Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Feeling For That Opening Hook

Don't you love it when the opening sentence or paragraph of a book grabs you by the throat? I do. We all know how important the first page of our manuscript is. It's do-or-die important. So, drop the reader into the action right away. Then go back and evaluate every word. Rewrite it until you've got an opening hook that keeps the reader's eyes glued to the page.

I've heard a few editors say they can tell from the first paragraph if they want to contract the book. Yoowza! Where's my file? Let me sharpen my opening hook?

Sometimes you get a visual of how you want a book to start. I did with my first published book, Storm's Interlude. I've gotten the rights back to it, revamped it, and altered the storyline a little. The book will be included in a romantic bundle from various romance authors, coming out in February. But I did not change the opening paragraph.

Someone swaggered out of the moonlit night toward Rachel Dennison. Exhausted from a long day of driving, she braked and blinked. Either she was hallucinating or her sugar levels had plummeted. Maybe that accounted for the male mirage, albeit a very magnificent male mirage, trekking toward her. She peered once more into the hot July night at the image illuminated by her headlights and the full moon. Sure enough, there he was, cresting the hill on foot—a naked man wearing nothing but a tan cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a go-to-hell sneer.

Other times you put yourself into the character's head at the moment, feel her or his emotion and the opening line just smacks you. In fact, you make it the complete paragraph.
Her new neighbor was a man-whore.

The worst times are when you feel you have to give a bit of background to set the scene or describe a character. I have those times more than the ones above that I seem to luck into. This means writing and rewriting. Pouring through my thesauruses and synonym finder books, searching for the right word and, often it's the simplest word.

Kenzie Denune pedaled the bicycle harder, her thighs burning from the exertion. Thanks to a car that refused to start, she was going to be late fer her job interview at Iverson Loch Manor. Grunting and pounding from the shrubs ahead, near the road’s edge, snagged her attention.
Naked shoulders glistened in the afternoon sun. Back muscles bulged and undulated with every thrust. “Bloody hell. Come fer me. Come.”
In all of Mathe Bay in the Scottish Highlands, only one deep masculine voice had the power to raise the hair on her arms like this. A man with braided russet-colored hair that brushed broad shoulders inked with a bear’s claw marks, woven into an intricate tribal design—Bryce Matheson. Damn him to hell. Who’s he shagging in broad daylight? Out in the open, no less. Has he no shame?
There's a bit of confusion in this beginning and I love leading the reader on, if only for a few lines. In my current WIP about ex-SEALs, I did this...
Dustin Franks sat on the edge of the bed, gasping for breath as sweat poured off of him. His palms settled on his moist thighs and his chin rested against his collarbone.
“You went longer than you ever have. I was beginning to think you’d never finish.”
His gaze slowly shifted to hers. “You had me fired up.”
“I meant every word I said.”
He blotted the perspiration from his face and neck with a towel. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
His physical therapist rubbed her small baby bump. “No, you big worrier. You’re leaning less on me and the bar and putting more weight on the titanium calf and foot.” Rebecca handed him a cup of water. “Drink. You know the drill.”
They don't come easily. Or quickly. I often spend days on opening hooks to hone them to my satisfaction. Even then, the editor might change it. But it has to be good enough to grab her attention and make her want to read on. Or her pinky finger will edge toward that delete key.


Angela Adams said...

ooh-la-la! I like that word, "swaggered."

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I can't recall how many words I went through until I tried that one and it fit the persona of the man and his mood at the time. His friends had stolen his clothes at a drinking party at their old swimming hole.