Friday, October 25, 2013

First Lines, Great Beginnings with Guest Christina Rich


Happy Birthday, Seekerville!!!! I’m honored to be invited to share it with you. For those of you who don’t know, I received a partial request from Emily Rodmell, and editor at Love Inspired, during Seekerville’s 4th birthday party. Exactly one year ago today, I received an email asking me to call Emily because she wanted to buy my story! My story!!!! So, take advantage of every opportunity, before and after you're published.

Now, on to my blog post.

“Weak first lines greet us like limp handshakes.”
                Donald Maass ~ Writing the Breakout Novel (workbook)



If you’ve entered or judged a contest you know the importance of first lines being great. As writers we need to hook because the reader wants to be hooked. From the moment I began writing I understood this whole hooking thing. However, it took me a little longer to understand that my opinion of a great first line was just that, my opinion. An opinion which often differs from other readers.

Take a look at my original first lines from my yet to be contracted book Love at Twenty Paces.

At the age of eleven, Darbigal O'Donnell never thought she’d grow to be anything other than what her parents had formed her to be, a God-fearing wife and a diligent mother. But all that changed when her parents fell from their pulpit in search of gold.

I absolutely loved those words. Yes, I was married to them. Married to them through nine contests where almost every judge commented on how those words weren’t as lovely as I had thought they were. I still love that beginning, but I finally caved.

A low rumble rolled through the stillness of the hot afternoon and vibrated Darbigal O’Donnell’s frayed nerves.

Those judges weren’t being mean in their criticism. They weren’t trying to sabotage my dreams of being published.

It wasn’t until after I received the call with an offer to buy The Guardian’s Promise and sailed off Unpubbed Island that I actually began studying what industry professionals were saying about first lines.

According to Mahesh Grossman, coined a ghostwriting guru by Fox News, your submission is about one of two hundred in a week. Yes, I said a week, and if you write in one of the hottest genres like romance, a 1.438 billion dollar industry in 2012 (RWA), you can probably double that number. Grossman goes on to say that, “Agents have a different mission: rule out as many manuscripts as possible so they can spend more time reading the best stuff.”

When it’s put that way, it makes this author want to try harder to write great beginnings, especially if I want to hook my readers (assistants, agents, editors and fans).

To add to the importance of why great beginnings are, well, important let’s look at what author Kaye Dacus says, “Most editors I’ve talked to or heard speak on panels say that they usually know by the end of the first paragraph of a submission whether or not they’re going to want to see more or automatically put it on the “rejections” pile.”

Sadly, we live in a fast paced, fast food world. One that almost demands instant gratification for anything time consuming, especially when it comes to the written word. Let’s face it; readers’ lives are busier than ever. Calgon moments are rare. Judges know this. Agents and editors know this, too.



Ouch!

That doesn’t give a writer much time, does it?

And here is what my editor, Emily Rodmell has to say, “The best way to hook an editor or agent or, more importantly, a reader is to have a great opening line, paragraph and scene. Don’t bore them with backstory. Hook them with great action or dialogue.”

Here are some examples of what she’s talking about.

The only thing Hannah Hart hated more than mirrors was the spotlight. (From Her Family Wish by Betsy St. Amant)

Police Detective Austin Black glanced at the illuminated numbers on the dashboard clock as he raced up Oak Drive. Two in the morning. Not a good time to get a call about a missing child. (From Tracking Justice by Shirlee McCoy)

 “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” (From His Mountain Miss by Karen Kirst)
“They are three completely different genres, but the one thing they have in common is that the opening makes you want to read on to see what happens. The characters aren’t ruminating about their past as they drive back into their hometown (the biggest cliché in romance novels). Instead, the reader is thrust into the action of the story.”

I love Emily; smart and spot on. Just look at Emily’s first example from Betsy St. Amant's Her Family Wish. It’s short and to the point. The reader is immediately pulled into the story because we want to know why she hates mirrors and what she’s doing in the spotlight. And wow, with Shirlee McCoy's opening lines, how can you not continue reading?

 So how do we do this? Can we just write dialogue and all will be right as rain?  "I'm not Italian." Gabriella Rosa Cavianto buried her face into her hands and sobbed. Or internal dialogue? Good riddance, Melvern, Ks.  Or have our hero/heroine do just anything? Donna chased her lucky penny as the torrential rain swept it toward rusty drainage gate.

Ehhh, maybe, maybe not. I'm thinking that those first lines could use some work. ;)

Sol Stein has a pretty good formula for writing first lines. He states in his book, Stein on Writing, that every opening paragraph has three goals.

1.    To excite the reader’s curiosity, preferably about a character or a relationship. 

2.    To introduce a setting.

3.    To lend resonance to the story

If you look back at the two different lines from Love at Twenty Paces, only one of them accomplishes these three goals, and it’s not the first one. So I guess the judges were right. And now that I’ve learned a bit I can look back at it and agree that yes, that original first line was kind of like a limp handshake. I’m hoping that’s not the case with my soon to be published book. Let’s take a look at it:

Ari’s heart hammered in his chest as the horses thundered toward the groves.

The Guardian’s Promise (March 2014)

1.    Does it excite your interest about Ari?

2.    Does it introduce a setting?

3.    Does it resonate?

Given it’s only one line and not the entire paragraph, having one out of three isn’t bad. Here’s the paragraph in its entirety.

Ari’s heart hammered in his chest as the horses thundered toward the groves. Instinct had him reaching for where his sword should have been, a sword he had discarded years ago when he’d traded his life of a warrior for that of a bond servant. He’d been a fool to leave his weapons hidden away when danger lurked close at hand, but he could not very well play the servant dressed as a soldier.
The second line does a better job of introducing the setting, and the third sets the hook that I started in line one.

Here are the first lines from my contemporary work in progress Rescuing the Fireman, a story I’m falling head over heels in love with.

The wheels on the old fire truck propelled chunks of gravel into the fresh coat of paint as Levi Turner barreled down the road. Saving Myrtle Johnson’s home was much more important than ruining years of restoration and fundraising at Groverton’s fall festivals.

And now for some GREAT beginnings from some GREAT authors.

Mary Connealy

The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode into the schoolroom. Late as usual.

 —Christy  nominated Calico Canyon

Beth McClellen would die before she missed Mandy's wedding.

That wasn't some cute saying. It was a plain bald fact. She would probably be pounded to death any minute now.

–Rita nominated Doctor in Petticoats

 The Alaskan Gold Rush had turned Seattle into a madhouse.

—Carol Award Winning Golden Days

 Sophie heard God in every explosion of thunder as she listened to the awesome power of the approaching storm. But there was more. There was something coming—something more than rain.

 —Petticoat Ranch

Belle Tanner pitched dirt right on Anthony's handsome, worthless face.

—The Husband Tree

The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Luke Stone's head around.

Swept Away

Pam Hillman

Connor O’Shea braced his booted feet against the auction block and glared at the crowd gathered on the landing. Vultures. Ever’ last one o’ them

Terms of Indenturement (Yet to be published)


Janet Dean

Elizabeth Manning had examined every option open to her. But in the end she had only one. Her heart lurched.

She had to run.

The Substitute Bride

 Men. The bane of Elise Langley’s life.

—“Last Minute Bride” from the anthology, Brides of the West


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

The Bride Wore Spurs

Julie Lessman

Sisters are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it

A Passion Most Pure

Now this is how love should be -- nice and neat!

A Hope Undaunted

Sweet thunderation -- deliver me from pretty men!

Love at Any Cost
Merciful Providence … I smell a rat!

Dare to Love Again

Close your mouth, Devin Caldwell, you'll swallow a fly.

Dare to Hope (working title)

Debby Giusti

"The gathering dark clouds had mirrored Stephanie Upton's mood since she'd returned home to Freemont, Georgia, two days earlier.

The Soldier’s Sister

Sandra Leesmith

“Dummy, dummy, dummy.” Skye Larsen dove for the ground and covered her head.

Love’s Refuge (November 2013)

Drop down and pretend to be dead.

—Untitled, yet to be published

Glynna Kaye

At precisely one o’clock on a sunny September Saturday afternoon, Megan McGuire spied the pirate.

Dreaming of Home

Missy Tippens

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

Myra Johnson

“I’m in trouble, Kip.”

A Horseman’s Hope


Now it’s your turn, if you’re feeling brave. Post your first lines/opening paragraph in the comments and let’s see if you’ve accomplished Stein’s three goals. For you readers, you can post first lines from your favorite books. I'll be giving away two 5 page critiques. Just let me know you would like to be entered. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


 Christina Rich was born and raised in Kansas, where she currently lives with her husband and children, Christina loves to read stories with happily ever afters, research,  take photos, knit scarves, dig into her ancestry, fish, visit the ocean, write stories with happily ever afters and talk about her family and Jesus.

Her debut, The Guardian's Promise, releases from Love Inspired Historical March 2014.




 You can find her at:

 www.authorchristinarich.com 

christinarich.wordpress.com 

www.facebook.com/christina.rich.90

twitter.com/ChristinaInspy

More Party Details Can Be Found Here.

222 comments:

1 – 200 of 222   Newer›   Newest»
Mary Connealy said...

Opening couple of lines from Stuck Together.

Tina Cahill finished hammering a hefty board across the front of Duffy’s Tavern. Carefully printed on the board were the words ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here’.
It sent a message at the same time it nailed Duffy’s door shut. Tina’s plan was to get his notice.
“That tears it!” Duffy roared from inside the saloon. He’d noticed

Mary Connealy said...

I always love these 'first line' days and...it always makes me want to go try harder on my own first lines........so it's good.

Thanks for being on Christina!!!

Mary Connealy said...

I really liked these lines. I can sort of FEEL myself sitting forward as I read them. Very good, action-y...full of emotion and excitement. INTERESTING.

I have always really loved that line of Missy's about
"He smelled like a rich man. The man smelling like Fort Knox." It's just funny and different and a grabber."

And I remember exactly that line of Glynna's when she 'saw the pirate'...such a great opening line. So fun

Lyndee H said...

Hi Christina,
This is always a fun exercise. When I get stuck, I often pick random books from my shelf and read the first few lines. It's amazing how this exercise gets my mind working.

Happy Friday, Seekerville! Malted milk balls were on sale at Walmart so I'm providing a sack of them. I know it's early for candy, but grab a few for snack later!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Now I want to read all these books!!

Great post!

Lyndee H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Rich said...

Mary, I'm smiling at Tina's tenacity and Duffy's reaction. By the way, Duffy seems to be a family name on my dad's side. I guess it comes from the McDuffys.

I've read all these lines several times the last few weeks and they do make you sit up and take notice. It's hard to choose a favorite among them they're all so good.

Melissa Jagears said...

I'm game. I gotta turn this in in 2 weeks time, so if it's bad, tell me now! :)

The thwack of the train door jolted Eliza Cantrell upright. Acrid coal smoke whooshed through the muggy passenger car.
“Now, don’t nobody get any ideas,” a menacing voice growled.

Christina Rich said...

Lyndee, malted milk balls!!!! Really? My favorite.

It is a fun exercise. Oddly, I usually find myself drawn to the ones that start out like It was a dark and stormy night... or It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Christina!

It's so exciting to see you on the other side of the screen at Seekerville!

I'm game - Here are the opening lines to Her Redeeming Grace, coming in August 2014 from LIH:

“She’s old. Dat said so.”

“Ja. Old and mean.”

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


Thanks for all the examples, AND the reminder to go back and work on the opening line in my WIP!

Christina Rich said...

Thank you, Virginia. Now that I understood. Not confusing at all. ;)

Christina Rich said...

Melissa, I don't know about anyone else but I really like your first lines. Makes me want to snap to attention.

Christina Rich said...

Oh my goodness, Jan! I almost woke hubs up with my laughter. Love it.

Clari Dees said...

Wow. These examples of first lines aren't intimidating at all. Not! :-)

Seriously, though. They make me want to go find the books and reread them all again. And I don't have time for that tonight. I have to work in the morning.

But I'm gonna be brave (or maybe just dumb) and play, too. Here's the first lines from my current WIP.

"Tremain!"
The bellow rattled the office door's frosted glass pane.
So much for hiding out and getting some work done--even if it
was only chasing down paper trails. That scrawny new assistant must have squealed on him.

Jamie Adams said...

Great post Christina! First lines are so important. Of my books this one from Wishes and Whims is my favorite:

“You're only as warm as your feet.”
Cora Tolivar wiggled her near frozen toes. She should have listened to her mother and worn her boots.

This one is from my wip Emma's Second Chance:

“Hold on!”
The driver’s warning registered too late for Emma Ward to brace herself. The stagecoach came to an abrupt stop and the jolt sent her sprawling.

Christina Rich said...

Clari, I really like your first lines. The image of the frosted door really brings the lines to life and seems to set up events to come. Great job!

Clari Dees said...

Thank you, Christina. I forgot to say I loved the post, by the way. It has my brain firing when I should be sleeping.

Your comment about the It was a dark and stormy night reminded me of something.
My brother posted a pic on FB of a lightning-filled sky and captioned it, "It was a dark and stormy night. Except for the flashbulbs." I love that line and still smile thinking about it. I told him if he wasn't going to use it in a story, I was calling dibs on it. 'Cause it would make a great opening line. :-)

Christina Rich said...

Jamie, your lines from Wishes and Whims makes me want to know more about your heroine.

I think Emma's Second Chance starts off right in the action and it makes me want to know why the coach came to an abrupt halt.

Christina Rich said...

Oh, Clari, that is a great opening line. I've been known to write stories around an opening line. ;) Probably not the best way to start a story but I don't always do everything the best way.

Christina Rich said...

A few years back I wrote a beginning based off something I was told I couldn't do-- what was that you ask? Ummm utilizing a chamber pot. Actually, we didn't call it a chamber pot but a more unsavory name. Anyway, because I was told I couldn't, I did. And then I entered those lines into a contest an agent blog was having. Out of several hundred entries mine took an honorable mention. I look back at those lines now and I cringe because the writing isn't that great, but.... the agent liked it enough to mention it as in like number 5. ;) And as you'll see the chamber pot lost it's way out of the beginning but it does make an appearance at the end of the scene.... as a weapon.

Lady Anne Wharton squirmed against the threadbare bench of the coach. Each rut in the road forced her closer to a precarious situation. Under normal circumstances she would have traveled in finer luxury.
Today, however, she was in the care of her future husband’s burly guard and she was not Lady Anne Wharton, but Amelia Cutstwald unwashed and dressed in rough homespun garments, which chafed areas best left unmentioned. And today, even though she was every inch a well-bred lady she very much felt like the harlot she was supposed to be.

Amber Stokes said...

Fun post, Christina! :) Thanks for the motivation and reminders. I'm hoping to really dive into edits for my second release soon (Forget Me Not), and the beginning definitely needs a lot of work. ;)

Here are my opening lines for Bleeding Heart (inspirational historical romance, published July 2013):

There was no way on God’s brown desert dirt that Sally Clay was going to marry Rufus O’Daniel.

As she hurried through town to the train station, Sally thought about how she was now in the same predicament she had been in three years ago, back when her whole world had broken into pieces as numerous as the sagebrush bushes on the hillsides. It didn’t matter that Rufus was one of the wealthiest men in the whole state of Nevada – a silver baron who knew when to stop mining while others squandered their wealth away trying to make the earth give up more riches than it contained. She was through with men’s tricks. This time, she was going to be the one to leave.


~Amber

Tina Radcliffe said...

DO YOU PEOPLE SLEEP????


Christina Rich said...

Amber, great hook. I've got to read this story.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And welcome Christina. You sure know how to throw a party, dude!


Okay, I brought evening snacks since this is obviously going to be a slumber party.

Christina Rich said...

Sometimes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, oh and Sunday afternoons after the Chiefs play.

Christina Rich said...

SNACKS!

Tina Pinson said...

Hi Christina,
Good post, great reminders. Great beginnings are important. I still work at it.

Here are some of mine.

Opening lines from Black Rain --

"Don't you be dying on me, Nette. I don't want to be living with out ya," Joseph Abernathy McCormick whispered as he bathed his wife's face and neck with a cool cloth and laid the rag back in the bowl of water.

From This Shadowed Land --
"I'll tie you up if you go for that horse again," Elijah threatened Rebekah Cavanaugh.

From Christmas in Shades of Gray --

It's Christmastime, but I'm not feeling altogether festive. Given the strands of tubing attached to me and all the off sounding carols played by the machines keeping track of my body rhythms, and the packages of blood and saline tied up neatly on stands, I could be the Christmas tree. The wrong kind of Christmas tree.

Tina Pinson said...

Sharing a couple more...

From Then There Was Grace --
Jostled and bumped, Grace managed to hold her balance as a crush of people moved her from the car and onto the platform.

From Touched by Mercy --
Lorena wadded the dress into a ball, crammed it into the worn carpetbag, and looked up. "Don't wrap her legs. You might wake her."

From To Carry Her Cross--

The corridors closed like arbors of pitch around him.


From Counting Tessa -- (WIP)
Strapped at her ankles and wrists; a prisoner in a birthing bed somewhere in the lowest corridor of a hospital with an unknown name, she lay panting.

Cruising -- (WIP)
Rain, rain go away.
Stupid song. Keeps running through my mind like a bad record as I stand in this graveyard watching them lower the casket into the sodden earth.

Finding Middle C -- (WIP)
"I see, you've been assigned to the monster's room today," Beatrice, the head nurse on the ward, said when Maggie reached the nurse's station.

Okay... I'm done for now.

:-)

Amber Stokes said...

Thanks so much, Christina! :)

And Tina, we could ask you the same thing, couldn't we? Seeing as how you're on here late at night, too??

I'm all for a slumber party! I'm a night owl who apparently isn't as productive as she should be during the day... *sigh*

(And in my defense, I live on the West Coast, so it's not quite so late here yet.)

Bring on the snacks!

~Amber

Piper Huguley said...

Or insomniacs frequent Seekerville!

This was a great post Christina, thanks! Part of the fun of SYTYCW was looking for those "hooky" first lines. I'm not posting but this gives me stuff to think about as I attempt to revamp at start to the GH story.

Great job and I'm looking forward to your book!

Piper

Cindy W. said...

Okay, I'm a newbie, but here goes,..,

The pain gripped hold of Cassie's heart and for a brief moment, she knew what it must feel like to die, to feel nothing beyond the pain, to feel numb. Life as she knew it was over. How could this happen, moreover how could she have let this happen?

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy Woolard

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What wonderful first lines!!!

Christina, I'm like you, I have to be
"wrassled" from the MOST BEAUTIFUL WORDS IN THE WORLD nearly every time.

Wouldn't ya think I'd learn?????

:)

These are great examples of strong openings and the trick to this is write the opening chapter, then DUMP MOST OF IT and begin at the action sequence.

This goes against everything you were taught in middle school, so throw the old handbook out and barrel in, guns blazing.

Crazy, but fun and understandable in these fast-paced times of instant gratification. I think that's why things like Downton and Call the Midwife and Amish and westerns like The Last American Cowboy are grabbing audiences left and right, because there's a part of us that yearns for classic story telling... but when it comes to publication, that fast-paced opening better not be havin' anyone sippin' a pot of tea.

I'm just sayin'. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Okay, from "His Montana Sweetheart", August 2014 "Big Sky Centennial" continuity, Love Inspired.... (whoa, that's a lot of words already, saints be praised!!!!)

Of all the town meetings in all the world. The butchered line from Casablanca put a hard stop on Livvie Franklin's heart. Jack. Here. Now.

And from "Loving the Lawman", May 2014 Love Inspired "Kirkwood Lake" series:

Checking his watch for the tenth time in an hour didn't make the minute hand move any faster.

Victoria said...

Thank you for this post! I love reading first lines. I haven't read "Calico Canyon," but that opening line makes me laugh every time as does Missy's opening line for "Her Unlikely Family." Please enter me in the drawing for the 5-page critique! Here are the opening lines for my WIP ...

Not yet.

Those were the first two words that thudded into my brain and stuck there. It was no wonder I had run away from my career four years ago with that kind of reaction to a new baby.

Annie Rains said...

Christina! I'm so happy you sailed off unpubbed island. Thank you for such an informative post today. Wow. I really want to go buy those writing books you quoted. Stein on Writing? And I want to read all the wonderful books whose first lines you used as examples. I think my first line could use some work so I'll refrain from putting it up and making everyone cringe :)

I'd love to be put in for a 5 page critique from you.

Jackie said...

Hi Christina,

What a great post today.

Here are my first lines:

Kristin Taylor’s heart raced. The next words spoken could change her life. For the better, right? The people standing around the yard in old Lexington grew quiet. Her pulse hammered in her hears. Come on, mister. Say it.

Thanks, for the opportunity of a crit. Have a great day!

Debby Giusti said...

Love your blog, Christina!

Thanks for including my first line. :)

Great info! Congrats on your success!!!

Birthday cake and ice cream on the breakfast bar all day!

Glynna Kaye said...

Fun post, Christina! I LOVE a good first line and love trying to come up with ones of my own. I actually have a few 'in the wings' that are just waiting for the right STORY to go along with them. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

I love all these first lines being thrown out here in the comment section. I'll definitely be back later to check out those that come in throughout the day! We have a LOT of talented Seeker Villagers here!

Rose said...

Hi Christina,

Great topic!

Here is the first line to my current manuscript.

'Disgust bubbled inside of Guy Roberts.'

Hope to see the rest of Linda's gang here today!

Have fun.

Glynna Kaye said...

This is the opening line of my April 2014 Love Inspired "Pine Country Cowboy" (I can't wait to see what the cover looks like!).

The last thing Abby Diaz needed was to be surrounded by little kids and pestered by a flirtatious cowboy.

Amber Schamel said...

Great post, Christina. I needed the reminder. I'm editing and polishing my WIP right now. :)

Here's what my first line was:

King David rubbed his temples as he sat on his magnificent throne. Throbbing veins bulged with every heartbeat.

Here's what is is now:

"Enough!" The stout merchant jumped when King David slammed his fist against the arm of his throne.

The endless chatter of this complaining merchant had pushed his nerves too far. Being the king of Israel was not what he'd hoped it would be. He should be leading his army against the Philistines, but instead here he was, in his luxurious palace, listening to the endless complaints of peasants.

It can still use some work, so feedback is welcome!

kaybee said...

Okay, I'm in, I could use a five-page critique.
Opening lines from "Lost and Found," my post-World War I New York settlement house story:

“He’ll be coming around now.”

Violet O’Connell leaned closer over the heap of rags on the sidewalk. As the little boy’s eyes fluttered, she smoothed back an errant lock of the child’s butterscotch-colored hair. “Whatever do you suppose happened?” she murmured to the young man kneeling beside her.

“Starvation, I don’t doubt.” He paused and then added deliberately, “But I wouldn’t expect a fine lady like you to recognize that.”

Violet turned and looked into a pair of cool gray eyes. The young stranger kneeling beside her shrugged, and his glance flicked past her to the child. “Here, now. Don’t try to move, lad.”

Kathy Bailey

Mary Hicks said...

Wonderful post, Christina! I'm always intrigued by the first paragraph in books. But I'm often pulled into the story even though it has a slow start. Maybe that's the reason I have trouble recognizing a really good first line!

I didn't get to read Myra's excelent and informative post yesterday, so I enjoyed reading it first thing this morning. Love WHEN THE CLOUDS ROLL BY! :-)

It's good to be back home... yee haw!!!

Sally said...

Wonderful post! I love first lines. I had entered a contest and received feedback today. Not too bad for a first try! One comment even said Good start. Keep writing. I've got a lot to learn, but there are such wonderful tips here, I just want to keep going. Here's the first part to what I'm working on now:

“Why is he pulling me over? I just got back into town. I wasn't even speeding.” Karyn looks back in her rear view mirror and shakes her head. She pulls her car off to the side of the road, grumbling and digging through her purse to find her license. Suddenly, the cop pounds on her window.
“Open the door and move over!” The cop yells at her as he’s pulling on the door handle.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

kaybee said...

Oh, these are all so great! I think I need to go back and tweak my WIP, the sequel to "Trail." Wow I am blown away.
KB

Jeanne T said...

How did you KNOW I've been struggling with my first line? This is not one of my strengths, and I loved your post on this topic, Christina. All the examples are fabulous too.

I've got a couple first lines I'm working on, but I'm not quite ready to go public yet. :) If I have some time to work on them, I'll swing back and put one up later for some thoughts.

And definitely, DEFINITELY please put me in for a critique! :)

kaybee said...

Opening lines from "Trail", unpubbed but being sent out (and returned) as we type:

Why 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.

Yeah. Michael. Whatever. This is a really fun post...
Kathy Bailey

Cindy Regnier said...

My first lines need work. Always known that but kind of married to them just like Christina. Instead of sharing them I'll just take this opportunity to say I have a special place in my heart for Kansas authors - hope to be one some day - and I am on the edge of my seat waiting for your book to be released. Thank you Christina. Great post and one I will keep close at hand.

Pam Hillman said...

Love reading and studying first lines, Christina. :)

I'm curious about Stein's third point...

3. To lend resonance to the story

Thinking about this, it seems that he's saying that the first line and paragraph needs to resonate with the rest of the story.

For instance, if Mary was writing chick lit, she probably wouldn't need to open with a bombing or a shooting, yes?

But, OTOH, Mary could probably make it work regardless! :)

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Love the parade of first lines.

Love Lyndee's idea too of picking random books off the shelf.

Peace, Julie

Pam Hillman said...

Lyndee, I LOVE malted milk balls.

Gimme!!!

Hey, it's milk. That's in the breakfast food group...

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, CHRISTINA, I LOVE this!!! Admittedly, I'm a first-line freak -- absolutely CRAZY about them, but WOW, you sure made it fun and educational, girl!!

SOOO fun to see your before and after!! I actually liked them both, but you (and Sol Stein) are definitely right! And every single one of the examples you used made me want to read on.

I am blown away by ALL the incredible first lines I'm reading -- WOW!!! I say that because so many times I read published first lines that make me think ... goodness, of all the lines in the world, why did they start with that???

SUPER CONGRATS, Christina, on your debut ... March will be here before you know it, girl, so HAVE FUN!!

Hugs,
Julie

Hallee Bridgeman said...

First paragraph of Sapphire Ice:

THERE were three of them. Sisters. Half sisters, technically, born to the same mother but different fathers. They lived in bad circumstances, the kind of childhood existence that makes for melodramatic and heart-wrenching movie of the week scripts. There were nights when it was bad, and then there were those nights when it was really bad. The really bad nights they all had to hide.

Hallee

Hallee Bridgeman said...

I LOVE first line exercises!

kaybee said...

SO ANYWAY...With apologies to T.S. Eliot, October, not April, is the "cruelest month." As we squeeze every moment of sunlight and laughter from the darkening days, it's impossible not to think about who has gone before, and what we've done with this year, and our lives. I have really been examining my motives this month during my devotional times. I'm getting into spiritual shape for NANO (it could be a train wreck, especially for anyone who works full-time), and I've been using Sandy's 28-day devotional. October has 31 days, so I guess I'll read the Bible on the other three. Anyway, I've really been going deep and examining my motives, making sure they're right, and seeking His will on what to do next.
And working on first lines.
Kathy B.

Susan Codone said...

You know, I often browse through books at the library and abandon those with first lines that don't catch me. It's amazing how important those few words are. Thanks for the reminder and the suggestions for crafting a compelling first sentence.

Courtney Phillips said...

"Ross’s growl ripped Alexis Walker from sleep right before a thunder rumble knocked her off the couch."

From my WIP. (I used personification, and I'm hoping any reader could figure out the thunder is not literally knocking her off the couch. Does it work?)

I love opening lines, and I remembered reading a lot of them from those examples.
Please enter me for a critique too, please.

Myra Johnson said...

Christina, what a fun and on-target post! I have become so conscious of first lines that I can hardly start writing a new book until I come up with an opening line I'm happy with.

Unfortunately, that can be paralyzing. I'm itching to get started on the story, but I can't quite jump in until I can kick it off with just the right zinger. :(

Um, rereading the above, I think I just used a whole bunch of mixed metaphors.

Myra Johnson said...

MARY HICKS, you just made my day! Welcome back!

kaybee said...

Nobody said anything about real food, or if they did I missed it, so I'm having a warm oatmeal scone with lemon curd and a cup of Earl Grey tea in a vintage Blue Willow cup. I think there's enough for everyone (scones, not cups).
KB

Clari Dees said...

Lovin' all these first lines! Julie L. is right. There are some very talented people that hang out around here. :-)

Clari Dees said...

I'll have a handful of malted milk balls, Lyndee. I love those things!

ellenparkerwrites said...

Okay, I'll give this a try.

From: Hilltop Orchard -- a WIP

“He’s coming after you, sis.”
Mary Smith tensed, straightened her posture past nervous attention and considered the harsh tone in Matt’s voice. He forced low words with a dry throat. She glanced toward the door and blinked slow.

Meghan Carver said...

Amazing first lines! If only I could just sit and read all day.... Thanks, everyone, for sharing your brilliance.

Please put me in the drawing for the critiques. I'll accept all the help I can get. :)

Audra Harders said...

Great first lines, Christina. There's nothing worse than a first line that says...well, nothing.

I love the first line days here in Seekerville. I can't wait to read more of them!!

Now on to read the comments and see what others have come up with : )

Mary Connealy said...

Ooh, Melissa! I love it. Train Robbery!

I don't know if I'm right, but I'm totally hooked, and that's the point, right?????

Mary Connealy said...

Jan??? LOL Love it.

Old and mean and has a big nose?

PERFECT!

Mary Connealy said...

Clari, I love that.

Squealed on me. That says so much.

Okay, I can't start commenting on all of these!

They are all so good.

You are doing great opening lines!

Mary Connealy said...

My personal favorite first line of all time from Alex Kava, a Nebraska author. Secular FBI Thriller starring her recurring superstar FBI Agent Maggie O'Dell....A Necessary Evil

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

I just dare anyone not to read on.

Mary Connealy said...

SALLY, I really liked that opening.

I am really curious. It sounds like he's going to jump in and grab the wheel and drive off for some reason with her in there.

You see? My mind is just full of STUFF, you've engaged me.

Excellent.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Christina

Your post had me going back to a manuscript Sandra Chastain critiqued for me over a decade ago when I knew nothing about hooks. After a whole scene of backstory and two paragraphs of description, she underlined this sentence and said "Finally some action, start here."

A gunshot pierced the sultry, Savannah night, followed by a woman's scream.

I noticed it not only starts with action, but gives the setting.

Please throw my name in the drawing.

Christina Rich said...

I'm here! A little late, as Tina pointed out earlier, I'm a bit of a night owl.

I've read through all the comments and wow there are a lot of great lines. I love seeing the creativity.

Connie Queen said...

Christina, congrats again on the contract. Love first lines subjects. Great examples. I think I've post mine before.

From Thief by Night:

Eight-year old Kathryn Tanner shivered as her eyes opened.
Something smelled horrible.

(This wouldn't work for LI since this is a prologue in the herione's pov)

First paragraph from Husband May Run...but They Can't Hide (I would trim this if it was a first lines contest.)

“You awake?” Even in a whisper, his voice rumbled.
Savannah’s heart quickened. Lying on her side, she remained perfectly still hoping her new husband would believe her asleep. But to her dismay, a hand traveled up her leg and settled on her hip. Nervous sweat beaded across the back of her neck. Clad only in a flimsy nightgown, really just a worn out chemise her sister had added some tattered lace to, she struggled to maintain her death-grip on the edge of the sagging mattress.


Christina Rich said...

Tina,

Great lines. You have a few that really struck a chord. The one from This Shadowed Land. It's one line but boy howdy do I want to know what she did to make him say those words, and I want to know why she did it. One line leaving so much wanting, yeah, it's a really great one.

Touched by Mercy, I believe it is more the tone than the actual first lines, but there is something there that says 'keep reading'.

The next one that really struck a chord is from Counting Tessa. Wow! Immediately I feel for this character and want to know why she's in a place with no name giving birth.

Great job!

Mary Connealy said...

Well, humph, this is Christina's fault....I started picking up books to read first lines and I may have to now re-read Lorna Seilstad's entire Lake Manawa Series.

And I wanted to post her first lines but now I want to post her whole first pages because each line builds on the one before and they're really good.

Here's the first line of the first book, Making Waves.

If forced to endure Roger Gordon for five more minutes, Marguerite Westing would die. Dead. Gone Buried. Six feet under Greenlawn Cemeter.

(okay, next paragraph, I can't resist)
Her parents would need to purchase a large headston to fit all the word of the epitaph, but they could do it. Money wasn't an issue, and after bearing this unbelievable torture, she deserved an enormous marble marker complete with a plethora of flowery engravings. She could see the words now:

Here lies Marguarite Westing
Only ninteen, but now she's resting.
Strolling through the park with Roger Cordon,
Once full of life, she died of boredom.

Tina Radcliffe said...

What fun this is! Terrific first lines!

Christina Rich said...

Piper, SYTYCW is a lot of fun and a great exercise. I suggest reading through the entries. Study them and ask yourself why you continued to read and then ask yourself why you didn't want to continue to read on those that did not grab your attention.

Piper, if you read this, may I have permission to post your first lines from SYTYCW?

Christina Rich said...

Cindy, you've got a great start. I tend to hide great lines behind a bunch of words. Of course, I claim it's my style when others start cutting my words. ;) So feel free to do the same.

The pain gripped hold of Cassie's heart and for a brief moment, she knew what it must feel like to die, to feel nothing beyond the pain, to feel numb. Life as she knew it was over. How could this happen, moreover how could she have let this happen?

Pain gripped Cassie's heart. Is this what it felt like to die? To feel nothing beyond the pain, to feel numb. Her life was over, and fool that she was, she let it happen.

Obviously, this is just my take on it and I don't know what happens next. There's nothing wrong with your beginning, in fact I really like it. I just tightened the first line and then changed a few words so 'life as she knew it' didn't come off as cliche. Cliches are a whole different beast. I once had a judge tell me 'red hair' was a cliche. *major eye roll* Anyway, I suggest keeping cliches out of your beginning if at all possible or switch the cliche to something unique.

Seekers, please add your wealth of wisdom. :)

Connie Queen said...

Mary, I remember the opening to Making Waves. I HAD to read it after the first few lines.

Christina Rich said...

Ruthy, it really drives me crazy when folks think they can red pen my lace.

Take for instance this line out of Love at Twenty Paces:
In typical Kansas fashion, the sun shone high and hot, while bright, white clouds bubbled like suds in a washtub. A storm brewed and if it got too hot, the clouds too high, a monster wind was sure to funnel down from the sky and rip to shreds everything in its path.

A do-no-gooder tried to blank them away into the great unknown. But I was having none of it, no Ma'am. I'm sticking to my guns even it is a cliche.

;)

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut instinct, but then again, sometimes not.

Christina Rich said...

Ruthy, thank you for sharing your first lines.

Jack. Here. Now.

Love it, love it!!!

Christina Rich said...

Victoria, great job. I definitely want to read more to see what's going on. I've got to know!

Deb Kastner said...

What fun! Love reading all the opening lines.

From Her Valentine Sheriff:
Serendipity, Texas, had gone to the dogs.
Literally.

And from Redeeming the Rancher:
Alexis Granger awoke to the smell of bacon and the tinny sound of pots and pans being shifted around in one of the kitchen cupboards. It might have been a pleasant surprise--if it weren’t for the fact that she lived alone.

Mz.ZeyZey said...

Found this article really helpful. I always thought I wrote amazing first lines, but I haven't won a contest or been picked up yet, so it never hurts to learn more about it. The statistics for the number of submissions editors receive are quite frightening, and any tips on how to stand out are much appreciated.I would love to win a five page critique.

I have two openings that I've been working on that I think are good starts. I would love some feedback on them.

1. Peyton Morgan couldn't let her mouse hove too long before she hit "save" or else she never would. In a moment, she went from "in a relationship with Dane Ashton" to "single." She shut her phone off. It was Facebook official; her six year relationship with Dane Ashton was over, and her current town would be Orlando, Florida as soon as she touched down.

--The Forever Girlfriend

2. "Jake's coming back; what do I do?" Mallory Taylor landed on the bed hard enough to bounce her roommate a foot in the air. "Shag him senseless, then get his last name and number," Emma mumbled into her pillow. "That's how it happens in at least a dozen pornos. Tell him you want him to make a special delivery in your--" "Emma!"

--Delivering Justice

Connie Queen said...

Christina,

This first paragraph in Calico Christmas at Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad sets up the story, even those it's a little long w/ some backstory. It hooked me.

Elizabeth O'Brian heard voices outside her tent and thought it must be Mr. Miller coming to see if she was dead yet. It as a cold November day and she'd been sitting in her tent for eleven days now in this desolate land. It had only taken her husband, Matthew, and their baby, a few days to die from the fever so Elizabeth couldn't fault the blacksmith for being impatient.

Janet Dean said...

Excellent post, Christina! Congratulations on your debut.

I think we've all been married to our words. But, for our opening lines to grab readers we have to be teachable. Posts like yours help me remember to study my opening lines with the eyes of an editor.

I often find that my second or third line works best at exciting the reader's curiosity. An easy fix with cut and paste. :-)

Thanks for sharing some of my first lines!

Janet

Joanne Sher said...

OH - my fave is definitely Mary's Calico Canyon one.

First line from my NF in progress: "Lord, I don't have enough stress in my life. Could you maybe toss me a trial or struggle? You choose - I'm not picky."

LOVED this post, Christina! I was working on this very same thing with fourth graders yesterday in my daughter's class. I THINK they got it. (Told them, imagine I'm sitting here with 28 paragraphs on 28 different topics, and I'm going to read only the first sentence to decide which I will read first. Do you think I would read yours?) Books should be the same, eh? :)

You can enter me for a critique - but only if I can "transfer" it to a friend (not writing novel length anymore).

Christina Rich said...

Jackie,

What really stands out in these lines and makes it pop is the line I placed in bold ink. Those four little words inserted into the middle of the paragraph say a lot. They show her doubt and if I'm guessing correctly they are a foreshadowing of what is to come. And then to tie it all together with a nice little bow, you show us her anxiousness. 'Come on, mister. Say it.' Great deep pov!

Kristin Taylor’s heart raced. The next words spoken could change her life. For the better, right? The people standing around the yard in old Lexington grew quiet. Her pulse hammered in her hears. Come on, mister. Say it.


Connie Queen said...

even "though"....not even "those". Sorry, I do that a lot in my posts.

Christina Rich said...

Debby, I'm a strong visual learner. I learn by example. So thank you for sharing.

Something I want to point out about Debby's first line from Dare to Hope is that it starts with the weather. New writers are told over and over, don't start with the weather (blah, blah, blah) ;) But see, it is possible and it does work. You just have to be creative, like Debby, and make the best use of the words surrounding the weather.

"The gathering dark clouds had mirrored Stephanie Upton's mood since she'd returned home to Freemont, Georgia, two days earlier.

Christina Rich said...

Rose, just a few words and you've already excited the reader's curiosity.

Great job.

Christina Rich said...

Glynna, I absolutely love that first line. I mean, really when surrounded by a bunch of little ones who doesn't want to see how this cowboy is pestering her.

A definite on my TBR.

Heidi said...

I love Mary's line from The Husband Tree! It's a perfect opening line for the character of that book- blunt.

Christina Rich said...

All right, Y'all. Take a look at Amber Schamel's first lines. Do you see how the first one wasn't bad but the second first line is so much more powerful. It really sets the tone of her story.

Now this second part is good too, and there is great information that Amber wants to convey to the reader.
The endless chatter of this complaining merchant had pushed his nerves too far. Being the king of Israel was not what he'd hoped it would be. He should be leading his army against the Philistines, but instead here he was, in his luxurious palace, listening to the endless complaints of peasants.

However, I am going to ask Amber a question, something for her to think about...

Amber, would bits of the following serve your story better if you placed them in dialogue? What if David stomps away, Jonathan fast on his heels, a hand to his shoulder to comfort his friend (just a few short, powerful words). "This is not what I'd hoped for when I became king. I should be leading ...." David pressed his fingers against his temple.



Christina Rich said...

Kathy Bailey, I was really pulled in by your first lines. The only thing that pulled me out, and this could just be me because I automatically think all stories have romance in them, but this "she murmured to the young man kneeling beside her." yanked me out a little. I was hoping because of the hint of snappy dialogue between them that this man would be her hero, but the 'young' gives me the impression that might not be correct.

Now I'm absolutely curious and want to know. If he's the hero you might want to use a different descriptive.

Donna said...

My favorite writing exercise is to sit and write opening lines. I have a notebook just for this exercise.

1) It takes a certain kind of woman to be married to a Private Investigator.

2) "Lord, I know I've prayed nonstop for you to get me out of this wedding, but not thrown over a saddle and kidnapped. Marrying Hector Sinclair probably wouldn't be as bad as this."

Thank you for the post on such a fun subject, Christina! I have had a blast reading everyone's. I'll be back later to read more!

Christina Rich said...

Mary Hicks, I am the same way. I think it's because no matter what I want to like a story, the characters etc, you know?

It once took me two months to read a category story. It was sooooo slow that I had to keep putting it down but I really wanted to finish it because I wanted to love the characters.

Sally said...

MARY CONNEALY you have made my day!! Thank you!

Melissa Jagears said...

Well, if I hooked Mary who shoots at people or has them falling off cliffs to start her stories, I think I'm good! :)

Piper Huguley said...

Christina,

I am extremely humbled by your request and your willingness to help all comers on this important subject. This is a great tutorial you are conducting and yes, you may use my lines from my entry.

I will also say here that Christina helped me with my pitch for this same story. If anyone wants to go through the SYTYCW entries, it is a clinic in what hooks and entices and what does not.

Thank you so much for your generosity!

Piper

Jennifer said...

Hi Christina! Great article...Here's my first paragraph of one of my WIPs...

Jeff Claremore pushed his bike close to the door of the shed and leaned it against the shed. The rickety building sat away from the road, down a short driveway. The hue of hunter green paint contrasted with the age and dilapidation of the building. Two large doors, with an opening wide enough to house a car, remained closed with two padlocks gleaming in the early morning sunshine. A small side door, almost hidden from view, displayed another padlock and proved surprisingly sturdy.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, this is so fun! I love peeking at these as my little ones eat pb&j and sing "It's peanut butter/jelly time! Peanut butter/jelly time! Peanut butter/jelly time!!!!"

:)

My house is rarely quiet and conducive to rational thought.

Christina Rich said...

Sally, those comments are wonderful. I remember when I first started entering contests and how much I cherished the bits of encouragement I received.

What if you started with action.

The siren jolted Karyn's heart. Flashing lights glared at her through her rear view mirror.

Christina Rich said...

Jeanne T, don't be shy. I've read your stuff and I love it!

Christina Rich said...

Kaybee, love that very first line of Trail.

Christina Rich said...

Cindy, us Kansas girls have to stick together.

Vince said...

Hi Christina:

I just love the opening lines from “Stuck Together” but it’s the next two lines that really grabbed me.

Tina Cahill finished hammering a hefty board across the front of Duffy’s Tavern. Carefully printed on the board were the words ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here’.
It sent a message at the same time it nailed Duffy’s door shut. Tina’s plan was to get his notice.
“That tears it!” Duffy roared from inside the saloon. He’d noticed.
Vince noticed too and confronted Duffy, “She is a dreamer. Let us leave her. Poor girl, she thinks she Dante Alighieri.”
“Who are you to talk? You think you’re Shakespeare.”


Now there’s an opening that will make readers scratch their heads.

Seriously, I think it’s not hard to come up with a great first line. The hard part is living up to the first line’s promise for the rest of the book.

The question I always ask is: “Is this first line a microcosm of the rest of the story or is it just a one-off cute hook with no line attached?”

Three of your examples are perfect microcosms of what is to come in the rest of the book.

Julie Lessman:
“Sisters are overrated, she decided. Not all of them, of course, only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it” —A Passion Most Pure

Perfect, this is what the book is about.

Debby Giusti:
"The gathering dark clouds had mirrored Stephanie Upton's mood since she'd returned home to Freemont, Georgia, two days earlier.”
—The Soldier’s Sister –

Debby is a genius at using the environment to mirror the events of the story. Perfect.

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

The pirate was not just cute. It set the tone for the entire story.

I’m a contrarian. I don’t want to hook the reader. I want the reader to hook me and never let go. Rather than hook readers like cold fish, I try to entice them like a torrid siren.

And now what can I do? Here is the opening from “Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer”. In this book contest judges just demanded that scene three be moved up to scene one. So I did it.

When Diana Hunter opened the front door of the secluded mountain cabin a five hundred pound black bear stood there looking her right in the eye.
Eye-to-eye.
Diana felt frozen in time. She could smell the bear’s breath. It wasn’t pleasant. It was bad.
“I could be dead in a few seconds.”


BTW: I had Rogenna Brewer create cover art for “Stranded” and it is so good I’m going to have to make the book a lot better to live up to the promise of the cover. (That's why I'm reading and rereading, "Romance-ology 101"). Rogenna is phenomenal.

Vince

P.S. Please put my in for a 5-page critique. It’s not a want. It’s a need.

Terri said...

Love this exercise! You gals are all so talented I'm scared to post. Still, here goes, "I'd be dead the second he realized I knew what he'd done." Now that just came to me one day in the car to go along with a series idea working on so I jotted it down. Very rough, no prettying it up.

I also have, "Number four. Blonde, beautiful, and dead."

Terri said...

I like it!

Terri said...

By the way, please enter me in the critique drawing.

Christina Rich said...

Pam, I want it to resonate with me. :)
It does need to resonate with the rest of the story, to set the tone and the setting. That is why each of our words should be planned carefully.

Take these lines from my wip The Chronicles of Janie Mason.

“Mama always said I had a stubborn streak.” Janie Mason stared at the drying ink and shook her head. What a shame her daring halted on the pages of her personal journal. “That bushwhacking squatter deserves to be put in his place. And Hopper Falls is not it.”

The use of words tells the reader that it isn't contemporary. Now if I changed it, it would be much harder to place the setting. I still get a bit of tone because of the potential conflict hinted at, so it might be a romance, but it could be set in a more modern period.

"My mother always said I was stubborn." Janie Mason stared at the written words and shook her head. Too bad she didn't have enough stubbornness to send her letter to the editor. "That man deserved to be put in his place and Hopper Falls wasn't it."

In case you're wondering... here are the next lines.

“Good morning, Miss Mason.”
Janie jumped. Her chair hit the floor with a definite thunk and the inkwell teetered until the blackness blotted out the words she’d just taken care to pen.
Pursing her lips, she stared at the destruction of her morning brilliance. If only she’d the nerves to share her frustration about their town’s newest addition.
She wiped her hands down the front of her apron and schooled her features. Sucking in a steady breath, she turned and greeted the object of said frustration.
The corners of his mouth eased upward. His eyes sparkled like a glimmering brook on a bright sunny day. His shoulder length hair reminded her of the golden iridescence of warmed honey. Janie Mason, you are gawking at the enemy. And if she didn’t know any better she’d think he had eaves-dropped on her one-sided conversation.
“I hope that is not a habit, Miss Mason?” He toyed with the felt hat in his hands before laying it on the crude countertop. His gaze shifted to her work table before piercing her with eyes the color of the bluest of prairie skies once again. His right upper lip curled. So did her toes, right along with the waves tossing in her stomach. Why did God have to make a man with such an abominable character so very handsome?
She pressed the palm of her hand to her belly and told herself to breathe. “And what habit would that be, Mr. Dunn?”
“Why, talking to yourself, Miss Mason. You never know who might be listening. Perhaps the bushwhacking squatter himself.”

Christina Rich said...

Hey, Julie! I think you have an awesome beginning in A Heart to Protect. "The enemy lurked here, right in the Nation's Capital." Oh yeah! I have to read more.

Christina Rich said...

Julie, your examples are superb as are all the Seekers. Nothing like learning from the best in the industry.

Christina Rich said...

Hallee, great tone. What if you added at the end of that paragraph, now remember I don't have a clue what comes next, but ... had to hide. Like tonight.

Christina Rich said...

Kaybee, I'm telling myself that I'm doing NaNo, but I also know that I'll most likely have to work on edits. I'm going to give it a go, if I get it done, I get it done.

By the way, both books I've sold to LIH were books written during NaNo.

Christina Rich said...

Susan C, I've been known to read the first lines at the store.

Christina Rich said...

Courtney,

Great start. What if, instead of using Ross's growl you just start with A growl?

Christina Rich said...

Myra, I find that I'm often paralyzed by trying to create that great first line.

Sally said...

CHRISTINA RICH, thank you! It pops now! Going back to hide in my snow fort and write some more. Thank you!

Christina Rich said...


Ellen,

The first two lines are spot on. I love the opening dialogue and Mary's action, tensed, straightened her posture past nervous attention. I love your use of words here.

Christina Rich said...

Mary, I've never heard of Alex Kava, but you're right, that is a fab first line. I'm going to have to find this author now.

Thanks, as if I didn't have enough to read. ;)

Christina Rich said...

A gunshot pierced the sultry, Savannah night, followed by a woman's scream.

Elaine, she's exactly right. This is a fantastic first line. I've had several critiques like that and as much as it hurts, it sure feels good when you realize what a killer beginning you have. Spot on!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great job CHRISTINA on that difficult yet crucial first line. Thanks for joining us today.

Christina Rich said...

Connie, from Husband May Run

What a great beginning. I had to wonder as I read it what era it was set in, but then you added one word that seems to set it in the historical time, chemise. Am I right? What year?

Connie Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Rich said...

Mary, I guess my paybacks are coming, huh? First Alex Kava and now Lorna Seilstad. I've heard of her but haven't read any of her books yet.

Folks, pay attention to the lines Mary posted from Lorna's book. The beginning lines, the deep point of view, the tidbits that are dropped which tell a wealth about the heroine.... That's the way to leave a first impression.

Connie Queen said...

You're right, Christina.
April 1861.
The date is listed before the opening too.

Christina Rich said...

Deb, both of those, yes, yes, yes! I especially like how you dropped that little hook at the end, if it weren’t for the fact that she lived alone.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for the great post! I love reading great first lines. Coming up with them is a whole new ball game!

Cheers,
Sue

Christina Rich said...

Mz ZeyZey, what if you started here:

It was Facebook official; Peyton Morgan's six year relationship with Dane Ashton was over.

Your second one made me laugh and I'd like to see how she handles Emma.

Christina Rich said...

Connie, Janet's first lines really say a lot we also immediately feel a connection to the heroine and want to see how she can have a happily ever after with such a tragedy hanging over her head.

Thank you for sharing that compelling example.

Christina Rich said...

Joanne, you brought up a great point. Non-fiction should be entertaining as well as get the information across to the reader. First lines matter there just as much if not more, because most of the time non-fiction deals with heavy matter and the reader needs to know the writer can relate to their situation.

Christina Rich said...

Heidi, I think Mary's line from The Husband Tree is my all time favorite.

Christina Rich said...

Donna! That first line has me!!! What a twist! We see so many stories from PI povs, having one from the spouse, Yes, yes, yes!

And that second one, well, let's just say I'm all for God answering prayer. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hey Deb Kastner...my old critique group buddy!

Group old not you old.

Good to see you and great first lines.

Tina Radcliffe said...

How can you not love a name like Mz Zey Zey???

Christina Rich said...

With Piper's permission (notice I forgot to ask Julie Hilton Steele for hers) here is Piper's beginning.

Amanda Stewart had nothing but the clothes on her back.

Ladies were not allowed to take Tabulation courses at Oberlin College, but she understood the red underlines at the end of the column of figures.


It says a lot in just a few lines. I love them.

Christina Rich said...

Melissa, you done good!

Christina Rich said...

Jennifer, your specific use of words tells a story. The old shed, seemly forgotten, yet the padlocks gleam, so maybe not forgotten at all just locked away.

Good job.

Christina Rich said...

Peanut butter and jelly!!!! Every time I buy peanut butter and jelly so I can have a sandwich it always gets contaminated with wheat. :/ Thinking I need a cabinet with a lock and key just for me.

Christina Rich said...

Vince, thank you for sharing more of Stuck Together! Oh my goodness!!!

I kind of like to be contrary too. I think you the writer can hook and tease all at the same time.

I really like your beginning. A five hundred pound bear, huh? I think I would be laid out on the floor.

I have to ask you, are you happy with moving your beginning? I know it was hard for me to move my beginning on Love at Twenty Paces.

Christina Rich said...

Terri, those are great first lines, especially the second one. And I'm guessing you write suspense. If so, my editor from Love Inspired is actively looking for romantic suspense authors.

Christina Rich said...

Sally, did you say snow? I'm freezing and can't get warm. This cold air is hitting me wrong this year. I'm ready to do that thing birds do, migrate south.

Christina Rich said...

I want to say thank you to everyone for allowing me to be here today. It is so much fun. I hope your brains are first lining. :)

Amber Schamel said...

Christina, it's very generous of you to give away a free crit. I wish more people would do that. :)

Sally said...

I'm the crazy one who loves snow. If you have any extra, please send it my way! lol

Mary Connealy said...

I need to work harder on opening lines. The ones you guys love are all OLD!!!

That seems bad to me.

Mary Connealy said...

WARNING, the Alex Kava books are secular, very gritty FBI Thrillers. But good books. I just want you to be aware.


LORNA'S however are Revell, excellent, historical romances. Funny. Making Waves is book one of her last series, she's halfway through another series already, so if you like them...she's got a lot out there for you. LOL PLENTY to add to your TBR pile.

Bridgett Henson said...

These are all so great. That’s probably why I’ve read most of them. Except of course the ones waiting publication. :)

Enter me for the critique.

Here are the first lines from THE WHATEVER SERIES.

Book 1, WHATEVER HE WANTS. Hangovers and three-year-olds didn’t mix.

Book 2, WHATEVER IT TAKES. “Lord, I’m tired of waiting. Where is she? Where’s the wife you promised?”

Book 3, WHATEVER IS DONE. The widow wasn’t home.

Mz.ZeyZey said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Christina. I think someone else mentioned that they were told their first line was actually a couple of lines later. I will take your advice on that one.

Emma is fun, isn't she? I have a fondness for characters who are the witty, loyal, crazy sidekicks to my heroines--they are such fun to write.

Tina--my aunt gave me the nickname years and years ago; she and her husband dole out the best ones! My real name is much less grand. It's just plain old Erica. ;-)

Terri said...

Christina, that is music to my ears! Yes, I primarily write suspense. I just love reading suspense novels.

Mz.ZeyZey said...

I'm so intrigued by all of these opening lines! I am new to submitting, contests, and interacting with other writers online. It's a nice surprise to find so many resources and supportive communities.

Courtney Phillips said...

Yeah, Christina, I do like the way that sounds better. Since she wouldn't automatically know what was growling while still groggy from sleep.
One word does make a difference!
Thanks!

Marilyn Baxter said...

First lines. The bane of my existence. *sigh* It's always a struggle for me. But here goes. You do realize doing this is like standing naked on a street corner at rush hour??? ;-)

From my novella that finaled in the Boroughs contest this year:

“I know Max was your fiancé in college, but honey, please put on your big girl panties. We need this client because you are broke. B-R-O—”

And from the full they are reading now:

"Your sperm canister will be delivered and--"

And from the short story they are reading now:

The puzzled look on her customer’s face told Mollie Brennan he had no clue about tea.

And last, something as yet unfinished and not yet submitted anywhere:

Tess stared at the wall display of various types and sizes of screwdrivers and muttered a curse.

Tina Radcliffe said...

But let us remember to keep those openings PG Rated says MOTHER TINA.

Christina Rich said...

Bridgett, this sounds like such a cute series. I think you hit a grand slam with book 1. What if on book 2 you just started out with "Where's the wife you promised me?" And then you could run into something like this.... Cam shoved his hand through his spiked-up hair. "I know, Lord, I'm just tired of waiting."

By the way, I'm loving the concept of this story just from the first few lines you've shared. Of course, it's great the way it is. It just depends on how you want it.

I think with book 3 I'd like to see a bit more. Is he relieved because of a failed matchmaking scheme or is he worried, upset? Just a little more. But then maybe you answer that in the next line.

Christina Rich said...

Okay, I've got to run for a little bit. I'll be back though so keep those first lines coming.

Mary Connealy said...

MY WIP first line right now is:

Matt Tucker could take people for only so long and then he had to get up in the mountains, all the way up where he was more likely to run into a golden eagle than a man.


I'm not in love with it.

I need to do something.

The first line doesn't pop but I get the action going really fast there after. This is paragraph five and six:

He rounded a curve and stomped on the toe of a bear cub. A squall drew his eyes down. A roar dragged them up. He looked into the gaping maw of an angry mama grizzly.
She swung a massive paw and he had no time to dodge. Instead of clawing his guts out, because he was so close, she whacked him with her whole arm and knocked him off the trail.
Tucker tumbled head over heels down the side of that mountain.

Jeanne T said...

Okay, I'm back for a quick break and playing with my first line.

Your post really got me thinking this morning, Christina, and moving toward a little more creativity. At least I hope so. :)


If the well dressed woman sitting in the waiting area was aiming for condescension, she nailed it. Charis glanced away from her and toward the young client she walked toward the door of the pregnancy center.

OR maybe this one:

One thing Charis detested more than a phony was condescension. And the woman sitting in the waiting area wore it like a stylish purse.

I'd love your thoughts!!

Jeanne T said...

SALLY—I love the snow too! Now that we had a little taste of it last week, I'm ready for more! :)

Mz.ZeyZey said...

Jeanne, I like the second one a lot, but I'm intrigued by the mention of the pregnancy center in the first one. They are both strong IMHO

Rogenna Brewer said...

"Freeze!" Her voice shook almost as badly as the Sig Sauer in her hand. After twenty weeks of G-man U in Quantico, Virginia, twenty-two year old rookie FBI Agent, Mallory Ward, never imagined facing down her first perp in her sister's kitchen. "Freeze, Nash. I mean it, darn it!"

From my upcoming Superromance. Sorry, I guess that's really the whole paragraph.

Rogenna

ps. thank you vince :?

Mary Connealy said...

Rogenna, I love this. The gun, the shaking. Her sister's kitchen. She knows him. So much going on.

Mary Connealy said...

Vince, nice work writing my next two lines.

NOT!!!

LOL

Mary Connealy said...

Tina does, however, at some point think smugly to herself that it is not everyone who can apply Dante to her daily life.

Sherida Stewart said...

Excellent post, Christina!

Your thoughts will be a great help for my "sagging" beginnings. My mind is buzzing as I try to find that perfect opening. Thank you!

Congratulations to you as you sail off the island!

Clari Dees said...

Christina, I'm lovin' those lines from your Janie Mason WIP. :-)

The problem with this first lines post, though, is that each example makes me want to keep reading. But I can't. 'Cause only the first lines are here. (grumble, grumble)
;-)

DebH said...

Great post today. I was aware of the importance of the first line/paragraph, but wow... it is uber important. L-

Lightbulb moment.

I've got a few first liners of mine I like... now if I can just get to the finish line.

from a YA short story:
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.

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

from a short/short i'm considering for Womans World submission:
Sight? Superfluous, considering every cell of his being snapped to attention the moment she entered his Uncle's bar.

I'd love to be in the drawing for a critique. I could use the help.

Thanks for sharing with Seekerville today. I learned a lot (and off to read comments, from which i will learn much more I'm sure)

Jenny Blake said...

i haven't got the book at present but I remember reading Zero Visibility by Shannon Dunn (I think thats the right name) LIS and was hooked from line one. I could not put that books down.
Others have captured me but this one is the one I tend to instantly think of when anyone talks about first lines.

Welcome Christina.

heads to sore this morning to read all the posts. But I am one day closer to answers or healing. (I am choosing to be positive)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

The bells clear trill beckoned NYPD Patrolman Mike Wolzak. The welcoming chime brought warmth to the chill of gray November. From "Red Kettle Christmas" Love Finds You in the City at Christmas, Summerside Press, October 2013

I loved writing "Red Kettle Christmas". It gave me a chance to play with historical voice and time and I loved it!

But I had a brainstorm today about a story I'd pondered two years ago and today.... while seeing a video recommended for research by Tina and Mary.... I could SEE the book, the emotion, the timing, the depth of the characters and I realized they didn't have to be HISTORICAL. The crazies of life cover all time zones!

Rogenna. You've won Vince's heart!!!! You go, girl!

kaybee said...

CHRISTINA, thanks for the advice. The man does turn out to be the hero/male protagonist, but they don't get along at first. I can tweak it to put in a little more physical/sensual attraction.
See you in Seekerville -- and beyond!
Kathy Bailey

Mary Connealy said...

Women cry. Men have heart attacks.
Bonnie Simpson laid the advice-filled women's magazine down.
So, if women didn't cry, were they destined to have heart attacks? Checking for chest pains, she regretted that she wasn't much of a crier.

Opening lines of Pride and Pestilence...now available as an ebook and titled Fright at the Museum by Mary Nealy.

Vince said...

Hi Christina:

My original opening had the hero jumping a creek on a motorcycle because a flash flood was in process and the bridge had just been washed out. The hero had to cross the creek to get to the cabin. It was the only way in or out.

He was at a turning point in his life. At 36 he was going to quit the Army and start life again. He was still single and thought if he could not risk his life on a rather easy jump, what was the purpose of being free and having no dependents? This scene went to his “I don’t know if life is worth living, anyway” state of mind. Of course, the heroine is going to give his life meaning and they are both going to have an HEA after he also gives her life meaning.

As a young person I was a rather wild motorcycle rider so I had a very realistic description of what such a jump was like. Of course, he crashes on the other side of the creek. The ground was too sandy. He’s just shaken up.

Anyway, the women judges said I just had to introduce the heroine first. This is a romance. What do I know? I didn’t enjoy changing it because it was not a cut and paste change. It was a total rewrite but I think it is much better now. (I’ll find out. It’s at the Emily right now).

When the mama bear starts pounding on the cabin door shaking the whole cabin, the heroine says a prayer, “Please Lord send me a hero.” (She is a romance writer, after all). Well, it is at that exact moment that the hero shows up at the cabin making as much noise as his Harley can make.

The heroine peeks out of the cabin door, sees his 6’2” frame, notices his black ‘leathers’ and three day growth of beard with him straddling the big Harley, and she looks up at the sky and says, “Lord, I know I asked for a hero but you didn’t have to send me the stereotype.”

The hero hears her talking to herself and thinks she’s one of those weird nature people who talk to animals so he says, “Lady, I’m sorry if I scared your bears away.”

BTW: Rogenna has a mama black bear and her two cubs outside a cabin for the cover art. It’s just perfect!

Vince

P.S. Please come back and remind us when your book comes out next March. I love to read and review debut novels. I don’t want to miss it.

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

I couldn’t help myself. I have much the same scene in the first chapter of my “Characters in a Romance” when after the “Cosmic Black Moment” blows up the universe, the hero and his little party of survivors, come to a cave with Tina’s sign above it. The hero says, “Let’s go in here quickly!” And the heroine, who is quite literate, says “You want us to escape into hell?” And the hero says, “We’re in a literary world now. Beyond the ninth ring is a river we can take into a beautiful safe world and when we come out it will be Easter.”

So you see, we think a lot alike. In fact, do you know how they have those ‘bad Hemingway’ writing contests? Well if they had a ‘bad Connealy’ writing contest, I’m sure I’d win it.

TINA: How about having a “Bad Connealy” writing contest for a grand unbirthday celebration month. I already have a “Sidney didn’t really die” chapter written. Please!

Vince

Christina Rich said...

Jeanne, I'm with Mz Zey Zey. I like the second one a lot however, there is a lot of promise with the first, it just needs a bit of clarification. Charis glanced away from her and toward the young client she walked toward the door of the pregnancy center. I guess because I know a little about Charis already but I didn't know she worked at the pregnancy center. Does she or am I misunderstanding this line?

Christina Rich said...

Rogenna, *huge grins* Where can I buy this story? ;)

Christina Rich said...

Wait! Vince rewrote your lines, really? Which ones? The Shakespeare line?

Terri said...

Christina, congratulations on your debut! Thanks for a wonderful and thought provoking post. I've loved reading everyone's opening lines.

Happy Birthday Seekerville!

Christina Rich said...

Kaybee, your opening is awesome. I had thought he was the hero, but the young gave me the impression he might not be old enough. I think you're on the right track, just add a different descriptive maybe.

Christina Rich said...

Whoohooo! Mary, great beginning. However do you manage both brands?

Walt Mussell said...

I wish I'd gotten in on this fun earlier.

The line went dead. Evan Halloran hoped his brother wasn't the same.

Christina Rich said...

Vince, you are too funny.

Btw, my debut starts out in the hero's point of view. So, that whole thing that romances have to start in the heroine's point of view isn't always true.

Cindy W. said...

Christina, thank you for your input. As I said, I am a newbie and can use all the help I can get.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Christina Rich said...

Wow, Walt! Nice!!!! So have you moved to contemporaries?

Glad you stopped by.

Christina Rich said...

Cindy, for a newbie you've done an excellent job.

Keep hanging around Seekerville and you'll learn a bunch. I've been hanging out here for a long time, sometimes in lurk mode. I also go back and read some of the older posts.

Walt Mussell said...

Christina, I'm tyring my hand at a contemporary. I have definitely not switched. :-)

Christina Rich said...

I'm glad to hear that. I just know you'll find a home for your historicals. BUT, from what I can tell by your first line you're going to do great with contemps.

CatMom said...

Thanks Christina--very helpful post today. I love reading first lines, and thinking about why they "grab" the reader. Really makes me put lots more thought into my own first lines!

Congrats on your book coming out!
Blessings, Patti Jo :)

Christina Rich said...

Thank you for stopping by, Patti Jo.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hmm, sounds like Vince should be reading Jasper Fjorde's Thursday Next.

Mary Connealy said...

Vince I have been eagerly awaiting this book ever since we talked about it in Tulsa. It sounds terrific.
And romances do NOT have to start in the woman's POV. They mostly do, it's true. but only mostly. Swept Away begins in Luke's POV.

Out of Control begins in Rafe Kincaid's POV. In Too Deep begins in Ethan Kincaid's POV.

Wildflower Bride begins in Wade Sawyers POV.
Trial and Terror, the third of my cozy mysteries, yes, Cozy mysteries but still they're romances and it was formerly known as The Miceman Cometh by Mary Connealy, now it's an ebook by Mary Nealy, is in Tyler Simpson's POV, the hero, so that's even a shorter book.

Mary Connealy said...

Also, I don't think I want a BAD CONNEALY AWARD.

It's a concept and award title that makes me nervous.

Jeanne T said...

Mz Zey Zey and Christina, thanks for the feedback. I'll keep massaging them. Tomorrow. I'm tired out tonight. :)

Christina, again, this was a fabulous post! Well done, my friend!

Christina Rich said...

Thank you, Jeanne. I had fun and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate my one year anniversary of 'the call', especially since it was with the people who helped and encouraged me along the journey to that call.

Linda Finn said...

OK, here goes... recently I read and reviewed Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund so the first line really grabbed me.

" He's guilty of murder " The judges voice echoed through the meetinghouse " I hereby sentence him to hang "

and I so loved the one you already did of Julies from A passion most pure.

Thank you for the tips and ideas, this has been such a great exsperience on the hunt with seekerville.
Linda Finn
Faithful Acres Books
http://www.faithfulacresbooks.wordpress.com
faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

Vince said...

Hi Christina:

No. No. No.
Mary didn’t write those last lines that I added. I hope no one really thinks she did!

My first line refers to “The Divine Comedy” and the last one to Julius Caesar: Act 1, Scene 2, Page 2. I tend to be a little bit cryptic. But so does Mary.

I think those contest judges might say you and Mary are a bad influence. : )

I did think that women readers might be more interested in the hero than the heroine. I’d rather read about the heroine first because that’s the woman I’m going to be with and get – vicariously, of course, for the rest of the book. I say bring her on stage quickly.

My hero is a real hunk of a sensitive wounded warrior who at 36 is ready to settle down and find a wife and start a family. Better yet he is headed right to the heroine where he will be stranded in a cabin with her for two weeks. He’s had his fill of fancy women and is looking for the kind of woman men marry. Exactly the heroine!

Now I really can’t wait to see what the Emily judges have to say. And I want to see how you open with the hero's pov. I know Mary does the hero often. In fact in one book the hero opens by riding his horse into a creek during a flash flood. Oh, that does sound a little familiar now, doesn't it. I think me and Mary have read too much Louis L'Amour. : )

Christina Rich said...

Linda, I have my first Jody Hedlund book and it so happens to be this one. I'll definitely be reading it soon.

Thank you for stopping by.

Christina Rich said...

Vince, I wanted to say that I thought your hero sounded all hunky. I'm all for a wounded hero on a motorcycle. Surprisingly I've never thought to write one. They all seem to ride horses, or drive firetrucks.

Heather NZ said...

Okay... Here it goes... This is the first line from my YA book.

The castle was a bit of a disappointment in Charlotte’s humble opinion. Any castle with a name like Dragon Hall should look more forbidding.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 222   Newer› Newest»