Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Starting With A Bang

Well, I'm totally angsting. This is the week where I need to send in 75-100pgs of Velvet Have to my editor. She just wants to make sure the book is achieving what it should and that the whole Annwyn world is being 'dripped' in, not blasting in and confusing readers. And, she wants to make sure it's 'dark and sexy'. I'm all for this. No writer wants to write an entire book to hear, 'yeah, uh, this isn't working'. I'd rather know that when I can fix it early on, BEFORE the deadline. So, why am I angsting...I'm having a HORRIBLE time starting this book. Aargh! It's just one of those books I can't seem to find the beginning. With Addicted, it just flowed. But this one...it's like Chinese torture! Poor Kristina (with her own deadline) has just read the third different opening. (Yes, I'm a mean critique partner) and I finally think that I'm getting somewhere.

You see, when you begin writing and learning the craft, you discover this 'begin with a bang' theory. That is, find a really strong, compelling opening hook. I agree with that. But if you go through history's famous literature, not all of it is a bang. Some of it is 'really? This is a good opening?"

I always seem to want to go for tone when I open a book, instead of that brilliant line with words to draw you in. And I know I have to start this book off right, and it's got me all jittery.

So, to have fun today, I'm giving you a Tuesday Brain Tease. I've compiled a list of literature's famous (and soon to be famous) opening lines. Not all are books, but see if you can guess the title and author of the book. I'll post the answers tonight.
Here goes....

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (Utterly brilliant in my opinon!)

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

She walks in beauty like the night;of cloudless climes and starry skies.

“Edith!” said Margaret gently, “Edith!” (um...really? That's it?)

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. (Hmmmm, no bang here)

The pungent odor of urine, the copper tang of blood, and the stench of terror blended in perfect union with the wailing moans and strangled screams of the multitudes of prisoners begging for merciful death. (Zing!!! I'm SO envious I didn't write this...pout)

I must confess, for though I am female, and of lowly rank for a woman of my time, I am wealthy by comparison to many who suffer the drought of a dry marriage bed.

“He’s like Mr. Rochester and…and”—Christobel searched her mind for a proper literary example—“Mr. Darcy, all rolled into one brooding, supercilious parcel.”

Slave. Minion. Fiend. The others who have come before me have been called such things, but I prefer to think if myself as a disciple; a devout follower of my voluptuous mistress.

She was exactly the sort of mortal he was looking for—single, lonesome and begging for it. (that's my opening line for Velvet Haven)

Pick up the book you're reading right now and tell us the opening line! Does it work you. Does the author 'start with a bang'. Can't wait to see everyone's answers!


Kristi Cook said...

Ahhhh, the opening line to Pride & Prejudice, probably one of the best EVER! I spy Jane Eyre in there, too!

How about the opening line of Gone With the Wind: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." (yeah, I know that one from memory!)

I think I read somewhere that Stephenie Meyer added the brief "Preface" to Twilight simply to give it a more intriguing opening--and I'm inclined to believe it.

Just compare--opening to Preface: "I never gave much thought to how I would die--though I'd had reason enough in the last few months--but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this."

Or, the opening to Chapter One: "My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down."

Uh, yeah. Good call, I'd say!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...opeing of the book I'm reading...

"I must confess, for though I am a female, and of lowly rank for a woman of my time, I am weathly by comparisson to many who suffer the drought of a dry marriage bed."

Pretty good lure if you ask me.

You know, Gone With the Wind is my all time favorite movie and I have yet to read the book. Okay, I will admit that the thickness of it sometimes scares me, lol.

Charlotte Featherstone said...

You are correct, Pride and Prejudice is the first one, and Jane Eyre. I was shocked that the first line of Jane Eyre was so....well...medicore. I love the book, and when I went trolling for lines,I picked it up and went to the beginning of chapter one and thought, 'hmmm, not so good'.
Personally, I'd never toss a book for the first line. But then, we've already established I'm an 'easy' reader! It's about the characters for me.

And GREAT reference to Twilight. Definitely the preface worked to set tone, but intrique as well!

Victoria Janssen said...

I figure it's EASY to start with a bang. After about sixteen revisions. *heh*

Amanda McIntyre said...

I have to concur with Victoria on this one. Inasmuch as I would like to think that all great storytellers began/begin with their original opening line in a book, I have to wonder how many actually sit there and read and re-read, or think they "have it" only to be gently guided by an editors objective eye to change it ;)

Thus good reason to have a trusted crit partner that you can bank off of at just such times.

right now im reading:

#1 Dozens of sheep surged across the single track road and surrounded Erin McGregors car...(not as titalating to be sure, but I adore this author, so I know its worth the slow start)

#2 "Dunna fear, Sierra, " her mother's voice whispered in her head. "Fear will be your ruin, dunna give in to it." (Tortured,Aug.09)

As a reader, I am drawn to other lures; the backcover blurb, the author , or (as trite as it sounds) the cover. As a writer, we are groomed to snag that perfect hook opening-like the perfect wave. Gnarly.

I have read some clever openings-probably one of the most famous that I actually recall is "It was the best of times and the worst of times."

Classic stuff.
and maybe that perfect opening line is the reason?


Anonymous said...

Michael did not know which of the two had brought him back to London. He sat and waited for both.

-Robin Schone "The Lover"

The book that brought me into reading Erotic Romance, and through that line it draws you in to make you wonder what did bring Michael back to London.
I never gave it much thought as how the opening line draws a reader in, but not that I think about it...

Genella deGrey said...

Charlotte - I think the "Begin with a Bang" theory is fairly new - Jane Austin didn't have her editor hounding her for one. LOL

As you already know, I'm reading "Addicted" at the moment - and you have posted the opening line - which YES, totally sucked me it. ;)

I think you should just relax about your opening and let it come to you. My brightest ideas come to me when:
A) I'm in the shower
B) I'm driving
C) I'm putting on my makeup
D) I'm almost asleep

Note that I never have a pen in my hand at the instant of revelation.

Let go of the logical side of your brain and let the creative side take over.

A way to learn to switch back and forth is to take a pen, pencil, crayon or what have you, and a blank piece of paper.

Now just start drawing - let your ink, led or wax flow onto the page - DON'T THINK about it – just let it happen.

Quiet you logical voice and let the artist have at. It takes time (perhaps a few days to a week) and a bit of practice to learn to turn it off and on, but you'll catch on. Try doing this once or twice a day, far enough apart that the sides switch is complete each time.

Let me know if you try it -

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Interesting theory, Genella. I just might try it. This is another post for another time, but things sure change for us writers once we have editors to please and such. I used to roll to my eyes when I'd hear authors talk about this,thinkng 'please, everyone should be so lucky', but now that I'm in that category, it's so true.
The grass, I'm afraid, is not always greener, or sweet smelling from the other side of the fence! lol!
Not that I'm complaining, mind!

Amanda McIntyre said...

I love to color, I won't lie ;)
its the freedom of it for me! Genella.

I can very easily at time, get so caught up in the whats expected part, that I forget the let loose the imagination part!

But it is a fine line to walk between what is required and what is created!

this from a woman who has her tub of crayons from childhood displayed for inspiration in my office ;)


EmilyBryan said...

"I'm going to have to shorten his willie."

I confess this is the first line of my own DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS (which is up for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award in the BEST HISTORICAL K.I.S.S. category!)

Looking forward to visiting with you her at LIT on March3rd!

Amanda McIntyre said...

LOL!! Which should come with its own "spew alert." Emily!;)

Laughed out loud the first time I read that line! Delightful!
Can't wait to have you here at the Manor!


Kristi Cook said...

LOL, Emily! Now *that's* intriguing!!! Can't wait to read it!

Jina Bacarr said...

Hi, Charlotte,

I so enjoyed your blog today with the opening lines!! I'm looking forward to guest blogging in April at LIT and couldn't resist adding the opening to my April Spice CLEOPATRA'S PERFUME:

"Blondes always did get him in trouble. This one could get him killed."

Thankz for letting me share.

Anonymous said...

hey, i recognize a line or two!