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Wannabe Writers #16

May 15, 2010

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

Where I am in the Writing Process: Still in the deep, dark abyss of break-time. However, my editing shall begin next Saturday, so I’ll be plunging into a different deep, dark abyss. Nice to have a change of seen, though, right?

I really fiddled with some new ideas this week. I tried creating a Seven-Step-Story-Outline for The Lemonites, but I’m really at a loss without Character Analyses. The book is so character driven. I actually tried plotting twice with the same outcome, so I intend to tackle a few analyses this week, if I have time. Thursday, I’m going on a mini-road trip, and we’re driving back on Friday, so I should have some extra writing opportunities.

I came up with a random idea while in the PE locker room. I was talking to Regan on Skype and she encouraged me to write the scene, although I had little to no idea where it was going. So, I did. And it felt wonderful. I was surprised how vividly the POV character’s voice spoke to me and ended up writing 2,000 words late last night. Writer’s bliss.

My Current Problems: Plotting. Why are all the difficult things in life necessary? Exercise, school, etc. I am the plot monster (fear me!). I plot very deeply. It took three months of working a strict schedule to plot That Boy in the Shed, which is insane, considering how simple the plot is. I already mentioned that I’m in dire need of character analyses. The impending plotting process for Forbidden can be spotted on the horizon. Forbidden is forty times more complicated than my other plots, due to the fantasy-elements and the fact that I see it as a more-than-one-book-project. Plotting for that one is going to take a whole lot of energy. It’s moments like this that I’m thankful to be fourteen.

As I said in my post on creative messes, my plotting, though systematic, is not entirely organized. I used my giant pad of paper and markers last night for the first time when plotting a bit of The Lemonites, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I made it through most of the papers before I finish plotting Forbidden.

The Question this Week: How to start a story. I’ve never been very good at writing hooks. Any suggestions? How did you start your story? (Dialogue, description, action, etc.)

I love hooks – particularly the very first lines of novels. I like mine to not only catch the reader’s eye, but to induce thoughts of the “is she nuts?” sort. In my case, constructing the first sentence of the story is one of the most enjoyable tasks. I also love last lines. Last lines should be just as phenomenal and eye-catching as the first.

I don’t oppose any of the options mentioned. The use of dialogue as a hook is one I’ve heard debated often. I don’t see much harm in it, as long as it serves the same purpose and has the same eye-catching affect. However, all my story ideas so far have begun with thought.

For example, That Boy in the Shed began with:

You have to pee before you can zip up your pants.

See? I sound certifiably nuts, which is exactly what I was going for. The story I began writing yesterday began with:

I could see her feet under the stall.

Although that one isn’t quite as insane, I think it will make people wonder what the heck I’m talking about and keep reading. Your first line needs to 1) grab attention and threaten to never, ever let it go and 2) induce questions. The last sentence above more obviously performs the latter. What stall? Are they in a bathroom? What the heck is going on? Who’s “her“?

One of my favorite first lines is from Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. It taught me so much and inspired me to try harder to write wonderful hooks…

Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.

I clearly remember snorting in the middle of Best Buy when I read that. Niffenegger goes on in the second sentence to really put the cherry on top…

Later he would remember walking down the hospital corridor with the cup of horrible tea in his hand…

It’s the underlying irony of the entire situation that hooks you. I thought, She’s brilliant. She’s so brilliant. If you’d like to take a more classic approach, see Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

More brilliance, this time, from a legend. I think the the key is cleverness. Show the reader, right from the beginning, that you can be brilliant. Don’t be modest. Flaunt your smarts.

In the case of action, it might be more difficult to be clever, per se. This is were the grab attention and threaten to never, ever let it go comes in. I don’t condone beginning with bombs dropping and people bleeding (unless your book is primarily about war or set in a war zone, then it might be easier to pull off). Don’t be overly active. But make sure that the reader feels the intensity of the moment.

If you’re unsure, betas and critique partners will be able to tell you if your first line is strong enough. Regan had a friend read the first bit of her new WIP, and was advised to move one brilliant and clever line from the second paragraph to the very beginning.

I couldn’t imagine how a dead man in a casket would make people hungry, but whatever.

See what I mean?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2010 5:53 PM

    Thank you for all the great first line examples! I agree that you have to “grab” the reader’s attention and make the reader want to know more. Somehow that first sentence has to give some provocative information and let the reader know that there is more information to come and that the reader just can’t live without this extra information and if he/she puts the book away life will forevermore be incomplete. πŸ™‚

  2. May 17, 2010 5:13 AM

    LOL love the first line examples! I’ve been told the first line of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is brilliant, too. πŸ™‚

  3. May 16, 2010 3:56 PM

    I love that line from Pride and Prejudice!

    By the way I am the worst plotter in the world so… don’t ask me for advice.

  4. May 16, 2010 5:16 AM

    Wow! Those are some great openings! I think you are exactly right, Her Fearful Symmetry is GENIUS!

    Good luck with your character analysis and plotting, it sounds like you are on a roll πŸ™‚

  5. May 15, 2010 11:17 PM

    Haha, awesome. TWO shout outs! πŸ™‚

    And I’m so glad you did the stall scene! I see good things coming with that one… πŸ™‚

  6. May 15, 2010 10:45 PM

    I agree, I love hooks. It is always refreshing to open to page one of a book and get slapped in the face with cleverness. Great examples; I laughed at your’s and Regan’s first lines. :o)

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