Janet here. I’m excited to announce a definite title for my next release The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption, LIH, January 2016. The title fits the story perfectly. I’m hoping for a rugged unshaven hero on the cover resembling Nate Sergeant. Of course, if the pretty heroine Carly or her adorable seven-year-old son Henry should join Nate, that will work great, too!
For writers to hook readers immediately, we need to create relatable characters who are knee deep in unanticipated change that threatens or distresses them, propelling them to act. Those actions start a chain reaction of events, the plot.
Editors know what readers want. Love Inspired editors want the hero and heroine together on the page as soon as possible. In recent years I've also seen that they want both points of view pretty quickly, too. No time to dillydally.
The first meeting of the hero and heroine is sometimes called the set up or the Cute Meet, though whether that first meeting is cute or not, depends on the story you have to tell.
Some stories don’t open with the hero and heroine meeting immediately. A few paragraphs, even a few pages, may focus on one character, but when the hero and heroine meet, make it matter, make it exciting, make readers care and want to spend time with these people as they journey toward their happy ending.
Let’s zoom in the lens to look at the opening pages when the hero and heroine meet. How can we introduce the characters in ways that will hook readers?
· Start with the point of view character’s goal. Strong goals are interesting. Strong goals reveal a lot about the character. Strong goals produce action.
In the opening of Courting Miss Adelaide, milliner Adelaide Crum faces the committee of four men who will decide if she gets her goal of rearing an orphan. The interview shows the times, the attitude of the men involved—reminds me of Missy’s subtext post—and an intriguing peek at editor Charles Graves that hints a romance is possible. This scene sets up the entire book. Adelaide never gives up her desire to be a mother, but as she grows and changes throughout the story, she wants more, a voice in town, a voice for women. If you want to read an opening with the goal as the hook, go here.
· Start with the hero and heroine in conflict. Strong goals and/or motivations create conflict in and between characters.
In the opening of Courting the Doctor’s Daughter widow Mary Graves confronts Luke Jacobs about the validity of his remedy. Sparks fly as these two go toe to toe in a scene that reveals Mary’s motivation. If you want to read an opening with strong conflict between the hero and heroine in the opening pages, go here.
· Start with humor. Spunky characters sometimes use humor to mask pain and fear.
In The Substitute Bride, I open the story with Elizabeth Manning fleeing her father’s home before he can marry her off to the rich old codger who promised to pay Mr. Manning’s gambling debts in exchange for his daughter's hand. In the train station, Elizabeth switches places with a mail order bride with cold feet. The humor hopefully hooks readers and makes them eager to see what will happen when this gutsy heroine collides with widower Ted Logan. To read an excerpt go here.
· Start with a dilemma or danger. Suspense authors often start with a heroine in danger. The rest of us may start with a dilemma that makes readers care.
In Wanted: A Family pregnant widow Callie Mitchell’s in a pickle. Her house is practically falling down, endangering her and her goal of providing a home for unwed mothers. When stranger Jacob Smith shows up offering to restore her old Victorian in exchange for room and board, Callie doesn't trust him, but the strong motivation for her goal overrides her reservations. To read an opening that begins with a dilemma, go here.
· Start with a shared past. A shared past that looked promising or was painful makes this meeting all the more interesting.
In “Last Minute Bride” in the anthology of Brides of the West, An Inconvenient Match and The Bride Wore Spurs, the heroes and heroines knew each other before the story starts. Their pasts cause conflict between them that influence their behavior now. To read excerpts of each story, click on the title.
- Start by giving the reader the sense of impending trouble.
In The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption, my January release, the book opens with Carly Richards standing at the grave of her dead husband Max. Though she looks like a grieving widow, Carly's relieved Max is dead. She vows to run her seamstress shop and take care of her young son, as she’s always done. The scene ends like this:
“…She’d been a fool to hitch herself to Max Richards. She’d never trust a man again.
Carly grasped Henry’s hand, then with one last glance at the grave, at the overall-clad men already covering the casket with shovelfuls of dirt, she stepped away from her past.”
You don’t believe she’ll never trust a man again, do you? Is it even possible to step away from one's past? These few lines foreshadow the possibility of trouble ahead. Carly thinks she’s experienced change with the death of her abusive husband, but more change is headed her way.
Which brings up an interesting point. When do you start the book? Before the trouble starts? During the trouble? Or right after the trouble?
All can work.
In The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption I start the book before the trouble starts.
Let’s chat about openings, what you like and what you don't, as we sip coffee or tea and nibble on fruit, scones and apple fritters.
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