Aug 24, 2010

Your Monday Giveaway. On a Tuesday.

The internet and I had a falling out yesterday, and it left me.

But it seems we've reconciled our differences, and are here now with a belated giveaway.

So. Opening sentences. I talked briefly about them last time, and truth be told, I could spend a heck of a lot more time yattering on about my favorite first lines of stories, and why/how they drew me in. And it is all I can do to restrain myself from quoting nine or ten openings now. (It doesn't count if I just say the title of the book and don't actually quote it, right? It doesn't. Labor Day, by Joyce Maynard). (And Matilda, by Roald Dahl). (And Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. ...Okay, I'm stopping.)

But there are reasons far more important than "because I like them" to work on a gripping, strong, intriguing opening.

"A practical fact: If you don't capture the editor's interest at the beginning of a book, it's unlikely you will have that editor's attention for the rest of the book. At the most, you've got two or three pages to hook the reader. That is a writer's reality, especially a first-time writer's reality.


It won't matter that pages 10 to 160 of your middle-grade novel are some of the most awesome and compelling ever written in the annals of children's literature. Chances are those pages won't be read as long as they are preceded by a weak beginning."--Nancy Lamb, The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children.

Most of the assistants and agents I know glance at the first few pages of a manuscript when it arrives in their inbox/on their desk. When those pages are polished, have a strong voice, and have an interesting set-up, the manuscript becomes much harder to put down. One of my favorite things to hear is that an agent/editor started to flip through such-and-such manuscript, and got so sucked in by those opening pages that they couldn't stop reading, and stayed late at work finishing the entire thing. It happens; and it gets talked about afterwards.

The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children is insightful and entertaining, and covers everything from fantastic openings to plotting to the mid-story crisis. And it is about to become a very valuable addition to someone's bookshelf.

Since Lamb's book is geared toward stories for the 4-14 crowd (though her advice certainly applies to older age groups as well), today's giveaway is similarly centered. In 100 words or less, write the opening sentence(s) to a children's/middle grade/YA story, and post it in the comments. Have your entry in by the end of the day Wednesday. A winner will be chosen and announced on Friday.

Happy writing!


Vincent Kale said...

Opening line:
The first time I paused the world, I managed to sleep through the whole thing.

And Orson Scott Card's opening line of "Ender's Game" not only hooked me into the rest of the book, but sci-fi as well!

Deren Hansen said...

"This time, Alysseren caught a glimpse of the Inner Sanctum before the reverend caught her. And this time, to add to her humiliation, he marched her to the children’s room and locked the door."

Bish Denham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bish Denham said...

(Try again...)

Sakrat (who vehemently insists his name is pronounced sa-KRAT and not SACK-rat) hummed to himself as he unpacked. He hummed slightly off key which irritated Seraphin the Minstrel to no end. But one can't very well go criticizing a wizard else one might be zapped and turned (even if only momentarily) into pond scum.

Heather said...

The opening sentences to my YA fantasy:

Chemier loved it when they ran. It made the hunt that much sweeter. Adrenalin also added an excellent flavor to the blood.

magolla said...

The sharp, acrid scent of sulfur hit my senses the same nanosecond as the hair on the nape of my neck stood at attention.

Theresa Milstein said...

The first line of my YA fantasy, The Mist Chasers:

"Walmart was the first to disappear."

Elan Cross said...

Jonah was just about to belt out the ‘Jonah-C’, the high note he was hired for, and the note that turned me into a nervous mess anytime we got paired in rehearsal.

Becca said...

Olivia held her breath, afraid that if she breathed, her parents would hear.

madameduck said...

The monsters weren't real, of course. But, all the same, it couldn't hurt to wait for them to leave before she moved again.

Seven N Blue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess said...

Mr. Grey was terribly uncomfortable with children in general, but especially with those whose parents had just been ruthlessly devoured by wild animals. Those children, he told himself, had to be exceptionally poor company. Compounded with the facts that the unfortunate couple included his sister, and the child in question was his nephew, Mr. Grey believed this was the most uncomfortable position he had ever been placed in. So thoughtless of Winifred and Harold to die such nasty deaths.

Peeking through the curtains, he sighed when the doorbell rang a second time. There would be no avoiding it, he supposed.

JasonF said...

For an upper YA book:

"Had my mom not been upstairs, the basement might have had that cool swirly cigar smoke atmosphere you always see on TV when people are playing poker. We were just rebellious enough to try that at sixteen, but not with my mom thirty feet away. Instead, the basement reeked of Doritos and Coke and teenage boy sweat."

Seven N Blue said...

YA Urban Fantasy : THE INNOCENTS

Two nights ago I went to a bar near Ocean Beach. Somewhere between my fourth drink and the slow dance with the Persian guy I had blacked out and lost track of time. By the time I made it home it was close to five in the morning and the only clue I had to piece the night together were the scratches on my legs.

My parents were talking in their bedroom about some new form of punishment – I’m sure. Damn. Tonight I had to be more careful. Don’t mix liquors again. Stick to vodka Myla.

Anonymous said...

For a young adult book:
We always party outside in the middle of nowhere. A fire crackles in the rough circle formed by bodies, cars, and a couple of kegs. We call this place the Hunting Grounds, or the Grounds for short. It’s a clearing adjacent to an old logging road, not really hunting grounds at all, unless you’re hunting for cheap beer and cheap feels.

Erin Apelu said...

“Eden, stay with me. Concentrate. I know you’re tired and wanna sleep. Just a few more minutes, then you can rest.” My eye lids fluttered slowly as the nurse kept coming in and out of view. I had to concentrate, that’s what she said. It was hard to obey. My lids felt like a thousand pounds were pressing down, threatening to crush my sleepy eyes. I couldn’t remember why I was tired. I tried to focus on her hair, it was fiery red and frizzy. The color jolted my memory, and I inhaled a deep breath, gasping for air. Blood—her hair looked like the blood.

Seth Herman said...

It started like a year ago. I was bumming around on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills on a Sunday morning, taking my sweet time picking out an esrog. On that two-block span you have a different vendor every three feet, and I figured God might like me to spend as much time choosing a holy citron as I spent choosing a movie in Blockbuster last night. (Eight minutes, if you must know. And I should've spent another sixty seconds deciding on something else).

Then somebody tapped me on the temple - that’s right, the temple, not the shoulder - and said:

“You are now trained in anti-terrorism.”

Max said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Livia said...

Maybe James wanted her dead. The thought occurred to Kyra as she coiled into a crouch, preparing to spring off a fourth floor ledge. She supposed it was possible, but didn’t interrupt her jump. Right now, she needed to keep moving.

Larissa said...


Apparently, I'm not completely human.

I have no idea how or why or any other question one might ask about it. I just know I almost killed my boyfriend with a kiss.

And that's not normal.

Piedmont Writer said...

Young adult contemporary mystery.

I only wanted to borrow my mom’s ring to go with my Halloween costume for the party at school. Had I known what was going to happen, I would have left it in her sock drawer.

Traci Van Wagoner said...

YA Fantasy

Jaeron scratched another mark on the rock wall of his pen with his lucky stone. Forty-two. One for each day he had been prisoner, one for each battle he fought and won in the windigog fighting pit.

Wondering if the boy he fought today still lived, he hung the stone back over his neck and tucked it inside his ragged furs. He should, if he was given proper treatment.

Today’s battle was not much of a fight. Jaeron made it quick for the sake of the boy—a human boy a season younger than himself and half-starved.

Elaine AM Smith said...

YA Paranormal Romance

Only the grind of bone-on-bone grated through the cavern, until a thump disturbed the stillness. The intermittent double beat played out an uneven rhythm.
With slashing suddenness, pain made Will's body strain against the laws that governed nature once again.
Cold granite ripped the skin from his heels. His legs were rigid, arms locked, as he convulsed. When his jaw jarred open, oxygen flooded his lungs. Heat lashed through him. Every cell in his body screamed.

Jane Forbes said...

Dragon's Flight, Watchers' Sight (Middle Grade):

Donalt crouched in the inn’s cellar, his body folded behind a barrel of ale and his eyes flickering over the creamy pages of his book. He knew it was stupid to be reading here in day-time. His family wouldn’t be happy unless he was available to clean the stables or chop firewood or generally have his life made a misery. He couldn’t help it.

Bess Weatherby said...

"It is difficult to be King of the city that never sleeps. Too difficult. In fact, it is impossible."

lbcossey said...

Beginning of my WIP/ YA.

One day into his kindergarten year, Avon Richardson already had a cell reserved in juvie. He moved in the second day of eighth grade. Five years later, he moved out. The judge warned him to go straight. He did. Straight to the corner of Vine and Main. Candy welcomed him to freedom behind the Salvation Army--a quicky and a dime bag. And Avon Richardson became a business man.

Joanna said...

Some of my favorite opening lines of books:

"Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house."

"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book."

Nice first lines everyone!

"If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it."

lodjohnson said...

YA Paranormal Romance Breathe

The first time I met him, it wasn’t an accident. I didn’t know it was a planned chance meeting. He chose me and it didn’t take much for me to reciprocate. I only had to see him once. Believe me, once was enough. I fell for him and fell and fell, but he knew I would. I never had a choice. That’s what happens when he’s omnipotent and you’re not.

brian_ohio said...

Here's the first 97 words of my humorous MG adventure.

“Billy,” my dad said, waggling his index finger in my face. I know some fingers are worse than others, but for me, this was the finger I hated most. He continued, “Just remember what we practiced. And follow my lead.”

“I know. I know.” How many times would he remind me? Besides, his words didn’t mean as much when he was dressed in that huge diaper, a jumbo bobby pin holding it in place.

“That’s my boy,” he cracked a big smile. My dad hadn’t smiled much lately, so when he did, I couldn’t love him more.

Nicole Marie Schreiber said...

Here are three opening lines to three of my projects.

1. (This one comes from the prologue to my middle grade historical fiction WIP called MERCURY'S DAUGHTER-- It is a letter.)

To Her Royal HIghness Queen Maria of Hungary and Governess of the Netherlands,

Your Majesty, all I have ever loved is about to burn at the stake.

2. (This comes from a my middle grade fantasy WIP called THE DA VINCI MACHINE.)

When your mom works at the Metropolitan Art Museum, you get used to having mummies as babysitters really fast.

3. (Finally, this one comes from my finished middle grade fantasy manuscript called HAPPILY EVER ADELIA.)

I didn't mean to turn the princess into a cow.

A.E said...

"Quite honestly gramps, I'd rather use your face for target practice than for kissing."

Holly Bodger said...

Ooo, I can't enter but if I'm allowed to vote, I love the one from Vincent Kale!