By Maggie Toussaint
Ever notice how some books grab you from that opening line and you feel like you can’t read fast enough to take it all in? Great opening lines capture our attention. They promise to deliver great stories.
Crafting an intriguing opener is no accident. Chris Roerden, award-winning author of Don’t Murder Your Mystery, cites these characteristics of a great opener: arouses your curiosity; establishes the main character; begins at the point of change or in the middle of an action; uses tone to create a mood instead of adjectives and adverbs; stirs emotions so that a reader identifies with the central character; sets a tone consistent with the main character’s attitude; avoids clichés or trite phrases; and/or suggests a contradiction of some kind.
When Chris recently updated her book for The Writer’s Digest (Don’t Sabotage Your Submission), she included the opening line from my romantic suspense, No Second Chance, as a great opener. Wowser! What a thrill to be included in her how-to-write book!
Honestly, I can’t credit any text or set of rules as my guiding light on my openers. I go with my gut feeling. A great first line hooks me into the story. I keep working on my first lines until I have something that pleases me.
Writers at every stage in their careers strive for a great first line. Since I’m a great believer in learning by example, here are ten opening lines that make me want to keep reading:
What a perfect night for a kidnapping. —Karen Duvall, Desert Guardian
“You want me to do what?” —Donna Michaels, Meet Your Mate
Winter can be murder in Minnesota. —JL Wilson, Brownies, Bodies, and Breaking the Code
It was no way to spend a birthday, drinking alone in some hole-in-the-wall dive, but it beat sitting home alone, staring at the rented contents of his apartment. —Liana Laverentz, Thin Ice
Touching her had been a mistake. —Tara Nina, Blue Moon Rising
Abbie shoved her carryon bag under the seat in front of her as far as it would go. — Bess McBride, A Sigh of Love
Another day bites the dust. —Cindy K. Green, A Night of Novel Tea
“I’m sure you understand that given the circumstances we can’t be married.” —Carol Ann Erhardt, Foxfire
The loud rapping on the car window startled Paige awake. —Judith Rochelle, Love With a Proper Rancher
“Just don’t do the orgasm thing.” —Jane Richardson, A Different Kind of Honesty
My challenge to you today is to post at least one first line that intrigues you. Here’s the catch. You can’t cite your own work, and you must have read the book in the last year.
I can’t wait to see what you will post!
Author of romance and mystery
Watch the trailer for "No Second Chance" here.