The large full branches of the maple trees created a cool green canopy over the neglected trail. A gentle breeze played through the leaves and made them dance ever so gracefully. The sun light, falling in broad shafts, pierced through the trees and landed on the ground bathing it in great golden pools while the fragrance of wild flowers and herbs filled the early spring air with a delicate perfume.
My critique group said it put them there but, it didn’t put them in the story. They didn’t like it, well, not for the opening paragraph. I thought it set the stage for the following action which was in contrast to the calm idyllic setting. Wrong. It didn’t grab them.
They pointed me to Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages. The sub-title was compelling, a writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. Dutifully, I did my assigned reading. The essence of the chapter – the hook is more than a marketing tool to draw the reader in. It sets the tone of the story, the characters, the setting, the mood, and more. The care you take to the opening line should be the same care you give to the first paragraph, page, chapter all the way through to the last sentence. But let’s get back to the opening sentence.
Here are some opening sentences from some famous romance novels. One of them is from my unpublished novel. Does it hold up with the others?
- “As their elegant traveling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh.”
- “How does a person reenter a life she left behind years earlier?”
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
- “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.”
- “The noon whistle blew and the saws stopped whining.”
- “Lord Arik’s commanding presence made him easy to spot as he led the three riders and wagon speeding across the forest trail.”
- “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?”
- “Dougles Montgomery sat in the back seat of the rental car, Robert and his pudgy thirteen-year-old daughter, Gloria, in the front.”
- “Cam called in markers, pulled strings, begged favors and threw money around in a dozen directions.”
- “They said he killed his first wife.”
Answers will be posted in next weeks blog. If you can’t wait, please send me an email and I will share the answers with you. Have a good week.
Reprinted by request from my post on A History of Romance
… Ruth Seitelman