Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Openings - How Important Are They

Dig out your red pencils. After posting the topic on opening lines,(the one I borrowed from Phyllis Campbell)then judging several entries in the EPIC contest, I'm realizing how important the opening of a book really is. I decided to continue the theme.

Author Jen Black turned this topic into a challenge. She actually posted opening lines on her own blog and asked visitor's to critique them. I went and added my two cents (you know I would), and now I'm going to accept her challenge to do the same. I invite you to join by doing the same on your blog.

Below, you'll find the opening of my works-in-progress. I invite you to point out anything I can do to improve on my hook. Would these make you want to keep reading? Remember, these are actually the openings to the stories I'm working on now:


“Can anyone hear me?” Odessa Clay screamed. Nothing in the desert stirred except the hot wind that whipped her long hair into tangles.

Her nails dug into her fisted palms. She returned her gaze to the overturned wagon atop her father. Again, she struggled to lift the cumbersome weight.“God, please help me.”

The Locket:

A heavy mist hung in the air. Sheila Townsend’s bangs drooped into her eyes. Her muscles tensed as she hauled open the heavy door to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Her entrance flickered the tiers of candles at the altar.

She paused inside, removed her scarf and blotted her face. The stained glass window on the far wall--an image of the Holy Mother--looked far less impressive at night than when the sun shone through the tinted panes. Hurrying up the long aisle between empty pews, Sheila slipped into the confessional, sat and slid open the door separating her from the priest.

First Degree Innocence:

“Okay, Lang, strip!”

The guard’s bark made Carrie’s stomach turn. She cowered in the corner of the women’s processing area, unable to move. Her legs wobbled and her lips quivered under the blast of cold air from the ceiling vent.


“Hey, gimpy, wanna race.” Pep squad captain, Sally Rogers, yelled from across the street amidst a gathering of her groupies. “If you win, maybe I’ll buy you something new to wear.”

Cindy Johnson sagged against the tree at the bottom of the hill leading up to her house, wishing she could sprint home to escape the piercing stares and haunting laughter. Seventeen years ago she’d been born with one leg noticeably shorter than the other. Every day brought a new heartache. Would the tormenting ever stop? Tears burned the back of her eyes. Since she’d switched schools, not a day passed that someone didn’t question her deformity or comment on the limp it caused.

Okay...have at me. I'm ready to learn. :)


Tabitha Shay said...

Hi Miz Ging,
This is a great idea and yes, I agree, the first line should hook the reader or at least the first paragraph...The only one that didn't grab me is The Locket...Loved the others...the tension was there right away, the mystery, the feeling of I wanna know what's going to happen next....Hope this helps...Tabs

Victoria Dixon said...

Hi, Ginger. I'm not sure if hearing her scream is the most effective hook because we don't know what she's screaming about. It might be she needs help getting cookies off the top shelf. How about you show us the agony of her father's pain and her own horror at the situation, then have her scream. I'm not saying it will be better, but I think it's worth testing.

I don't feel hooked on your second one. I think we need to see her in the confessional box and have a very focused view of her and her sin. ;)

Yup! NOW I want to know what's going to happen next, where is she, etc. Well done.

It's not that the last one doesn't inspire my sympathy for your character because it does. But I don't think I'm hooked yet and I'm honestly not sure what to suggest as help. Sorry!

unwriter said...

"Hello?" Odessa yelled into the searing desert air. Might be a bit more descriptive. But these all sound good. Looks like I have a challenge ahead of me.

Jen Black said...

I'd simplify a little for one and two, Ginger like this -

(1)Odessa Clay screamed. Nothing in the desert stirred except the hot wind.

She struggled to lift the weight of the wagon off her father.“God, please help me," she panted

(2)The Locket:

Sheila Townsend hauled open the heavy door to the Cathedral and fell inside. She scurried up the long aisle into the safety of the confessional, collapsed, panting, and slid open the little sliding door. "Father, forgive me," she gasped.

I'm really getting hooked on this and hope lots more people join in.

Unknown said...

I'm getting some good ideas here. Have made some adjustments, but wishing more people would venture in and add their two cents worth.

Janice Seagraves said...


Yes your opening line has to grip your reader, your does just that but I like the first one the best.


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