a certain Caffeinated Drama Queen...

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  103. Hi Glynna, Down to the wire as I just finished my own blog to post. Oh man, I was close. Talk about action versus passive.

    Great post on beginnings. The start of DREAM SONG

    "Professor. Watch out!"
    Autumn grabbed Dr. Davidson's arm and yanked the elderly man away from the crumbling wall.

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  104. Hi everyone!
    I don't always join in the comments, but I always enjoy each post. :) Keep up the great work!

    Favorite lines: the opening line from High Country Hearts, Glynna Kaye. In my mind I heard a long "ooh." Added that title to my TBL.

    Ditto for The Bride Wore Spurs, Janet Dean. That line is sooo good! Made me laugh, curious and jealous all at once. lol.

    From my WIP, "A Certain Woman of Mettle" the opening line is:
    Three things were essential for any well-bred lady: shrewd wits, a quick tongue, and a sharp hatpin. Of these three, the hatpin was the most useful.

    :) All the best as we write for His glory,

    Lucy

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  105. A great opening line is essential. Fabulous examples thank you.

    Please count me in for the drawing for a September release set of Glynna-Ruthy-Debby books.

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  106. I wish you'd join the meme at Bibliophile by the Sea. You've given some absolutely gorgeous introductions! I loved the rooster one - am hoping the owner is a lovely young lady there.

    If the giveaway is open to all, I'd like to be counted in.-

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  107. Lucy, I've loved that opening line ever since I first saw it!!! It totally rocks!

    Courtney! I aim for 1000 words/day... four pages. I work full time, so that's a steady pace for me.

    If you do just 1000 words/day, you have the ability to do 365,000 words PER YEAR.

    And if you say hey, I need half of that for editing time, then it's still 182,000 words/year.

    That's two single titles or three Love Inspireds.

    SWEET.

    I might be a turtle in the race, but by year's end, I've got that rabbit firmly in the stew pot, LOL!

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  108. I love that line, Lucy!! :)

    Courtney, right now I'm shooting for about 1k a day. But I keep going if I can get extra. If I have a good day, I can do 2k. But I find I'm usually going back and re-reading or else I'm stopping to plan the next couple of scenes. So that slows down the count.

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  109. HI, COURTNEY! I have only about 90 minutes to write on weekdays, so 1000 words is my goal. Today, though, I only hit 800, so tonight I'll try to find a snippet of time to make up the 200 word shortage. I try to hit a total of 2-3,000 words on weekends. Seeker Audra Harders says she also attempts to hit 1000 words a day.

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  110. Hi, CAROL! Thanks's for stalking by...er, I mean dropping by!

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  111. LUCY -- I love the hatpin opening!

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  112. Hello, MARY P! Thanks for stopping by!

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  113. Hi, MYSTICA! I love Ruthy's rooster opening, too! It hints at interesting things yet to come!

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  114. Thank y'all! I've been shooting for 1,000-2,000 too. And yeah, 365,000 words would be GREAT!

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  115. I read all you great writer's books. I am not a writer, but please enter me in the drawing for the September release.

    Barbara Thompson (LA)

    barbmaci61(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  116. Thanks for stopping by, BARBARA! I'll throw your name into the drawing!

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  117. Glynna, that was fun to read! Thanks for mentioning my book :)

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