Opening Lines

Chuck Wendig frequently posts some of the funniest, most helpful writing blogs on the internet, and he has no problem encouraging writers to come together on his site to trash out common issues either.

Recently, he had a fun challenge about loglines and I posted my own and had loads of fun reading others. After that, he asked everyone to post the opening line of their Work In Progress (WIPs), and help each other critique them, so I jumped in again with both feet.

It got me thinking about how one size does not fit all. The short grabby first line is great, but not all stories need that or should begin that way. There’s a lot to be said for opening lines that gradually draw the reader in. After, nobody picks up a book to read one line, so why act as though that opening line is make or break? It’s the knob on a door, and you have to get people to turn it. Nothing more, nothing less.

So without further ado, and just for fun, I’m posting the opening lines from three of my novels, and you can judge for yourself if I live by my philosophy.

Do  me a favour and post your opening lines in the comments too. I’d love to read them. It’s just for fun–no critiquing by anyone unless you ask!

“Death came for Michael while he slept.

He woke, gasping and trembling, from a dream of being pushed out the airlock. His fingers were cold and numb; the weight of his head on his arm had cut off his circulation. Michael sat up, wiping sweaty strands of hair off his forehead. Shifting his feet out from under him, he cursed as pain lanced up his leg.

Shit. I fell asleep. I can’t sleep. How long was I out?”

Excerpt from ‘Lex Talionis’ – Space Opera Mystery 

“Princess Viyella of the Court of Hamber, Divine Spirit of the Six Queendoms and future ruler of the High Court of Dun, stuck out her tongue at her exasperated personal bodyguard.

“And if I do not choose to go?” she asked taking another backward step up the crumbling spiral stairs to the tallest, oldest tower of the High Court.

Dagen Kemp only just managed to keep his hands by his sides instead of snatching the precocious six year old over his knee and spanking her.

“Queen Elise has requested that the Princess be taken to the baths in plenty of time for the festivities this eventide.  The Dowager House Mother has indicated her readiness to assist you in your preparations, so the Princess must come with me immediately.”

Excerpt from “The Hand of Gaia” – Science Fantasy

The technician screamed, the smoking stump of his hand smearing his lab coat as he held it to his chest.  Through watering eyes, he looked up at the two soldiers standing over him, their faces hidden behind the wavering diamond reflection of distortion masks.  The ship’s flashing emergency lights limned their black armour, turning the figure-hugging contours scarlet, then black, then scarlet again.

He could smell his own flesh cooking, and vomit scratched at the back of his throat even as pain tore his nerves to shreds.  If he turned around, he knew he would see what was left of his hand lying on the floor of the corridor behind him.  But there was no point in turning around.  His hand was gone for good.  And he was a dead man.

The one on his left lowered the massive lasrifle to his waist, still keeping it at the ready.  The soldier on the right held his weapon with the business end pointed at the floor.  The soldier was silent for a moment longer, apparently studying the tech, though it was hard to tell through the distortion masks.

“Are you ready to speak to me now?” he intoned, his voice flat and expressionless through the mask.”

Excerpt from “Warrior” – Science Fiction 

Stay thirsty, my friends!

 

4 comments

  1. So much fun to share with this.

    High five on all of them. I particularly love the one from The Warrior. The smoking hand stump is very visceral. It brings in the other senses which is the sort of thing that hooks me fast.

    First line from my current wip “In A Murphy Minute”…
    “The hangover needled into my head before I realized I was awake.”

    Although, the book is about a punk rock singer so each chapter is called a Track instead of a chapter and I am going to write song lyrics to open each track. But that’s the first line of prose.

    A while back on my blog I actually dumped all the first lines from my Shelf of Honor and then deconstructed what makes a good first line. http://stuffandorjunk.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/first-lines/ and http://stuffandorjunk.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/first-lines-part-2/ ’cause I think that’s fun. (In the second one I also mention how much I like amnesiatic characters too =D)

    I’ve actually put increasing amounts of stock in my own opening lines the more I write. If I’m reading a novel, my cut off is usually 50 pages. That’s how long a book has to hook me. But if it can hook me right in the opening line? Gah, I’m not gonna put that down for an instant. Back when I lived near useful real world bookstores, a kick ass opening line would have me read the first 30 pages before I left the store. I find it odd, though, how I give myself such a double standard. I want that hook as fast as possible when I write. That’s not much of bad thing, I guess. Maybe it’s all that querying I did on that last novel that still has me keyed up on the opening gambit.

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