Deadline Diaries

Five Romance writers tell all.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In The Beginning

posted by Maureen

Okay, that picture is cute, but it’s not MY monitor. Mine is usually glaring at me. Not that I mind, I’m usually glaring right back. Especially when starting a book. Now isn’t THAT a great segue into my blog???

Starting a book is the hardest part of writing. Sometimes it can take me a week or more to get going on the new manuscript. You have to learn who your characters are. You have to figure out their voices, their personalities. But the biggest hurdle to pass?

The Opening Line.

Yes, it belongs in capital letters. It’s that important. Because that opening line sets the tone for the rest of the book. It sets the tone for the reader who’s picking that book up in the bookstore, trying to decide if she wants to spend her hard earned money on your baby. You’d better have a great opening. Not just to help you move forward on the work, but to capture that elusive reader once the book is in the store.

So, I’ve got a few favorites to quote here, and hey, can I help it if a few of them are MINE?

Tracy Hill died in a freak bowling accident. That’s the opener from my book THIS TIME FOR KEEPS. And trust me, it set just the right tone for that funny, quirky book.

The body was found sprawled across Nicole Kidman’s star on Hollywood Boulevard. From my first Silhouette Nocturne, a dark paranormal called ETERNALLY, opens with that line and you immediately know that this is going to be a darker read.

"Crotchless panties?" That's the opener from Kate Carlisle's soon to be sold manuscript, THE KAMA SUTRA CHRONICLES, now a finalist in the American Title III contest! I don't know about you, but I would want to know what comes next!

When I was twelve I accidentally substituted salt for sugar in a cake recipe. That’s Janet Evanovich in TWELVE SHARP, the latest Stephanie Plum novel. And right away, you know who Steph is and identify with her.

If Darcy Jensen had known she was going to be kidnapped, she would have worn better shoes. That line is from THE MARCELLI BRIDE, by our own Susan Mallery. Instantly, you like Darcy and you’re rooting for her.

The air was raw with February the morning Bobby Lee Fuller found the first body. Nora Roberts’ novel CARNAL INNOCENCE, probably the all time greatest romantic suspense ever. I read it at least twice a year and now my daughter Sarah does the same thing.

Amazingly enough, Nora had TWO great opening lines in that book. The one above was for the prologue. This one opens Chapter One and absolutely haunts me. This line I can quote from memory. Summer, that vicious green bitch, flexed her sweaty muscles and flattened Innocence, Mississippi. Right away, you know this is a deep, dark suspense and that the atmosphere will be playing as heavy a role in the book as the characters.

Each of those opening lines is a barometer for the book that follows. As soon as you read them, you know what you’re going to get. Humor. Drama. Suspense. You get a feel for the characters before they even have their first line of dialogue.

You know, as the reader, as the writer, which road you’ll be taking on this journey. You know how you’ll be spending your time and you can’t wait to get started.

And remember...
A good beginning makes a good end—English proverb

Not to mention...
Even if you’re on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there—Will Rogers

Got a favorite opening line you’d like to share?


At 9:54 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Maureen you rock at opening lines! I just went and looked at the opening line of hte book I'm trying to start...blah. Whatever.

But hey! I did win an award for the opening line of my book NINJA SOCCER MOMS: "The thing about revenge is that it takes a woman who is well and truly pissed to get it right."

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Maureen, what Jen said! What great opening lines. Jen, LOL on yours, as well.

Here are a couple:

"We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge."
John D. McDonald,
Darker than Amber

"Time to die, birthday bitch."
Tami Hoag
Guilty as Sin

And here's one of mine from Prince and Future Dad, the second book in my Viking Brides series:
"Princess Liv Thorson woke nose to nose with a sheep."

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Susan Mallery said...

You're so right, Maureen. Opening lines are everything. I often can't even start a book until I know the opening line, which can be really, really frustrating. Sometimes they just pop into my brain and sometimes...not.

Some favs of mine:

"I never meant to return to the scene of my great disaster." Susan Howatch, Scandalous Risks.

"It was a rat, in a way, which brought Bake Johnson not only awake but back to life." Jack Higgins, Day of Reckoning.

Then to brag on myself a little ;)...a couple from my books...

"She's forgotten how good the devil looked in blue jeans." Marriage on Demand, an old series book of mine.

And... "Until 6:45 that Thursday morning, women had always loved Reid Buchanan." That's from the upcoming single title Sizzling.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Kim said...

Ok, you ladies are reminding me of books that I loved, and want to read again--and books that I cannot wait to see what happens....Sizzling--Susan--I am waiting....:)

Not very patiently yours, (LOL)


At 12:37 PM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Whoa! Those are some great opening lines!! Jen, I LOVE that one. And hey, so true!! =)

Chris, your viking line is PRICELESS!!! And I really liked Tami's too...

Susan, you've had some great ones. And like Kim, I'm waiting very impatiently for Sizzling. And hey, that rat line was not only good, it gave me shivers. yeesh...

Kim--great to see you! (so to speak) LOL

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Christie Ridgway said...

This is always fun!

"All that spring, Honey prayed to Walt Disney." HONEY MOON, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

I love this opener because it tells us a lot about Honey and sets the tone for this quirky, warm, wonderful book.

"There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever. Joseph Morellid did this to me--not forever, but periodically. ONE FOR THE MONEY, Janet Evanovich

Okay, technically 2 lines, but isn't it a great opener for a book...and for the entire series?

"Bailey Sullivan glanced over her shoulder at the interior of The Perfect Christmas and wondered what would happen if she set Santa's beard on fire." MUST LOVE MISTLETOE, my upcoming Christmas book!

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Hey, Christie! Two of my favorite books! Great lines...

And I LOVE your Christmas book opener! Can't wait to read it!

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous SunniBrook said...

Two of my favorites are from Susan:

"All Kevin Harmon wanted was a beer, a burger and a bed, in that order." COMPLETELY SMITTEN (most likely my very favorite of Susan's books.)

"Penny Jackson knew that it was probably wrong to be so excited to see her ex-husband come crawling back, but she was willing to live with the character flaw." DELICIOUS

Speaking of Delicious... I am also impatient for SIZZLING. :)

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Ooh, Sunnibrook--Isn't Susan fabulous at those opening lines??

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Susan so is!
Love that line from Completely Smitten--well, and the others, too.

It's really not fair that you guys are so good--I mean, not fair. But faboo, nonetheless.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous SunniBrook said...

I kind of feel like a little nobody trying to be a somebody by posting on this seemingly "authors only" board. :) Hope it's okay that I post.

One reason I love the Completely Smitten line is because it's referred to later when Kevin realizes if he'd changed the order of his "wants" he'd be in bed instead of in the bar.

Very clever!

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Kate Carlisle said...

Sunnibrook, you're always welcome here! And I agree, Susan's opening lines are great! One of my favorites is The Marcelli Bride opener that Maureen quoted in her post. Once I read that line, I couldn't put the book down.

And what the heck, here's my opening line from DEAD MOM TALKING: "Are you wearing any underwear?"

Weird how all my opening lines involve underwear....

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Susan Mallery said...

Kim--delighted to hear you're waiting for Sizzling...there's a whole new cover. Fabulous story I must blog on someday.

Sunnibrook--hi ::waving frantically:: post away. We love that you post and Kim and Jennifer.

Now I'm feeling pressure--I've actually gone back and checked the opening lines of my next two books. Not that I can change them!

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Oh, Sunnibrook!! We're authors who write the blogs, but we're readers commenting!! And we LOVE to hear from romance readers! Please, post away!

And Kate...yes, the underwear thing is...interesting. =)

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Christie Ridgway said...

This is a great thread and thanks everyone (you, too, Sunnibrook!) for posting. I am such a reader that these lines are making me jot down titles of books that I now =must= read. (Though many are already my faves.)

I just looked back at the first line of the manuscript I'm working on. Dang. Not so good. Must revise.

At 6:56 AM, Anonymous Kim said...


I will wait for the blog on Sizzling. I really have enjoyed the first 2 books. Great characters and stories. KUDOS!!!

Have a lovely Thursday!


At 8:45 PM, Blogger Gina Black said...

Here's one of my favorites...

He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate.

That's the beginning of Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale.

I find that I have to get the opening line right for me. Until I've hit it, it's like starting a dance on the wrong foot. Once I have it right, I can write. ;)

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Maureen Child said...

Gina, that's a great one. Terrific book, too.

You're right....that first line is just all important!


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