I did a great exercise once that really made me think about my writing. The gist of it was to list the first lines of your books and draw some conclusions.
I think it’s a goal of most writers to draw the reader in with the first line. Many times the first line pops into my head and I then go write a story around it which works great for me because I sure don’t plot unless I have to. 🙂
I found that I seem to try to give you a sense of the character right off the bat and what they’re doing/feeling. Here are some of the ones I looked at for that exercise–in a couple instances I added the second line if the first was a thought or dialogue that didn’t let you know who the speaker was:
“I threw up.” The quavering voice brought Corbin jackknifing up out of a sound sleep, struggling to get his bearings. ~Making His List
It was after midnight, and Chaz Warren groaned with frustration as he removed his hand from his cock and gave up his fruitless quest for orgasm… yet again. ~Remarkable Restraint
Jim stopped short at the threshold of his boss’s office, his heart seizing with dread at the sight before him. ~The Swap
So what do you think? I see a trend. I’ve heard you aren’t supposed to open with monologue/dialogue, but I tend to do that, right? I think it gives a sense of immediacy and is intended to pull the reader in right away. What they say and how they say it can really say a lot about a character.
But of course there are ways to do that without jumping right into a conversation. For comparison’s sake, here are some I’ve written since then:
The view beyond the window, beyond the spindled railing around the wraparound porch, was right off a Currier and Ives print. ~Let It Snow
It was the fourth day of having his bandmate, Rory, as his pretend “boyfriend,” and Benny had to admit it was going better than he’d hoped. ~One More Wish
Cary felt a trickle of sweat rolling down the center of his back as he and his uniformed classmates baked on the unseasonably warm day. ~A Ring and A Promise
Though I’m not sure it’s a complete departure, I can see a bit of a change in style. Do you guys agree? Any thoughts on what sort of start you prefer or what might put you off from the get-go?
Here is an excerpt leading on from that interesting opening line in A Ring and A Vow, my addition to the Semper Fidelis anthology:
“I just can’t do this. I…I need my ring back.”
“What?” Cary went breathless with shock as the words hit him like a blow. For a moment, he thought he might throw up.
“My ring.” Owen’s expression was as determined as Cary had ever seen it.
Cary pressed his lips together and swallowed as he processed what was happening. He had always feared that Owen would find their situation too hard—two servicemen in different branches, and soon different countries, for years to come. Cary inhaled deeply then blew out an exhale and nodded. He knew that this had to be almost as hard for Owen as it was for him, no matter how crushed Cary was at the moment. Maybe even more difficult, since Owen wasn’t one to express his feelings.
Owen stoically held his hand out, palm upward.
His heart breaking, Cary fumbled at the ring on his finger. It clung to him as though it was as reluctant to leave him as he was for it to be gone. Though it wasn’t the least bit tight, he couldn’t seem to get a good grip on it. Finally, he managed to pull it down his finger, held it for a moment then forced himself to place it in Owen’s hand.
Cary kept his eyes directed downward. Somehow if he didn’t see this happening, it would be less real. His eyes slid shut and he heard the echoing of the words that had shattered his heart and dreams—“I just can’t do this…”
“I can’t leave you without doing this the right way…the way I should have done it to begin with.”
Cary’s eyes popped back open. Owen’s voice had come from lower than…
His breath caught at the sight of Owen down on one knee before him, holding the ring in his fingers.
No. No, no, no. It isn’t what you’re thinking. He…must’ve dropped the ring. Yes, and knelt down to pick it up…
He felt the ever-present optimistic side of him shoving that nay-sayer aside as he took in the sincere and worried expression on Owen’s face. Cary automatically reached out to Owen, who took both his hands in one of his, still holding the Naval Academy ring in the other—the ring he’d secretly swapped for his own before they’d parted just after graduation. The ring that Owen had told him to go ahead and keep in a deliberately off-handed way when the impulsive deception had finally been discovered.
Oh my God, this is really happening.
About Devon Rhodes:
Devon started reading and writing at an early age and never looked back. At 39 and holding, Devon finally figured out the best way to channel her midlife crisis was to morph from mild-mannered stay-at-home mom to erotic romance writer. She lives in Oregon with her family, who are (mostly) understanding of all the time she spends on her laptop, aka the black hole.
Blurb for the Semper Fidelis anthology:
‘Anomaly’ by S.A. McAuley
Staff Sergeant Galen Welc is known for his uncanny ability to spot improvised explosive devices and so he’s pitted against the latest in defense technology. He trusts his instincts and his training, but they may just be leading him somewhere—and to an explosive reaction with someone—he could never see coming.
‘Always Ready’ by T.A. Chase
Making a living on the Bering Sea is hard enough, but throw love into the equation, and things can blow into a hurricane. Dean and Phil must always be ready to love each other because life can be taken so easily when one works on the sea.
‘A Ring and a Vow’ by Devon Rhodes
Every promise must someday be fulfilled, and the best way Owen knows how to reward Cary’s faith is with a vow. It’s been nearly five years since Owen went down on one knee with his Academy ring and promised Cary he’d someday do it for real. With Cary being a Naval aviator and Owen a Marine officer serving in Iraq, they’re rarely on the same continent, let alone together. Cary has been waiting for Owen for years—there was no chance he’d ever say anything but yes. Owen is coming home at last, and wants to make a home with him.
‘My Marine’ by LE Franks and Sara York
Marine Captain Sean Kelley loves his country and the men he serves with, but when he meets Akim, he’s tempted to throw it all away for the mysterious man. Akim Bijan has a secret of his own—one large enough to get more than just himself killed if it’s revealed. But from the moment he first lays eyes on the handsome Marine, he’s tempted to do just that. When tragedy strikes, Akim is afraid he’s lost Sean for good and he’s forced to make a decision that will change both their lives.
‘Soul Sick’ by Kendall McKenna
Jamie thought he made it home to Tucker, leaving war behind. Now, each day he battles to fit into his own life, and save the love that saved his life. Jamie is a captain in the US Marine Corps who carried a photo of Tucker with him throughout his deployment. Tucker is a reformed bad boy who has an advanced degree and an important job but still sports long hair and tattoos. Now, they’re struggling to learn to live with each other again, and things are going downhill fast.
‘Safe Shores’ by Morticia Knight
Kirk’s Coast Guard lover, Shane, is the only person who can save his son from a vicious storm—if he’s not too late. Shane and Kirk’s joyful reunion is interrupted when an unusually vicious gale storm threatens the coast. Kirk has to stand by helplessly and wait while his lover battles the raging seas to save his son. In an instant, Kirk could lose everyone he holds dear.
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