Monday, October 22, 2007

Hooking an Editor: You Tell Me

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When you go to the book store, do you flip open one book after another to check out the first sentence or two? That's what I usually do. If the first paragraph grabs me, then I turn to the back cover to read the blurb. Then I thumb through to see if there's more narrative than dialogue. The book goes back on the shelf if I don't find a lot of dialogue on each page. Supposedly a good opening line is what will get an editor's attention.
Tricky, huh.

Read what a favorite editor wrote about opening lines.

Now in your opinion, what makes a good opening line? What grabs you?
And how do you know if your first paragraph has what it takes to hook an editor or an agent? I don't have a clue so if you have tips, leave them in the comment section.

Take a look at these first couple of sentences from published books:

1. Mary Alice flung her purse on my kitchen table, where it landed with a crash, pulled a stool over to the counter and perched on it. "Perched" may not be the right word since Mary Alice weighs two hundred and fifty pounds. Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George

2. Chicago wasn't at its best on a snowy January day, but Allison Sayre had lived in Illinois's largest city all her life and she was accustomed to the capricious climate. The inclement weather hadn't caused her mournful face and melancholy mood. Heiress by Irene Brand

3. "I love you, Sarah. Will you marry me?"
Sarah Brannan sent the message mentally, then watched closely as the man sitting opposite her at the dining room table took another bite of chocolate meringue pie.
The Husband Hunt by Linda Lewis

4. So in the end, this was where a treasure hunter went when he died. It seemed anticlimactic--almost sad--considering the adventurous life he'd led. A Bride to Be by Kristin Morgan

5. Under normal circumstances, getting a Louisiana PI license is so routine as to be boring--you take a course, you pass a test, and you pay your money. Louisiana Bigshot by Julie Smith

6. "Miss McNeil, could I see you in my office right away, please?" The intercom speaker echoed with a loud click as the company's president hung up. At Arm's Length by Gail Sattler

7. About hundred yards below the house, to the south, the woods began, and it was here that Luisa said the devils lived. Some of them were shut up in the old well, now gone to salt and useless, and covered with a concrete slab. The Cannibal Heart by Margaret Millar

8. "Hey, Mom! Look at those women tearing the clothes off that guy!"
Erin pulled into the parking area beside a huge red and black tour bus, slamming her foot on the brake of her custom van just as two screaming females darted in front of her.
The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes by Jessica Travis

9. Frank Daggett sure hoped that was a town up ahead and not a mirage. he had been in the saddle so long he felt as if it were fused to the seat of his pants. Gerda's Lawman by Lena Nelson Dooley

I pulled each book off my shelves (and floor)at random. Which one of these openers make you want to buy the book? And why?

7 comments:

Georgiana said...

I like #8 because it's so outrageous. It's a statement that you can't ignore, and you feel compelled to find out what's going on. Great post!

Jess said...

Awwww, thanks Georgiana. That's my very own first sentence so maybe I do have a clue. LOL

I really like #3. I tend to live inside my head so this one appeals to me. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

I like number four. It asks all sorts of questions that beg to be answered.

My favorite first paragraph of all time comes from the Dick Francis mystery TO THE HILT.

"I don't think my stepfather much minded dying. That he almost took me with him wasn't really his fault."

Isn't that great?

Jess said...

Thanks, Erica. Number 4 is a favorite of mine too. My best friend wrote that book. After the death of a loved one, writing isn't important to her anymore so she's given it up.

Mary Connealy said...

I love first lines, Jess. It always make me feel like I didn't try hard enough with my own.

Mary Connealy said...

That Dick Francis line is a great one.

Rachel said...

I'm the other way around when I'm book browsing. I read the back cover first, and then if the plot interests me, I'll flip it open and see if the writing is up to par with the idea.