The opening paragraph, or even sentence, in any book will set the tone for that book, and lay down certain expectations for the reader. No one likes a weak opening. It’s like a limp handshake—sweaty, boneless, and something you can’t wait to get away from at the first opportunity.

Consider these openers:

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Marley was dead to begin with.” — A Christmas Carol

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” – Gone with the Wind

A book’s opening very much like a pick-up line. If it doesn’t grab you or is charming and exciting, your interest probably won’t be captured and you’ll walk away to be potentially tempted by a new one.

Here’s the opening paragraph for my work-in-progress—well 2 attempts at it anyway.  This book is a lot of the reason for my recent foray into writer’s block.  I’m having trouble with the opening.  Maybe you can help me out by telling me which you like better:

Attempt 1

“Damn it!”

Twenty-seven steps.

That’s how far away Mona Moussai could go from him before her head started to pound with sharp, jagged pains.  She took one step more, testing her theory, and immediately clutched her stomach as it, too, protested.  Hot agony shot through her insides.  Quickly, she retreated a few steps, panting with relief when her body’s warning signals diminished.

Attempt 2

“What the hell do you mean you started the rumor?”

The roar that accompanied the bellow sent chills over her skin.  Fear unfurled in the pit of her stomach like a rolled tea leaf in hot water, expanding, filling her insides until a quick shot of adrenaline sent her into action.  She darted through the Portal, and upon leaving the Mortal Realm, tripped over its threshold and tumbled to the ground.  Landing on her hands and knees, she wrinkled her nose against the sharp smell of dirt.

She couldn’t afford another stupid mistake.  Not now.  Now with him close on her heels and problems multiplying with the speed of copulating rabbits.

The thesis paper of your whole novel. But nothing beats them. From the moment I type the opening sequence of a story, I feel such a rush, this wonderful can’t-be-beat feeling that I’m hovering on the verge of quite possibly the wildest ride I’ve ever created. I can’t wait to see where my characters go, why they get into trouble, how they’ll get out of it, when will they kiss, is there going to be a happy ending?


Just one of the aspects of writing that I love. So, as I post this blog, know I’m returning to the beginning of my newest book with high hopes and even higher expectations.

Or, at least I hope to.  The writer’s block I’ve struggled with for weeks is hopefully coming to an end.  I can feel the tingling of excitement to get to work again and have been gleefully thinking up new projects to stretch my brain with.

If only I can get over the hump with this WIP…

13 Responses to “Beginnings”
  1. I like the first opening better, Sandra. It’s more intense and more immediate. It grabs my empathy and my curiosity. As a reader, I can tell there’s something more than usual going on, but it also mirrors the real feelings a person can have when they’re walking away from someone for whatever reason. Be “he” villain or hero, I want to know more!

  2. Thanks Barbara. It’s interesting you chose that one. That’s from the first first chapter I wrote. I can’t believe something so small has kept me in gridlock for nearly a month

  3. Sandy says:


    The first one is more immediate, but I do think you can use of the second one, too.

  4. That opening hook is so very, very important. Great post. I loved your examples.

    Good luck over-coming that writer’s block. That’s no fun at all….

  5. Mary Ricksen says:

    Great Post. Good luck!

  6. Thanks Debra. I know it’s important LOL That’s why I’m having issues with this book 🙂 I appreciate you coming by

    Thanks Mary. I’m glad you could stop in 🙂

  7. Beth C. says:

    They are both good openings, I think. They both make me want to know more of the story. But reading them both together, I like the second one. I sticks in my mind more and just intrigues me a little more than the first one.

  8. Barb says:

    I love both openings, but my favourite would be the second. It’s grabbed my attention more.

  9. Thanks Beth and Barb 🙂 I’ll take another look at both of them and see which one I’ll need to go with.

  10. I do agree that you could go with either, Sandra. They’re both good. I hope my preference for the first didn’t make it seem as if I didn’t like the second!


    In so many things, it’s good to go with your first instinct;) I think the reason I prefer the first to the second is that you reveal more, faster in the second. If this is a full-length novel and not a novella, you have time for revelations as you go along. Trickle. Tease. Build up. Time enough for portals and realms and explanations on page two or ten. No need to stick it all in the first para.

    Still, your voice is great and I’d read along with either one!

  11. Nope, Barbara, didn’t think that. This is a planned full length novel (around 85K) and is the last in a trilogy. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to move forward with it. At the end of the month, it will have been exactly 28 days since I did any work on it. This makes me sad.

  12. Nicole says:

    Ahhh, beginnings. How much we agonize, groan, torture, tear apart, delete, redo those poor little words so many times to get it juuuuust right. To just the right atmosphere, emotion, tension, wording, sensations and whatever else to capture the reader whether it’s an editor or critic partner…

    sigh… beginnings.. how we love them.. how we hate them.. how we wanna scream at them.. how we wanna cry and wish they never existed.. lol..

    oh by the way… I did enjoy Attempt 1.


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