Thursday, December 3, 2015

Starting Your Scenes with a Bang

with guest C.S. Lakin.


 As writers, we may find ourselves asking, “Why is it so hard to start?” 

And we don’t just mean the writing part. That’s hard too, as our prolific Facebook activity log, empty coffeepot, and suspiciously clean piles of laundry will attest. (Nobody can houseclean like a procrastinating writer.) We mean actually starting the story.


Long explanations. Chapters of backstory. Characters sitting and thinking—about the past, the present, the future. Actions that lead nowhere. 


When we consider the immensity of history, information, and world creation most writers are trying to fit into two hundred or more pages, it’s not surprising we need to work up to our stories. But readers won’t toil through pages of preparation, information, or meditation before the story really begins. They need to engage, to get immersed in the action and become intimate with the characters quickly. Some say within the first page.




So when you edit, it’s time to take a hard look at your opening. Begin in media res—get to the good part. Engage readers right away through dialogue and relevant action, all of it building up the scene’s purpose. Raise questions. Use characters and emotion to invest actions with meaning. Stir up tension. Intrigue. Mystery. Excitement. Create a big bang.


Find where your story begins, and do as the king in Wonderland once told Alice: begin there.

Getting to the Story

Because our stories don’t actually spring full-fledged from our pens or keyboards, we writers need time to ease into them, and so a lot of our drafts open in one of these ways:

•    With a lot of description, most often of the weather.
•    With backstory or explanation of what’s about to happen.
•    With a character thinking or reminiscing. (This does not qualify as “something happening.” In fact, the state of thinking can be notably less active and interesting than even the weather.)
•    With a character doing a lot of mundane things before getting to anything pertinent to the story.

And then, finally, we write our way up to where the story really takes off—several paragraphs or even whole chapters after we begin.


The problem here is that while we are getting warmed up, readers are trying to enter the story world—and if they can’t get in soon enough, if the opening bores them or feels irrelevant or rambling, they are liable to move on before we do. All the way to a different book.


Take this opening for a suspense novel:

Before:
It was a gray, rainy day. The drizzle had started that morning and not ceased. By now puddles had formed around the storm drains and headlights glared off the wet pavement. The clouds overhead were thick and flat like a heavy blanket lying over the entire city, with no break anywhere for the sun to come through, even though it was only midafternoon.
Cars passed by in single file, following each other too closely and honking when the traffic got tighter. Skyscrapers rose on every side, their sides gleaming black and mirroring the traffic flow. On the corner of Smyth and Davidson, patrons snaked out the door of the local Starbucks, some shielding their heads with umbrellas while others pulled collars up and shivered in the dampness. Across the street was a drugstore, and a lone homeless man sat by a fire hydrant on the corner, his cardboard sign waterlogged and its markered plea for help running down in black streaks.

It was the kind of day that was typical in the Midwest in March. It made people unhappy, depressed, wishing they were at home watching TV instead of going to work, driving through town, dealing with one more gray day after a long and oppressive winter.

The winter days never seemed to end. Daylight Savings Time had cut the days off at their knees all the way back in November, and ever since it was one dark, cold, snowy, damp, drizzly day after another. Eventually winter started to lighten into spring, but it was March spring—the kind that’s so cold and damp and dark in its own right that it hardly seems like an improvement.
Casey Miller’s gun hand shook as she stared down at the body, rain-soaked and pale on the sidewalk.


After:


Casey Miller’s gun hand shook as she stared down at the body, rain-soaked and pale on the sidewalk.

The Before example isn’t bad writing. It’s got some vivid images, in fact, and mood-setters. But the story does not start until Casey Miller looks down on that body, and readers are unlikely to stick with a page-and-a-quarter’s worth of description long enough to get there. Can some of the setting details be included after the fact? Sure. In fact, if you open with something happening, you can cut back to scene details to create contrast and make the ugly opening words starker:

Casey Miller’s gun hand shook as she stared down at the body, rain-soaked and pale on the sidewalk. 
Skyscrapers rose into a heavy, clouded sky all around them; patrons, holding umbrellas or pulling up their collars against the cold rain, snaked out the door of the Starbucks across the street. Cars passed in single file, honking impatiently, splashing the rain in the gutters.
No one else saw him.
He was dead, and only she could see.


In place of remarks about the weather, we now have two characters—one alive, one dead—a vivid setting, and a mystery. All in less time than the Before passage took to describe March in the city. We’ve found the story. And more importantly, so have our readers.



Any questions? 

And while you're contemplating where YOUR story starts, go ahead and share some great openings that you have written or read. 


 One commenter will receive an ecopy of 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing (The Writer's Toolbox Series)



Don't fall victim to the 12 fatal flaws of fiction writing.
Fiction writers often struggle to improve their craft.
And the biggest challenge comes from the inability to see what isn’t working. The prose feels off. The scene isn’t gelling. The dialogue sounds stilted or clunky. But they don’t know why or how to fix it.

This book lays it all out.
5 Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing demonstrates the deadly dozen pitfalls on the road to a strong story, along with revisions that show writers exactly how to avoid novel failure.


No other writing craft book offers such detailed instruction in how to spot and remedy the major flaws of fiction writing.


And for our faithful readers from Seekerville in honor of today's guest:


Both winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
 

C. S. Lakin is a multipublished best-selling novelist and writing coach. She works full-time as a copyeditor and critiques about two hundred manuscripts a year. She teaches writing workshops and gives instruction on her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive. Her book—Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Technique to Supercharge Your Story—is designed to help writers learn the secrets of cinematic technique. 


Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.



161 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Welcome, C.S. Larkin. And thanks for having her, TINA! I'm a reader, and I wish I could hand out that book to some authors I reviewing for this month. I won't name names, but there are a lot of authors (in. Y humble opinion) that could benefit from Seekerville authors. End of rant. I'll be back later, after I've had coffee.

Janet Ferguson said...

Thanks for the great article! Beginnings are so hard. I enjoyed the way Mary started each book in her Kincaid Brothers series with a bang. I remember book 3 had a bullet coming into a stage coach for the first line. That's a bang, ha! I'd love to be in the drawing for the editing book. I need help.

Trixi said...

As a reader, my rule of thumb is if I can't feel invested in the story by the end of the first chapter, I'll usually quit that book and move on. I've done this to a few books (thankfully it's a rarity) in the past. I've often wondered if I missed a truly good story by doing that. But at the same time, did I really want to slough through the "muck" one more page/paragraph/sentence? I really do try hard to give a story a chance! I'm so glad that most authors I read books by are well-written & keep my interest. :-)

Obviously don't enter my name in the contest as I am not a writer, but it does sound like it would be quite helpful! So glad to see all you Seekers helping each other in the writing world :-)

Tina Radcliffe said...

And welcome back C.S!

Lure me in. I totally agree with Janet and C.S.!


Lee Child does this so well, I ache with green.

Any book.

Die Trying for example : "Nathan Rubin died because he got brave. Not the sustained kind of thing that wins you a medal in a war, but the split-second kind of blurting outrage that gets you killed on the street."

Or how about One Shot: "Friday. Five o'clock in the afternoon. Maybe the hardest time to move unobserved through a city. Or maybe the easiest. Because at five o'clock on a Friday nobody pays attention to anything. Except the road ahead.

The man with the rifle drove north."

Come on!!!

YOU CANNOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN NOW.


Tina Radcliffe said...

You know, what, Trixi. You are right. We need a reader prize. Let me add a $15.00 Amazon Gift Card to this post for all the readers. My treat! Your name is in the hat and Marianne.

Trixi said...

Oh my, Tina....that's awesome!! Thank you so much for adding the gift card and our names to the hat :-) What a wonderful surprise....Yay!!




Just Commonly said...

It is so true. Beginnings have a tremendous impact on how well and fast we get into the story. Am I interested, confused or just blah? As a reader, I'm had instances that I can tell if I would enjoy the book or not form it's first chapter. However, there are instances when I'm wrong and the story does pick up. To many friends, I know that'll be too late. OK, need to stay on topic here.

The first beginning that comes to mind is Pride and Prejudice:

"IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Now, that beginning line caused me to react in between a cough, choke and laugh when I first read it in middle school. That was the first time a book had that kind of reaction from me and you can say it was love at first read. I even read ahead of the assigned chapters. (Yes, a book nerd in love with classics were born).

Since I'm not a writer, I'll pass on the ebook giveaway, though I do think it will be highly useful for many writers out there.

I'll have to give a shout out to Trixi for the quick response and Tina for providing an alternative giveaway for readers! Yay! Just throw my name in the hat for the gift card. I can always buy more books. Thank you Seekers.

Just Commonly said...

Ok y'all. Forgive me for my quick thumb typing and not double checking the auto correct for the wrong corrected words. There's a saying, "I do my best proofreading after I hit send". So me. I'm a tad but embarrassed since I'm among writers and serious readers. So please disregard the spelling and grammatical errors. Also mean it'seems time for a good night sleep.

Tina Radcliffe said...

We neither edit nor revise comments! You are safe. Night, Night!

Mary Preston said...

The beginning is all important. I want to be drawn in from the very start.

cathyann40 said...

Thanks for the chance to win a giftcard.

Keli Gwyn said...

First lines, first paragraphs, first pages, first chapters--all are challenging to write, but when well constructed, a pleasure to read. I love that there are so many wonderful books with awesome beginnings out there. Kudos to their hard-working authors, many of whom hang out right here in Seekerville. =)

Janet Kerr said...

Beginnings are so important. A good beginning keeps a reader's interest and gains momentum for the writer.
As always, your information is so hands on.
Jan

Jill Weatherholt said...

Welcome back to Seekerville, C.S. These are great points! As a reader, if the beginning doesn't hook me, I often don't make it to the end. As a writer, I strive to open my books with an exciting scene. I'd love to be entered into the drawing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Trixi, I'm so glad you pointed that out! Yes, we need a reader treat as well!!!

And Tina jumped in so I didn't have to, I'm glad she's up late! (laughing!!!!!)

C.S., welcome back and yes, I'm in one hundred percent agreement that your opening line, page and emotions should grab the reader....

TINA.... There's something about suspense or thrillers that allows that kind of amazingly definitive openings. C.S. pointed that out with her example, too.

So how do you do this in a "sweet" novel that doesn't allow guns/bodies/blood?

Bleed emotion onto the page.

We all empathize or sympathize with wonderful heroes and heroines, so if you can open a book with bleeding emotion in lieu of a bleeding corpse, that can be your "clutch" to grab attention.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I am loving all these Seekerville kudos.... which means I'm making Pumpkin Roll for all o' youse!!!!

Step right up, coffee (I miss you, Helen Gray, darling) and pumpkin roll!!!!!

rapunzel711 said...

This is something I've definitely realized as I've read more books. I am always drawn into the stories that start off in the middle of the action, with explanation soon to follow. Mary Connealy's first Kincaid brothers book did that for me; I loved how one of the first things the characters did was kiss!! It was a great opening scene. I am mainly a reader, so I'd love to be entered in the gift card drawing! Thank you so much!

Jessica Nelson said...

Oooh, awesome example!! I love it. :-)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well naturally I had to go find the Kincaid brothers books and find those starts.

Thank you, Rapunzel711 and Janet Ferguson for mentioning them.

Out of Control (The Kincaid Brides Book 1) (Paperback)
by Mary Connealy

Last time. This is it. Never again. Rafe Kincaid pulled his chestnut thoroughbred to a halt in full darkness, still a short distance away from the entrance of the cavern.

He rubbed the ugly, jagged scar that ran from the corner of his eye, to his hairline just above his ear. He was glad he had it. A lifelong reminder of that awful day, thirteen years ago and this treacherous cavern. He'd grown up fast.

Caryl Kane said...

Good Morning Seekerville! Sometimes I find it hard to start a book review. The book is SO good that I don't know where to start expressing my thoughts. This was a great post!

Please put me in for today's drawing.

HAVE A TERRIFIC THURSDAY!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well, Caryl, maybe you could just say that in your review.

This book started with a bang and I couldn't put it down.

Or

I was sucked right in to this story.

Or

You had this reader at page one.

") Happy to assist!

Loraine Nunley said...

Good morning everyone!

Great post. With so many books on my TBR list, I have to get caught up in a book right away or I need to go on to the next one. As a writer, that knowledge is a little stressful.

I like this beginning:

"Dynamite. Where had he put the dynamite?..." (Prologue)
"Kate O'Malley had been in the dungeon since dawn." (Chapter One)

-The Negotiator by Dee Henderson

Thanks for the giveaway!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi C.S.,
You've hit on one of my favorite things, opening lines that simply "force" me to read further. Three great openings that come to mind:

"When it comes to burning bridges, I am the Queen of Kerosene."
Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman, my current read

"No one died tonight, not if she could help it."
You're the One That I want by Susan May Warren

"Perhaps denial is the minds way of protecting the heart from a sucker punch it simply can't handle."
The Sea Keepers Daughters by Lisa Wingate


Please enter me in the reader drawing, great idea TINA ;-)

Missy Tippens said...

I love the examples shared! Mary's books have some of my favorite beginnings. I'm glad Tina shared one!

Welcome C.S.! So glad to have you back! I loved that example. We've always been told to start where the story really starts, but that's such a perfect example. I really loved the second example where you layered in the setting. Perfect!

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I laughed at your quote: We all empathize or sympathize with wonderful heroes and heroines, so if you can open a book with bleeding emotion in lieu of a bleeding corpse, that can be your "clutch" to grab attention.

It's so true! We don't have the corpses but we can certainly make sure to add emotion. Now... I'm off to do that! :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good Morning and welcome to Seekerville. How exciting to have you with us and here you are with a big bang. smile

Thanks for sharing such great tips.

I've learned over the years to write my story and then start it with Chapter Three. I then dribble all the important info from Chapters 1 and 2 later on in the book. Took me years to figure that out in spite of crit partners telling me so. chuckle.

Have fun today

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Marianne I hope that coffee helped. I wish I had that book when I started writing. Good point.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, those Kincaid brothers....

Oh.

Sigh.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Trixi I'm so with you. I've learned the lesson from editors who say they put the manuscript down if they aren't hooked by page five. Some even do it after page one. Well I'm like you and give it one chapter. IF I'm not hooked its lights out. There's just too many good books out there to waste time on one that doesn't appeal.

Mind you, we all have different tastes so one book may jump out at you and not me and vice versa.

But don't you just love it when book snags you? yippee

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ruthy I'll take a slice of that pumpkin roll. yum.

Bless you. Sounds perfect this chilly morning.

Marianne Barkman said...

Sandra, coffee always helps!

Tracey Hagwood said...

I'll join Sandra for a slice of Ruthy's pumpkin roll and coffee, delicious way to start the day!

Deanna Stevens said...

I'm ready for a snack too, enjoyed the post today!
toss this reader into the bowl please..

Tina Radcliffe said...

The best pumpkin treat of the season (though I have not tasted Ruthy's pumpkin roll) is Panera pumkin bagel.

Tracey and Deanna. You are IN!

Now give us some more starter examples of your favorites.

C.S. is in California. It is alas only 6:44 am there. She will no doubt be joining us once the sun rises.

Mary Connealy said...

Love the two beginnings.
Excellent contrast.
The thing that's especially interesting is, the first opening is very well written, very moody, it feels like a wonderful read, and yet it isn't GRIPPING. It doesn't drag a reader into the pages.

So yes, people who don't open with an explosion may have written beautifully, and that's hard to delete. BUT YOU MUST DO IT.

Your opening should be a huge hand, reaching out of the book, grabbing the reader by the shirt front and dragging them in.

And now.....I need to go and revise my own openings.

Tina Radcliffe said...

By the way, Tracey and Loriane,

GREAT EXAMPLES. I went and put a couple of those in my Amazon basket.

Thank you!

Jackie said...

Thanks for sharing this comparison. For those of us still not published, we need great beginnings for contests and to one day grab an editor's attention.

I'd love to be in the drawing. Thanks for the opportunity!

Kathryn Barker said...

So nice to have you, C.S. Larkin, here in Seekerville! I've followed you for quite awhile.

Love your great example of a compelling beginning.

A visual helps me...so, to me, it's like being at a rodeo...if the chute opens and the bull hops out, meanders around the arena taking in the sights and smells of the crowd and the cowboy is just sittin' there waving to us...I'll be heading for the snack bar. But, if that bull lunges out twisting and turning and that poor cowboy is hangin' on for his life, I'll be out of my seat, screaming and hollering and jumping up and down...(that's me fully engaged!!)

Thanks for your help! And love the comments...and the goodies...have a tea-riffic Thursday everyone!! (Oh, yeah, I'd love to be in the drawing...).

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, CS! Such a great reminder about the importance of opening with a bang!

I'll chime in with RAPUNZEL711 about Mary Connealy's books. That woman knows how to land the reader smack in the middle of the action on page 1!

My books don't usually lend themselves well to explosions and gunfights and such, but I do think hard about what kind of scene will quickly zero in on the characters while showing them involved in some kind of compelling action.

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

"If my life were a book, no one would read it." - Lynn Austin, Wonderland Creek (I love the irony)

"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it." - William Goldman, The Princess Bride (though I should state it's how the BOOK starts, not the story of Buttercup and Wesley; that comes much later. But he IS referring to The Princess Bride, not some other book.)

Put me in for the drawing!

Preslaysa Williams said...

Wonderful post, CS! And great advice. I loved the two examples you provided. They really provide a stark contrast. Openings are so hard for me because they have to set up the rest of the story in a logical yet emotionally compelling way. It often takes me many drafts to get it right.

Cindy W. said...

I loved this post and especially the two examples. By chance, is this example in a published book yet? If so, do tell the title as you had me at, Casey Miller’s gun hand shook as she stared down at the body, rain-soaked and pale on the sidewalk. That definitely snagged my interest to read further. Thank you for sharing.

I would love to be in the giveaway drawings.

Have a blessed day!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning! What a great example of editing in the post. I would have read the first example anyway, but the edited version was so much better. It's difficult for me as a writer to start with a bang, because, as a reader, I like to get to know the story world and the characters first. But I'm working on it. Thank you, C.S., for the tips!

Wilani Wahl said...

I definitely want to get a copy of this book. In the book I just wrote, I begin with a humorous but sad scene as my character who lives with her grandma that has Alzheimer's is trying to convince her grandma to come back in the house. Grandma is mopping the grass. Is this something that would work. I have so much to learn. This is not a suspense or mystery book.

Helen Gray said...

I've brought fresh coffee!

Great post. Thanks!

Sharee Stover said...

Wow, I feel like someone's watching me. I'm in this mode right now!! Trying to decide if my beginning needs revision or not. So yes, please enter me in this drawing, I need this book! :) I'm listening to the audiobook version of Frank Peretti's The Oath. Man, can he start a book!!

C. S. Lakin said...

Thanks for all the great comments! Beginning in January, I'm going seriously in depth into scene structure and looking at best-selling novels' opening pages to focus hard on what works and what doesn't (and I give me snarky opinion on some of these novels).

Openings are tough, and of the 200+ critiques I do a year, very few (honestly) have a strong opening. Most are starting in the wrong place and with narrative or backstory.

Our book--5 Editors Tackle, etc.--has a ton of great advice and examples to show you how to spot these weak flaws and fix them.

Please be sure to subscribe to Live Write Thrive to get the posts delivered to your email so you can master all this!

Janet Dean said...

C.S., welcome to Seekerville! Loved your example of how to start the story with a bang. The how to book sounds great. Even the title is a terrific hook: The Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing.

As Ruthy said, some of us don't write suspense so fired guns and dead bodies don't fit our stories, but we can still grip the reader with emotion, with the trouble. Perhaps that could be a confrontation between the hero and heroine. Or a dilemma a character is stuck in. The possibilities are endless, yet it's still difficult to do right.

Janet

Loves To Read said...

What an interesting, helpful post! Please enter me in the drawings!

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, thanks for the pumpkin roll! It's delicious! I'm munching away as I read the great examples of openings that grab readers.

Janet

C. S. Lakin said...

It doesn't matter what genre you're writing in. Every great novel should start with something exciting going on, some strange situation, some danger (even if it's emotional). A great article to read is one Jeff Gerke wrote on my blog: http://www.livewritethrive.com/2015/07/27/hacking-your-readers-brain/

It gives you an inside look into what exactly engages a reader's brain right off the bat.

I'm off to tour Seattle, so I may not be around to comment. If you live there, meet me at Theo's Chocolate factory at 2 for the tour!

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, you're right. That first opening doesn't grab us or really even make us feel anything.

Missy Tippens said...

Kathryn B, that bull rider is such a GREAT analogy!!

Missy Tippens said...

C.S., I hope you have a great time on the tour! Wish I could join you.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm with you, Cindy W. I want to read that book!!

Jeanne T said...

Great post! I'm always challenged to find the perfect first line, and the perfect place to start my stories. :) I appreciate your tips, and the reminder to begin where the action is. I've heard an author say, "Enter late and leave early." into scenes. Sometimes, that's easier said than done. :)

Here are a couple of my first lines:
~The only thing that might make this night more magical was her husband showing up.
~One thing Charis detested more than a phony was condescension. And the woman sitting in the waiting area wore it like a Gucci handbag.

And this is one of my absolute favorite beginnings of a story, from My Foolish Heart, by Susan May Warren:
"For two hours a night, Monday through Saturday, Isadora Presley became the girl she'd lost."

I'd love to be in the drawing for the book. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well Meghan Carver you can always give us a sneak peak of the first line of your debut release that is coming in 2016.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Sharee Stover!!! This is the place to be.

Read your opening lines aloud like the Frank Peretti book.

Now would a stranger buy it from those opening lines??

Tina Radcliffe said...

I agree Janet and Ruthy! It can be hard to get those openings so they grab a reader with our angsty emotional books.

I'm working on my next book in my Paradise series and it is a challenge.

How about this?? Grab you enough or no??

Bionic Man.

That’s what he was.

Joe Gallagher disconnected the charger from his myoelectric prosthesis, and snapped together the hand and forearm before he applied the device to what remained of his right arm.

“Yeah, whatever,” he muttered to the empty bedroom as he shrugged into a flannel shirt.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, wow. I love that beginning, Jeanne!!!! And you are in.

Janet Dean said...

Tina, love the opening of your next book! In just four lines you've made me ache for this man.

Jeanne T, love your lines, and Susie's!

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet, you sweet thing. The check is in the mail.

It's actually my next after the January release.

Come on authors. STRUT YOUR STUFF. This is your chance.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for the great post. Openings are tricky for me. The book I am writing is about a tornado, so weather scenes are important and I need to include it in my opening. I know the key is to make it relevant to the action happening for the characters.

Please enter me for the writer's prize. The book looks very helpful.

Heidi Robbins said...

Great advice! I love when a book grabs me from the very first sentence and keeps me hooked. Please include me in the reader giveaway! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet Kerr, I agree... And we've waded through some elongated beginnings in our time!

But a strong opening hook, that makes the reader want to continue, or...

AND BETTER YET!!!!

Makes the book impossible to put down!!!!!

Is where it all starts. And in the beginning, there was... :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Keli Gwyn a purple Christmas tree?

Darling, let's talk.

Right here, in public.

I get the purple hat. You wear a hat better than most anyone I know, with the possible exception of Pepper Basham who can totally own anything from a bonnet to a fascinator and look AWESOME. The brat.

I get purple clothes. They look good on you.

BUT THE TREE IS WRONG, DARLING.

That's all I'm saying.

See if you can sneak it down and replace it with something less... purple.

That's a good girl. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

A tornado??

Wow. Sandy Smith that is an awesome opportunity.

But you don't want to open with weather.

Ask Elmore Leonard:

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

Start with the Tornado personified!!!! Wow what a challenge you have on your hands. I'm excited just thinking about it.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen is here!!!

Well, now my day is complete.

Sending you hugs, Helen!!!

Okay, here's an opening line, cowboy book 3:

For once in his life, Trey Walker Stafford had aced his older brothers. The fact that he had to risk his life and offer up a chunk of his liver to claim the title made it a dubious honor. Peace in the Valley, Waterbrook Press March 2017

Tina Radcliffe said...

Rachael, how did I miss this??


"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it." - William Goldman, The Princess Bride.

Love the book. Love the movie.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Book three!!! I love it.

But I want to read book one and two first. I can't wait.

When does book one release, Ruthy?

Can I preorder yet? Going to check.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

So Sandy, you could go straight to the emotion involved. Is the heroine scared to death? Is she resilient? Is she looking after someone, looking out for someone? What is she invested in and likely to lose in the storm? A child? A home? Her sobriety?

And the hero's emotion. Does he feel helpless? Does he know the storm's coming and can't get home? Does he lose contact with family and watch from afar?

The emotion of the moment will carry the day.

The destruction is a given.

The emotion is clutch.

Tina Radcliffe said...

There you go. Another way to do it, Sandy!!! Can we write that book for you. lolololol

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Touring a chocolate factory! What fun.

I loved Seattle, I loved visiting there last spring, then hanging around central WA for the day to see Cle Elum and Ellensburg.

Seattle is different from the other big cities I frequent. Different vibes, great waterfront, a huge homeless/mental health problem in the streets, and quaint areas abutting hard-pressed areas.... but so walkable! We walked everywhere, spent some money, had some fun, saw a baseball game and hung out on the streets to get the feel of what it's like to live near the waterfront there.

What I'd like to do next time is head to the counties out on the ocean and check that out. Sandra's out that way regularly, she says it's amazing.

Mary Connealy said...

Are we doing opening lines here? Or openings?

Here's the first few sentences of the book I'm writing for the next Seeker novella collection.

Starring????? Silas Harden Jr. Second son of Silas Harden and Belle Tanner Harden.

Silas Harden’s life began when the train arrived. And the train was late.

He pulled a stop watch out of pocket and stopped his jiggling knee. It was about the tenth time for both.

A whistle screamed in the distance and he jumped. He looked around quick, embarrassed. No one seemed to notice he was acting like the lone chicken in a fox den.

His heart sped up as he finally saw the big iron monster chuffing around a far curve, here at last.

It carried his bride. Well, bride-to-be.

He couldn’t wait to meet her.

Mary Connealy said...

First few sentences of Fire and Ice, book #3 of the Wild at Heart series.

Of course we know the 'he' the Wilde brother is actually a girl. Gage Coulter finds this out VERY SOON.

>>>
The bullet spit dirt up in Gage Coulter’s eyes and he didn’t even flinch.
Wilde always missed him. Granted he missed by inches.
"Don't you ever sleep, Wilde?" Gage had come early, he'd come late. He'd come in peace and now, this was it, he was coming in war.
"The only reason you'd ask that was if you wanted to sneak in here. Now get offa my land." Another bullet, this one even closer to his toes.
Gage ignored it. The shots were to keep him back. Trouble was, if he came closer, Wilde might stop trying to scare him and get serious.
"You aren't gonna shoot me and you know it." At least he never had.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Wilani, that's a great question.

I think it depends on how you do it. You could Big Fat Greek Wedding it, and make it funny, you know in that every family understands and empathizes but the picture of Granny mopping the grass is funny....

Or you can make it matter-of-fact "This is my life, and there's no end in sight, pass the biscuits" kind of opening.

Or we can have granny deceased and she's remembering her antics and realizing she's starting anew with the guy strolling up her walk about to hand her an eviction notice because Granny hasn't paid taxes in three years and she owes $21,497.52 to the local government... Due now.

It all depends on what you want the story to say. And the mood you want to touch.

And then once you decide that, you want to stick with it and weave, like a gorgeous afghan... and if you make a mistake, you take out alllllll those stitches and fix it, LOL!

:)

Mary Connealy said...

This one, I don't know, I am in revisions for this book right now. Maybe I need to rework this.

>>>

The steep sides of the pass into the canyon pressed down on Heath Kincaid until he could hardly breathe. It was a blustery November day but a sheen of sweat broke out on his skin. It surprised him because Heath knew mountains, and he knew tight places.

He brought up the rear behind Chance Boden, the owner of this vast New Mexico Territory Land Grant, and John Hightree, the foreman of the Cimmaron Ranch, and two other men riding into the canyon single-file, their aim, to fetch the cattle that’d gone in here.

As they reached the tightest spot they passed the busted down gate Chance had put up to keep cattle out of this rugged, grassless canyon.

“That fence was stronger than the backbone of the Rockies.” Chance looked in disgust at the gate posts that just yesterday blocked the entrance to. “That cantankerous bull shouldn’t’ve been able to knock it down.”

He led his men past the broken lumber. “Let’s make short work of getting ’em out!”

Heath was just passing the ruins of the gate when he heard the rumble. Right overhead. Only one thing made that sound.

“Avalanche! Run!” Heath reined in his stallion so hard it reared.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Here's the opening from my spring novella, coming out next March:

Anne should have stayed right where she was in Pennsylvania.

Guilt, fear and sorrow made for somber seatmates as the dark train chugged west across desolate land. Beige and browns mixed with hints of gray, and the three stretched wide in every direction, occasionally broken by claim shacks looking no bigger than the muskrat lodges in Crawford Pond.

Quick tears stung her eyes.


She couldn’t think of the pond. Of her home. Her old home, she corrected herself. Or her life there.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…

Well, he wasn’t her shepherd. He wasn’t any such thing, he wasn’t Lord, God or any other lofty name men of the cloth spewed.

He was nothing. Nothing at all.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Seattle is coffee and Pike Place Market. I could live in that place and never come out.

Then there is Whidbey Island. I could stay there forever and eat fresh fish forever too. And maybe ride the ferries back and forth all day while writing and eating, um more sea food.

Mary Connealy said...

OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!
Ruthy is writing WESTERNS!!!

Rumor is that Julie is also writing a WESTERN!!!

Of course Tina already writes westerns! (contemporary) And I'm answering Hay questions for Tina and FENCE questions for Missy. But Missy isn't truly writing westerns. YOU SHOULD START TIPPENS! She's brilliant though so I'll read it.

Audra writes westerns. Pammy Hillman writes westerns. Glynna's books are in the west, contemporary but still there are western things that work their way in.

I'm just started Janet Deans latest "The Bounty Hunter's Redemption." And of course it's a western. :D

What I LOVE about this is we all bring our own voice to this. We can write in the same genre and it's all still US because we can't make it NOT be us.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ouch, Anne has got a character arc coming. I cannot wait, Ruthy. What a story!

Oh, Mary I love the start of Fire & Ice. LOL.

Lyndee H said...

HI CS,
This is a great post. I'm enjoying all the examples in the comments, too. Sigh...another thing to add to the writing punch list. This is hard work. Not that I mind working hard. But will it ever become second nature?

JUST COMMONLY, I love that saying. And also manage to proofread perfectly after I hit send! Yikes, it drives me crazy!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, Ruthy I've been to Seattle and Washington coast many times. Lots of relatives live there. smile

And Tina Sounds like you've been there also. There are wonderful tours of the city. Be sure and tour Amazon's headquarters. That is really a hoot.

And if I were there now C.S. I would definitely join you on the chocolate tour. Great place.



Sandra Leesmith said...

Mary I LOVE that beginning of your novella. You just know there is going to be drama.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Okay, I'll bite. Here's the opening of my current wip Let me know what you think.

“Grammy!”
Water splashed toward the shoreline. Brian stretched his back and put his hand to his forehead to shade his eyes from the glare of the water.
“Help!”
A small child’s hand stretched upward out of the swell. Looked to be a boy about nine or ten. Brian bent forward and paddled hard. His board cut through the water.
“I’m coming.” A woman shouted from behind him and the swell lifted her board into his line of vision. “Don’t panic.”
“Over here, Grammy.”
Brian waved. “I’ll get him.”
He nosed his board beside the boy and grabbed for his flailing arms. A surprisingly strong hand grasped his. Brian yanked the young body onto his board.
“Thanks mister.” He quickly slipped one leg over and straddled the board. Sitting upright he leaned against Brian’s chest and took deep breaths.
Water splashed from behind. The woman’s board slid next to him. She looked familiar.
“Lost your board, did you?” she teased and pointed her finger at the boy. Her brown eyes sparkled with humor.
“I almost caught the wave, Grammy.”
Grammy? Are you kidding me? This was the same woman he’d watched surf these past two days and she definitely did not fit into his mental image of grammy.

Connie Queen said...

I love all the examples.
I can put a book down just after the first couple of pages if they don't get my attention. It doesn't have to be a bang, I just have to care.

My brain has taken a temporary break so I can't think of my favorite openings. May have to come back later...

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great starting lines. I especially like the condescension line. I can so picture it. smile

Mary Connealy said...

TINA! First of all, I can't believe you ripped a guy's arm off.
Second, I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THE BOOK WITH THE ONE-ARMED HERO!!!

Seriously looking forward to it, closely followed by your one-legged man who enters a butt-kicking contest book.

I will now go start my 'Long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs' book.

Planning to write it all--80 thousand words--in iambic pentameter.

(You know revisions are DEATH on iambic pentameter. The book can NOT be altered.

Tina Radcliffe said...

lolololol.

Yeah, and my next book has a heroine who is claustrophobic and gets trapped in an elevator with a shapeshifter. I am switching genres of course.

KIDDING. Lest I irritate the masses.

I can't even remember what iambic pentameter is. I blocked out Honors English for a reason.

Mary Connealy said...


Sandra the grammy on the surfboard is an incredible image.

Have I ever told you I once met a 24 year old grandmother. TRUTH

It was not a good situation...or at least I'm assuming it wasn't!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Mary I always loved the name Chance. That would be enough for me to read the book right there. LOL

Tina Radcliffe said...

Sandra!! Love it.

But start with the word Help. It sucks me in.

Mary Connealy said...

I think there is a ton of possible room in the shapeshifter category. It hasn't been overdone yet, unlike vampires and zombies.

GO FOR IT!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Wow 24 and a grammy. I met one also while in Equador. Sadly she looked alot older than 24.

At the age I am now, 40 year old grammy's look pretty darn YOUNG. ha ha

Sandra Leesmith said...

ThanksTina That will be easy to switch and you're right. It is stronger that way.

Mary Connealy said...

Sandra and interesting (to me) tidbit. The heroes in that book (okay Heath Kincaid is the hero of book one) but Chance Boden is the father of Cole and Justin Boden.
Chance has a novella prequel before these books release. The series is called The Cimarron Legacy.....
Anyway, those three names, Cole, Justin and Chance Boden are three brothers who live near me.

I've always thought they had the best cowboy names.

And in the opening of this book Chance is supposed to die. I wrote it that way, but then I COULDN'T KILL OFF ONE OF THE NEIGHBOR BOYS.

So Chance lives and I feel true peace about that.

Mary Connealy said...

Tina, can you make this book you're working on RIGHT NOW a shapeshifter and give the poor bionic guy his arm back?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Shapeshifters. Love the idea. Always makes me think of angels. And who doesn't love angels?

Janet Dean said...

The opening lines from The Bounty Hunter's Redemption, January 5, 2016:

A woman should mourn the loss of her husband. Or so Carly Richards once believed.
No doubt she looked the part of the grieving widow as she stood alongside Max’s grave clothed in black, her gloved palm resting on her young son, unnaturally quiet and still beside her. Yet the eyes Carly bowed shed no tears. In her chest, her thudding heart beat to a steady tempo of relief.

More poignant than a bang, but I hope it ropes the reader in.

Janet


Mary Connealy said...

I've never been to the northwest.

Oddly enough the things I want to see is: the world's only temperate zone rain forest, and the place the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Sure and it's a fine thing to see such natural beauty. (working on my Irish Accent for Silas Harden Jr.'s bride.

Aye laddie! (is that scottish? I can hear Scotty on Star Trek saying that."

So confused.

Mary Connealy said...

Janet I'm reading The Bounty Hunters Redemption RIGHT NOW.

LOVING IT!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Janet, I just started this last night and did LOVE that start. Great going. Enjoying the book also.

Mary Connealy said...

This is from my novella Runaway Bride releasing January 5 in the novella collection 'With This Ring'. It also contains novellas from Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings and our very own MELLISA JAGEARS!!

>>>
Quiet, she had to be quiet.
It was the darkest hour of the night. She had a while before the sun came up and Mother would start fussing at her, needing a cool cloth for her fevered brow. Then Carolyn would need to cook breakfast. With one maid coming in weekly, all the daily chores fell to her.
Isaac.
She packed more for him in the valise than she did for herself. He knew tonight was the night.
Carolyn listened at the door, then slipped into the hall and rushed on silent feet to her brother’s room. She opened the door only inches and he was there. She thought she’d have to wake him and nag him to dress, but he’d taken his part of this with dead seriousness.
He jerked his chin at her, careful to not even whisper. They turned to the back stairs, farthest from the rooms her mother and father slept in and tiptoed down, flinching at every creak.
Father came to bed late, mother got up early.
There wasn’t much time when one or the other wasn’t awake and demanding something. They reached the landing at the bottom of the stairs and went out through the kitchen.
Still without speaking for fear a window was open on an upper floor, Carolyn reached in the pitch dark of the minuscule back yard and brushed Isaac’s hand. He clasped it and she realized in the dark his wasn’t a child’s hand. Her little brother was growing up. In fact having him along was more comfort than burden.
They got out of the yard and rushed down the alley until they were a distance away, but it wasn’t just Mother and Father who had to be fooled, the neighbors couldn’t know they passed.
They needed to vanish without a trace.
<<<<

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary, I will check, but I suspect Love Inspired will frown on a shapeshifter.

Not absolutely sure, mind you. But it's right up there with headless horsemen.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet,

THAT PACKS AN EMOTIONAL WALLOP!!! AND GIVES US SO MUCH BACKSTORY WITH SO FEW WORDS!!!


BRAVA!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Quiet, she had to be quiet.
It was the darkest hour of the night. She had a while before the sun came up and Mother would start fussing at her, needing a cool cloth for her fevered brow.


And this tells us so much, Mary Connealy!

Well done!!!

Janet Dean said...

Mary and Tina, thank you!! There's going to be a bunch of checks changing hands. LOL

Janet

Kav said...

Here's a great opening:

The sharp metallic click meant one thing.
Someone had a gun pointed in Colt Stafford's general direction.

From Back in the Saddle by Ruth Logan Herne which just came in the mail today and I'm trying not to read it until after Christmas because it doesn't hit the bookshelves until March and I can't review it too early but I'm already on page 3!

Love all the examples in this post. So helpful. I learn best seeing before and afters so this is a keeper for sure.

Janet Dean said...

Oh, I like the idea of adding help to the opening line, Sandra. Nothing like saving a life to hook readers, especially kids and pets. I love that a grammy is attracting the hero's attention. Good for her!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, love the names Cole, Chance and Justin! Too bad their mom couldn't come up with another name that starts with C. :-) Conner would've been great. But I love that you borrowed the neighbors' names. I always have fun naming characters after people I know.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for sharing, Kav! Wow, now Ruthy's starting with gunfire. :-) Is Myra next?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

There is some shooting in The Bounty Hunter's Redemption but then what would you expect from a bounty hunter hero?

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

Christmas money! So we can buy more books!!

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for your feedback, Tina and Ruthy. I will try to give a brief background to where I am going with the book. It takes place in a small town and mainly focuses on a small historic church. The characters include the weatherman for the TV station in a nearby city and his wife. Their marriage is strained, mainly because they have newborn twins who were born prematurely and he is so focused on work that he isn't of much help, as well as thinking she is more capable anyway. Then there is a young woman taking care of her terminally ill Grandmother who had raised her when her mother died and her father felt unable to do it. Consequently she is estranged from her father and also wants nothing to do with God. The final major character is the pastor whose wife has recently passed away and he no longer feels capable of leading the congregation so plans to step down as their pastor.

These story lines come together when the tornado hits and destroys the town including the church.

I am framing the story with Easter Sunday in the beginning and then ending with Easter the following year. The tornado that destroys the town happens on May Day, but there is a tornado warning on Easter that the weatherman misses, putting his job in jeopardy which further complicates his marriage. I introduce each character on Easter including their conflicts. Weather talk will be foreshadowing the missed warning later in the day. So the storm itself won't come at the beginning but the problems of the characters will.

The story will end the following Easter when the rebuilt church will have its first service. All the main characters will be their with issues resolved.

Maybe this wasn't that brief so thank you if you stuck with me through this.

Keli Gwyn said...

Ruthy,

Since I only dream of having a purple Christmas tree and don't actually have one, I figure we can still be friends, right? Besides, even if the decorations were purple-themed, the tree itself would be green. I'm a bit nuts about purple, but I know my limits. =)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, Sandy. Who's story is it. A female lead, as in Women's Fiction or is it General Fiction and several people have a story.

Sounds amazing.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks, Tina. I appreciate the vote of confidence. I haven't been too sure how to categorize it. I suppose it would be general fiction as there are several viewpoints. There will be some elements of romance as the couple in the story work on their marriage. I also had an idea of a hint of romance between the young woman and a young police officer who helps her after the tornado. I was thinking this could be a romance developed in a second book. I had considered a weather themed series with a blizzard as the second book. It would take place in the same (rebuilt) town with some of the same characters but also some new ones. I know series generally have at least 3 books so trying to think of another natural disaster set in Nebraska to use for a 3rd book. Fire or flood is all that comes to mind.

Mary Connealy said...

KAV? RUTHY? wait what? Ruthy's book came in the mail? TODAY????

It doesn't release yet does it?

I have it on pre-order and I haven't gotten it?

I NEED SOME ANSWERS!!!! KAV YOU SENT HER SOMETHING DIDN'T YOU? A BRIBE???

Mary Connealy said...

Janet the neighbors are, in this order, Cole, Justin and Chance.

So it's not like she started out with a C theme and abandoned it.

J Baugh said...

Thank you for the helpful post! Please enter me in the drawings. :)

Mary Connealy said...

I saw Justin at a wedding recently. They're out of high school so they're NOT kids but I've watched them grow up...so I think of them that way.

He asked where he could get a copy of the book because in a newspaper article I talked about naming characters after them and it showed up in the newspaper that 'in her newest book, Mary names characters after local residents Cole, Justin----"

Which was wrong. It was the book I was writing at that time, but I think only book #1 of the Wild at Heart series had released. The Boden boys get their book next July.

I told him when it would release and I told him, "The character named Justin Boden is exactly like you...except when that wasn't convenient--which was most of the time--and then I just made it all up. So be afraid."

Tina Radcliffe said...

Sandy, I feel certain Mary can create a natural disaster for you.

Ask her to touch something that has to do with computers. She does this all the time. No big deal.

Myra Johnson said...

Home from an afternoon of Christmas shopping with hubby and just catching up.

MARY, this is so profound! "We can write in the same genre and it's all still US because we can't make it NOT be us."

You should make a meme and post it all over Facebook and Twitter!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Myra. (In the words of Mary Connealy: snort)

So Myra, give us the opening of your Christmas Love Inspired. Rancher for the Holidays

Tina Radcliffe said...

Come on purple Keli. Give us some opening lines.

Jackie Smith said...

Great post....and fun comments today!
Love Seekerville!
And thanks, Tina, for the reader prize......count me in, please!!

Mary Connealy said...

Sandy so we've got a tornado, a blizzard and you need one more.

Yes, I can probably crash a computer for you.

And that comes very naturally to me.

The Missouri River came out of it's banks in 2011. If you own river front property that's fraught with disaster.

Prairie fire. Yes, even in this day and age we had a fire nearby us get away from someone and it burned for SEVEN MILES. Really ended up with fire trucks from about five towns fighting it.

Jeanne T said...

JANET—Thanks for your kind words. My women's fiction-loving heart loved your opening that you shared about the widow. Wow!

Mary Connealy said...

Natural disaster
thinking
thinking
thinking

An Ice Storm is probably too much like a blizzard but it's pretty treacherous in it's own way. Hail.

Lightning could START a terrible fire.

High winds, similar to a tornado.

Pilger NE about 30 miles from me, was hit by a tornado and it virtually flattened the whole town, this was a couple of years ago.

You could eat my cooking. Natural disaster. Both burned, cold and on occasion poisonous. It's a wonder to behold. I don't know how I do it.

Mary Connealy said...

Hail did terrible damage to the town of Blair NE a few years ago. The windows smashed out of homes and businesses. And entire car lot of cars totaled. These aren't cars where you go buy a car with a few dents for half price.

These are cars with their front and back (inside) window ledges shattered, the entire electronic system shorted out by water. They looked like someone took a sledge hammer to them for HOURS. I've never seen anything like that before.

Every window on the WEST side of buildings boarded up.

Do hail. Can you imagine if someone was caught outside as sledgehammer hail rained down for an HOUR.

Tracey Hagwood said...

TINA! I love Joe the Bionic Cowboy and I'm waiting PATIENTLY for his story! I loved his opening lines!
Until then I'll be happy reading Anne and Matt's story in Rocky Mountain Reunion that'll out soon!" Great opening lines that hooked me,

"Anne, ambulances are enjoying route."
Anne Matson looked up from the tidy pile of paperwork on her desk.
"Was that plural??"
Marta Howard, RN, stood in the doorway of Anne's office.
She reached up to tuck a strand of short gray hair behind her ear.
"Afraid so. Accident at Paradise Lake. At the construction site."

Tina Radcliffe said...

en route. Although they are probably enjoying the route too.

:) hehehehehehe

Tracey Hagwood said...

Sorry! Sometimes I can't stand auto-correct! I thought I had proofread it all but that auto-correct is sneaky! lol!

Wilani Wahl said...

I have read a couple books that where the author took one of the exciting scenes from the book and put it in a prologue and then wrote six months earlier or some time frame and then went back to the what had most likely been the original beginning. This had me totally hooked into the book.

I am wondering when I write should I just write and then go back when I begin the editing stage and create the special opening that no one can put down. If I try to write it from the beginning it might be difficult since I find as I am writing that the story can take so many twists and turns that I didn't plan in the beginning. If it is possible I think I am both a plotter and a pantser.

Thank you Ruthy for the input about my opening. Grandma is found through out the book with I hope adding to the whole plot. She is based on my own grandma and the experiences I went through while living with her and taking care of her. Sometimes things no one else would believe like the people on TV were her neighbors. One day I came home from teaching school to discover she had taken the refrigerator apart.

Tracey Hagwood said...

I'm enjoying (correct wording this time, moved to my computer) all the Seeker previews of the upcoming books.

The spring novella collection with RUTHY'S despondent Ann from Pennsylvania heading west!

And MARY'S Silas Harden Jr's heart speeding up as he waits for the train his bride-to-be is on! Maybe she's on the same train as Anne1 My imagination is running wild.

I need the inside scoop on who else is in the collection!

Keli Gwyn said...

Since you asked, Tina, here's the opening line from my debut Love Inspired Historical, Family of her Dreams, released June 2015: "Look out, ma'am!" Yup! Just three words. Not bad for a wordy writer like moi, huh? =)

Here's the opening line from my second Love Inspired Historical, A Home of Her Own, coming March 2016: "Becky Martin had escaped one bad situation only to find herself in the middle of another."

One of the best opening lines I ever heard came from bestselling author Angela Hunt during a workshop of hers that I attended years ago: "The body bag moved." How that's for hooking a reader?

Tracey Hagwood said...

RUTHY! Trey Walker Stafford acing his brothers by giving up a chunk of his liver in Peace in the Valley? Oh.My.Goodness, can't wait to get that story!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love it!!! Keli. Love it.

Wow, yes. Like the body bag moved too.

Caryl Kane said...

TINA, thanks for the great suggestions!

Walt Mussell said...

One of the nicest comments I ever got from a contest judge was from a judge who had seen my work before. The judge put something like "why did you get rid of the part about x,y, and z? I loved that." In my thank you letter, I told her I got rid of it because it was backstory and the story didn't start there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

LIke Myra, Had to leave and coming back I'm finding more gems. Mary I'm curious how a runaway bride is running away with her brother?????? Oh my, now I'm going to have to read it just to see what this is all about.



Sandra Leesmith said...

I like thepremise Sandy A storm in the middle will certainly keep you from having a sagging middle.

Great storm ideas Mary

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great hooks Keli

Sandra Leesmith said...

Wow Walt, X, Y and Z must have been super interesting for the judge to remember and ask.

Tina Radcliffe said...

WALT!!! Where have you been??? I was just thinking about you yesterday.

What's new???

Mary Connealy said...

Sandra, my runaway bride's wedding is the next morning.
She's been waiting for help but it never came and now she must run or be married to a truly frightening man who her gambling fool of a father owes a GREAT DEAL OF MONEY TO.

Valri said...

I am a reader and I love books that start with a bang! Those are my favorite! Keep writing those fantastic books, writers! I will always read them :)

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Jeanne T! The opening is a bit different for a romance, but the next scene is a confrontation between the widow and the bounty hunter. Trouble, trouble, trouble in River City or in this case, Gnaw Bone. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, I'm comforted by your explanation. Chance would have to be last, as in Last Chance. ;-)

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Mary Now we really have to find out what she does. smile

Sandy Smith said...

Mary, thanks for the suggestions of another disaster. The Pilger tornado is a useful reference for my tornado novel. I bought a book someone wrote about it with stories about the storm and the aftermath, which has given me lots of ideas. I should go up there sometime to see what the town looks like now. Hail seems like it wouldn't be enough of a disaster for an entire book. And an ice storm might be too much like a blizzard. So I will keep thinking about that.

Sandy Smith said...

Sandra, instead of the sagging middle I think it is a sagging 3/4. The part that is dragging me down is the process of rebuilding. I know there can be a lot of conflict in how it is going to be done, but I haven't figured out yet what those conflicts will be.

Deanne Patterson said...

I am all for books that start with a bang, Books that start with a bang have an excitement that is palatable the whole way through. Bring on the bang, I want to read an exciting book !

Deanne P.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Keli Gwyn.... it's a neighbor's tree, isn't it? Along the path???

You must remove it, darling.

For their own good.

Blame me. I will come visit you in jail.

I promise. Every time I visit California.

Wait.

I've never visited California.

(light bulb goes off in Ruthy's brain!!!) I'll E-MAIL you a visit in jail, darling!!! It's almost like being there, right????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, I was yelling at Heath and Chance that this was dangerous!!!! THEY DIDN'T LISTEN!!!!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, Kav is one of my Advanced Readers from last month.

Waterbrook SNEAKED me some copies for these peeps and they have them now!!!!

I hope they love it, Mary, my first big, hands on contemporary WESTERN with smokin' hot cowboys who really need to be fixed...

And I aim to do just that!

ohiohomeschool said...

Great post! I would love to be in the drawing as a reader.
Thanks
Becky B.

Robin Mason said...

hullo C.S. Lakin!! what a valuable tool this book will be! might even motivate me to read some non-fiction!! LOL i follow your blog, Live, Write, Thrive and always glean good info from you there! Merry Christmas to you! (ps, please pick me! hee hee)

Julie Lessman said...

C.S. LAKIN ... WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE ... and my humble apologies for being a day late (and WAY more than a dollar short!!). I was on the road traveling via car from 6:00 AM till 7:00 PM, but this post was definitely worth the wait!!

You said, "The problem here is that while we are getting warmed up, readers are trying to enter the story world—and if they can’t get in soon enough, if the opening bores them or feels irrelevant or rambling, they are liable to move on before we do."

What an EXCELLENT way to put it, C.S., and one I never thought of before you mentioned it in your post. I happen to LOVE first lines because they are SO much more than just "first lines." They set the mood and pace of a book, in my opinion and give the reader a sneak peek at what the story is about.

Your example of before and after nailed it to the wall, so THANK YOU for making it your point so clear and helpful.

Hugs!
Julie

C. S. Lakin said...

Thanks, Becky, Robin, Julie, and everyone else here at Seekerville. I hope this new writing craft book helps you become terrific writers!

Julie Lessman said...

TRACEY!!! Gosh, girl, you just MADE MY DAY, putting my first line from Isle of Hope in with the likes of Susie May Warren and Lisa Wingate -- BLESS YOU!!! And I want to thank you for the WONDERFUL review for Isle of Hope, too, my friend, and for taking the time to read it in the first place -- SO appreciate it!

And OH. MY. GOODNESS!!! CANNOT believe I missed all the fun with first lines -- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THEM ALL -- soooooo fun!!

Hugs,
Julie