Sneak Peek: My First Lines + How I Make Them

I know beginnings are super hard for a lot of people, & most people loathe them to death.  But I don't.  I love beginnings.  As I mentioned in a previous post, beginnings are basically con games that you play on the reader, & I love conning my readers.  AH ha.  AH ha.  (forgive me a cruel chuckle).  I'm not a gambler, but have you ever played Yatzee?  Remember shaking the dice a million times in the cup (like that's gonna make a difference) + feeling that crazy rush of adrenaline right before you throw the dice down?  That's me when I'm warming up for the pitch.  That's me when I'm burrowing inside my deep dark inner genius place where I do my creating + I'm one second away from opening my eyes on the opening scene.

i follow lichipan on instagram because her feed makes me jelly

THE THINGS YOU DON'T DO  ||  I've learned a lot over the years about what to not put in a story's hook.

a:: gobs of description
b:: dwindling hope of actually meeting the character within the first five pages
c:: an upfront, exhaustive detailing of what the character looks like (bonus points if the character is totally plain + swoon-worthy gorgeous at the same time)

THE THINGS THAT I DO  ||  Remember Yatzee?  That's how I play with opening lines: the story is the cup + my readers' imaginations are the dice.  Shake it up, charge it with energy - hurl it into the plot.  

tippity tip-tip: pose a question

Your reader owes you a big balance of absolutely nothing, so you've got to prove it to him that your story is worth his time.  There are hundreds of different ways to make your reader care*, but I find the question is one of the most potent methods.

"did i tell you about the time a very not-straight guy in a yellow slicker got chased round a glaswegian bus stop?"
"wait - what??"**

*citation needed.
**i am not making this scenario up.

THE "WAIT - WHAT??" RESPONSE  ||  is a great one.  & now you're all going to recognize it when I use it on you.  Way to go, Jenny.  



Not all of my upcoming novels have opening lines yet, but many of them do.  Would you care to take a peek?  I really love them, & I hope you do, too (even if they are all subject to editing, scraping, + rewriting cuz i'm the leader + i say when we go.  ...   here we go.).*

I stood on the last railway platform of my journey.
In all, the experience of riding in a rail carriage was the least harrowing yet in this bleak, unfriendly island country. Not such an island as I was used to: high-topped, volcanic peaks blistering white beneath the smithing of a summer sun, slopes tangled in olive and bay, streets clapping with the sounds of bare native soles and the shriek of gulls... Such islands were graceful, young in their antiquity.
This island was dead.

“What is a son of man?”
I looked up critically, instinctively lifting one hand to shield my eyes from the early morning sunlight. Pan Aeneas stood in front of us with her crazed red mares’-nest falling round her face and her fists bunched at the linen pleating of her gown. Her narrow face was white and drawn, and every freckle stood out starker than ever.

"MY LORD, I AM TRYING. You are asking me to do a thing which Christ himself did not accomplish until after his resurrection!"
blueshift (what even is this novel??)

“No, from the sound of it, it’s the Fellows.” Lord Dammerung uncurled languidly from his deeply recessed armchair and reached for the smart silver tray of tea I had put down for him. “With any luck, they’ve brought the post up with them. Simon, do you go tell Lady Margaret, please.”

It would not have made a difference, but in the end Alwin wished Destrian had not said it. It soured all from the outset.

“—You mean she has no abigail?”
“She has two sisters; what in the world could she need an abigail for?”

Goddgofang de la Mare rolled a pair of shirts together and thrust them wholesale into the depths of his saddle-bag. “Are you sure you will not come?” he asked, whirling from the bedstead with the swiftness and smoothness of a kingfisher. “Aaron is coming, you know.”

*these are in alphabetical, not chronological, order

Questions, questions, QUESTIONS.  Are you excited to read the rest of these stories?  Yeah, me too.  XD  I consciously began Adamantine as a mirror image of Plenilune's beginning because I wanted that reminiscence + continuity.  Blueshift?  What is it that yours truly is trying to do which only Jesus has done??  Who are the Fellows?  What foreboding doth loom upon Drakeshelm?  Who doesn't have an abigail? Who won't come to where?  We may never know because I might expire before I get to all these, yikes.

I can't be the only one with first lines prepped for upcoming stories.  Do you have some to share?  Do you have some that maybe need a fresh coat of paint + a sharper hook?  Please share!  After all, first impressions are everything.*

*don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise

thank you! you've been a great audience.
xoxo, jenny

8 ripostes:

  1. Definitely interested in Blueshift! Also #humor :D
    I wouldn't say I struggle with opening lines; just that I don't always come upon the right one at first, so I make do with the one I have until I come up with a better one.
    I'm rather proud of the opening in my WIP. It's all about wondering what my MC is doing, and why she's waking her brother and they're sneaking out on a bitterly cold night. (spoiler: it's not to meet up with friends.)

    I have a harder time with endings. I tend to do abrupt endings, because otherwise they would be drawn out and utterly saccharine and I can't stand that. I need to find the middle ground, obviously :D

  2. Laura - Oh, endings are tough. How much is enough? How much is too much? Should it be happy? Should it be bittersweet? Should it suggest happiness? Should it suggest bittersweetness?? What is the perfect amount of crescendo + the perfect cutoff?? So. difficult.

    While humour is not a prerequisite for the perfect sure helps, eh? XD

  3. I like it. Especially Blueshift. It's immediately intriguing.

  4. Your first lines are thoroughly and completely captivating. I struggle far more with beginnings than endings, so I may be referring to this post in the future. :)

  5. I love all of these. They all drop us right into the middle of a scene, without being gimmicky or sensational (well, okay, maybe Blueshift is sensational).

    I don't have opening lines for all of my in-progress or partly-finished projects, but I do have one for the novel I'm [supposed to be] working on right now:

    "They had been at General Quarters since dawn."

  6. Please hurry and write them as quickly as you can (easier said than done, I KNOW) I am excited to read these!

    Opening lines are a mixed bag for me. Sometimes they seem effortless and flawless after the first few tries. Sometimes, I decide sadly that I'll have to pass them by and try again on the editing phase.

  7. Caroline - Blueshift. Bluuuuu-shiiiiiift. I don't know what I'm getting myself in to. I feel like this story is just gonna break all bonds of rationality and go waltzing off into the blue while I frantically try to make sense of it. Aaaaaaah.

    Emily - (Hi, girl!) At least when you've got everything else nailed down, you can set the beginning to be JUST right in light of the rest of the story. That's a definite advantage.

    Elisabeth Grace Folderol - WHooo was at General Quarters? WHAT is General Quarters? WHY have they been waiting since dawn + for WHAT?? (Do they have adequate provisions? Do they have avocado for their toast? Is there wifi + instagram? Are they stocked with properly-quilted toilet paper??)


    Janie - no pressure. nO PRESSURE.

    Yeah, beginnings aren't ALWAYS easy; they're especially hard when I don't have a decent idea of where I am going, ya know? It's hard to step out into the dark when you have literally no direction. But whatevs, there's always editing. You go, girl!

  8. I take it I passed the pose-a-question test with flying colors? :)

    Without spoiling anything about the story, I can tell you that General Quarters is when everybody on a ship mans their battle stations. There's always morning GQ, but when you're in a combat area (hint, hint), you stay at GQ for as long as necessary.

    The answer to all parenthetical questions, except perhaps #1, is an emphatic NO. Well, #2 could be a maybe, if the officer in charge of the wardroom mess happened to have a taste for avocado. I read of one who laid in such a large stock of anchovies that his fellow-officers were driven to distraction by anchovies at every meal.

    (You asked for it. I have to spill my acquired research to somebody.)