Monday, December 04, 2006

Opening Hook Revised

Okay, we’ve talked a bit about hooking your readers with the first lines and paragraphs of your book. Then I showed you the first draft of the opening of my manuscript Dismembering the Past. Now I present the actual opening. You’re going to notice three things right away. One, it’s totally different, not a word of the first draft survived. Two, it has a completely different feel to it. And three, I broke the rule of starting with the protagonist; this starts with the antagonist. First, the opening, then a couple of comments.

<< Oliver sat back on his haunches and watched the sleeping woman. He'd been in this position for close to an hour, mesmerized by her, memorizing her. Brown hair, heavy and separated by sweat, draped across her flushed cheeks. Her mouth hung open as she drew air in trembling gasps. Body curled into a ball, she clasped long fingers beneath her chin. A chain attached to her left ankle stretched across her bare buttocks and fastened to the metal anchor plate on the wall behind her.

She released a long sigh, then inhaled with a low whimper. Her hands twitched, fingers fluttering like leaves in a spring breeze. She stirred from her sleep. Finally.

Oliver reached behind his back and touched the knife sheathed in his belt. >>

This was the opening page that placed second in the "Go Fishin'" contest. Is it better? I think it's more suspenseful, and this was, after all, a suspense book.

That's an important point to remember. What kind of book are you writing? Humorous? Suspense? Cozy? Romance? An opening has to do so much: hook the reader, set the tone, establish the plot, introduce characters, maybe even drop clues or foreshadow the climax.

I may not have used the original opening, but I didn’t totally trash it. That scene appears later in the book.

The opening is important. It may be the most important part of your manuscript when it comes to getting an agent or an editor. It could determine whether your book gets bought or left on the shelf. But, on the other hand, don't spend your life trying to create the perfect beginning. Write it. Then go on with the rest of the story. Then go back and edit. This opening has been revised many times, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it again. But you have to keep moving forward.

If you don't get the story written, then a fabulous first page doesn't mean much, does it?

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