Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Opening fast or slow? Mood?

More first lines today. First, choose a genre. Does that make a difference in cadence, mood? It should. Expectations come with genre and with individual established authors.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
    "At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of  my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin." 

A Light in the Window by Jan Karon
      "Serious thinking and crossing the street, he once said, shouldn’t be attempted simultaneously."

Home to Harmony by Phillip Gulley
    "When I was in the second grade,my teacher, Miss Maxwell, read from the The Harmony Herald that one in every four children lived in China."

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn
    "Jesus, chocolate, and a mocha with the steam rising from it. Jesus, chocolate, and a mocha with the steam rising from it."

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
      "My mother did not tell me they were coming. "

Daughter of Prophecy by Miles Owens
    Prologue: "Now you can push, m'lady, Drysi the midwife announced in weary triumph."
    Chapter 1: "Her home was a ruin."

The Loop by Nicholas Evans
     "The scent of slaughter, some believe, can linger in a place for years."

Twin Targets by Marta Perry
(There's a prologue, but this is chapter one.)
    "The woman's body lay on the cold, dirty concrete floor of the garage, a few feet from her car."

Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl with April Henry
"'Come on, Jalapeno!' Katie Converse jerked the dog's leash."

In James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers, he says to give the action first and then the setting descriptions if you're going for page-turning "momentum." If you need to slow the pace, then open with the setting description.

This book does the second opening:
    "The spring of the year is always beautiful in the mountains of North Carolina, and I hated to think this would be my last to see the blooming of the dogwood trees and the greening of the slopes."
(Land Sakes by Margaret Graham)

What is the pace of your book? Genre? These things do make a difference. Also, whose POV do you open with? You may end up going back to write your opening AFTER you've written your book. Considering all the things that set the tone and get your reader into the book, you may want to consider how the book's first impression brings your reader to the story.

Assignment to share with us: Pick a genre (your favorite is nice) and look at the opening. (You can share it with us.) What is the pace? Fast or slow? Does it open with action or a description? Does this match the genre and the entire pace of the book? What is the mood?

(Yesterday's offer for those who comment still holds today. If you live outside the U.S., I'm sorry that I will have to only offer the free 5-page read. If you comment every day, that counts as extra entries!)


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Crystal -

I've heard so much about JSB's new book. It's on my Wish List.

One thing I noticed about some of your first line examples: adverbs and unusual dialogue tags. These are things I've been taught to avoid. If you have an opportunity, can you address this?

Susan :)

Christine said...

Still loving this game. Here's a few more today.

"I planned to be the kind of old Southern lady who talked to her tomato plants and bought sweaters for her cats." - Deborah Smith, A Place to Call Home

Christine said...

"Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sight of an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise."

- Sara Donati, Into the Wilderness

Christine said...

"My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev, about whom you have read in the newspapers and magazines, about whom you talk so much at your dinner affairs and cocktail parties, the notorious and legendary Lev of the Brooklyn Crucifixion."

- Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev

Christine said...

"Breathe not a word of my visit, Jean."

- Liz Curtis Higgs, Thorn in My Heart

Christine said...

"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God."

- John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

Christine said...

"Rain fell like tiny silver teardrops from the tired sky."

- Kristin Hannah, On Mystic Lake

Christine said...

"First the colors.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
HERE IS A SMALL FACT. You are going to die."

- Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.

Okay, Crystal. Last one, fingers, crossed, I promise. :)

Crystal Laine said...

These are all great, Christine. Thanks!

Susan, that's a good observation. I know Noah Lukeman talks a little about this. Can you give some examples of first lines that hooked you?

For every rule there are exceptions, too.