Saturday, May 05, 2007

Starting Over Again

"Gardens...should be like lovely, well-shaped girls: all curves, secret corners, unexpected deviations, seductive surprises and then still more curves."
~H.E. Bates

So I am tackling the MAJOR revision of a novel I tucked away a few years ago…and this weekend I am determined to write a new Chapter One.

In light of the fact that I hate writing story openings, I thought I’d get a few opinions before diving in.

What do you most like to see in a story’s opening? If you pick up a book in Border’s, what will keep you reading past the first sentence? Better yet, what will make you carry that book to the check-out line because you absolutely must find out what happens next?

What is the best story opening you’ve ever read?

I’m waiting on your help here…

May even go outside and do a little gardening to get the creative juices flowing…


Marianne Arkins said...

Oooh.... tell me it's Summer's story... is it??

I'll have to get back to you on openings. Let me think about it a little.

Actually, I just thought of one: Nora Robert's "Jewels of the Sun" -- still grabs my attention and makes me laugh every single time.

Maybe I'll think of more later.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a great line of dialoge. Or a statement of truth. I'm currently reading a book outside the romance genre(whick I love)- Vellum - which is sort of a literary sci-fi story. This is the opening, which made me buy this book and its sequel.
"A burning map. Every epic," my friend Jack used to say, "should start with a burning map. Like in the movies. Fucking flames burning the world away; that's the best thing about all those old films," he said, "when you see this old parchment map just...getting darker and darker in the center,crisping, crinkling until it just...fwooon. Liz

Joseph C. Harris said...

I like a good opening sentence. Something that grabs you. Years ago i read a memoir that started out "I can't believe I lost my ear." It made me want to keep reading. Hope this helps.

bunnygirl said...

Typically, I like at least one or two lines to ground me in place and time before the narrative dashes off into action and dialogue.

It's rare for me to keep reading anything that starts with an emotionally charged moment, such as people screeching at each other or being shot at, because I don't know the characters (and therefore don't care) and it feels cheap and fake, like the author doesn't think his or her writing is good enough to draw me in without a gimmick of some sort.

Probably my favorite opening of all time is the first line of One Hundred Years of Solitude: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, General Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

A whole lot of questions are raised in that one sentence! Yet no one is screaming or crying, nothing's on fire, and there's nothing that feels manipulative about the opening.

Here are some others from my bookshelf:

"Theodore is in the ground.
The words as I write them make as little sense as did the sight of his coffin..." Caleb Carr, The Alienist

"It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey." Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

"I was born in the city of Bombay... once upon a time. No, that won't do, there's no getting away from the date..." Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

"Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also..." Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye

What I like about all of these openings is that they're well-written, they hint that something intriguing is going on or about to happen, yet they don't shriek, "Look at meeeee!!!! I'm trying to hook you!!!!"

These are authors who trust themselves and who trust the reader, too.

I hope this helps. :-)