Lips, lips pressing down on hers. Kate’s eyes fluttered open and she found herself looking into soft, brown eyes that were liquid pools of concern. Kind eyes. Without thinking her arms went up around his neck and she found herself responding to him. Applause burst out from the bystanders around her
Opening from: Amsden, Pat, Lost In Vegas.
Hopefully that makes you want to read further. In a short presentation on writing best selling novels earlier this year, Phyllis Smallman said, “great writers are great readers.” We all nodded sagely. Then she clarified. You not only have to love reading but you have to read to learn how others write.”
She suggested going to the nearest library and reading the first paragraph from best selling novels. I’d like to think the above example from Lost In Vegas works. It has at various times made it into the top 100 books on Amazon. Below you’ll see an opening line from one of Phyllis Smallman’s books. It definitely draws me in.
Do you think you can catch crazy? In Dutch’s where I mix martinis and pull drafts, some nights a madness swirls through the air, like a virus infecting everyone.
Opening from: Smallman, Phyllis, Jack Daniels and Tea
Then start to think about how books you love are constructed. Chances are none start with a page on botany. Chances are you’ve met at least one of the main characters in the first page and there’s been an inciting incident within the first thirty. Whether it’s romance or mystery there’s probably a giant problem in the way that makes a neat resolution impossible and makes you wonder “how on earth will they solve that?”
That’s what makes you keep reading. Maybe the botanist is trying to save a plant in the middle of a proposed logging site. Conflict! The life blood of books everywhere. If the botanist is gorgeous and the logger a testosterone soaked version of man candy even better. Switch it up and make the botanist a male version of sex on a stick and the logger a pissed off blue-eyed blonde who’d look more at home in a women’s magazine than at the job site decked out in steel toed boots. Excellent!
Depending on size you may have a sub plot or maybe two. Maybe three. They should tie into the story line, adding depth to the story and characters.
Then think about the ending. You want to end with a bang, not a whimper. There should be a resolution which leaves the reader feeling emotionally satisfied. They should close your book feeling that the ending you wrote was the only way the book could’ve ended.
This post originally appeared on my blog www.patamsden.com I’d love to hear more great openings.