Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Good people...I missed my introduction!"

We've all heard from agents, other writers, even readers: You have to grab their attention right off the bat. As Miss Snark used to be fond of saying, "Set someone's hair on fire."

Well, I'm going through my WIP, and I can't even get a spark. Not a cinder. Nothin'.

So, I'm looking for inspiration and thought some of you might like the same. I'm going back through those first few lines of some of my favorites (not the prologue, because several agents say those are chapter 1 it is). Here are some I always liked, in no particular order:

1) "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."
"That's what you said about the brother."

--Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

2) When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he'd see her.

--Jeffery Deaver, The Coffin Dancer

3) The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

--Stephen King, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

4) The Bar at the Ritz-Carlton looks out on the Public Gardens and requires a tie. I've looked out on the Public Gardens from other vantage points before, without a tie, and never felt at a loss, but maybe the Ritz knows something I don't.

--Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War

5) Harry cut through the morning rush-hour crowd like a shark fin through water. I was following from twenty meters back on the opposite side of the street, sweating with everyone else in the unseasonable October Tokyo heat, and I couldn't help admiring how well the kid had learned what I'd taught him.

--Barry Eisler, Rain Fall

Okay, now it's your turn. Share some of your favorite intros, whether they are yours or someone else's. And don't forget to tell us where it's from...

y'know, in case it catches our attention, like it's supposed to...


Kathryn Lilley said...

Jake, I SWEAR I didn't read this before I wrote my post over at the Kill Zone this morning (grin)! So here's a story about opening lines. I'd just gotten an agent, but she wasn't too thrilled with my opening chapter. Before submitting it to editors, she wanted me to change the first chapter of my manuscript. The previous opening started in Boston, to provide a little back story. She wanted me to start it in North Carolina, where the action got started. Fair enough. After a panic, I came up with a mid-action opening. My first line became, "I didn't know it yet, but the Whoopie Pie was ready to explode."
Everyone loved it.

jnantz said...

Ms. Lilley,
I love it! And I really was just kidding about the whole "topic thief" thing. I'm in a quandry because my first chapter comes off like a prologue, and I don't want to make it a prologue. Thing is, the next couple of chapters have conflict, but the crime is in that first chapter. So I'm up in the air about it.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Two of my favorite openers are from Bill James. The first is from In Good Hands:

“If you knew how to look, a couple of deaths from the past showed now and then in Iles' face.”

The second is from The Detective is Dead:

”When someone as grand and profitable as Oliphant Kenward Knapp was suddenly taken out of the business scene, you had to expect a bloody big rush to grab his domain, bloody big meaning not just bloody big, but big and very bloody. Harpur was looking at what had probably been a couple of really inspired enthusiasts in the takeover rush. Both were on their backs. Both, admittedly, showed only minor blood loss, narrowly confined to the heart area. Both were eyes wide, mouth wide and for ever gone from the stampede."
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

R.J. Mangahas said...

Sorry I'm a little late to this post here, Jake. But yeah. I think great opening lines are important.

I like the opening line from A Drink Before the War.

I've had several opening lines from my own WIP but have decided on "It's a strange thing to watch your own funeral."

jnantz said...

Mr. Rozovsky - Yep, those are both pretty grabby alright. And welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

RJ - Man you oughtta know by now I check comments for weeks afterward. There's no such thing as "a little late to comment" at The Pen-ferno. As far as your WIP, I REALLY like that opening line. That'll catch 'em for sure!

R.J. Mangahas said...

Wow! All caps, bold and italic. Glad you like the opening line.

jnantz said...

I'm tellin' ya man, I dig it.

Robert said...

I think Jeffrey Eugenides's MIDDLESEX has one of the best opening lines:

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."

jnantz said...

Another great one! Thanks for stopping in!