Ever read a story and say to yourself, “Wow! That’s how it’s done!”?
I get exhilarated when I discover a new author.
Let me clarify. There are lots of people out there writing books. In my opinion, few of them are worth reading (I’m a writing snob. There, I’ve said it).
But once in a great while I encounter some writing that so pulls me into its story, calls me into the story’s mythos so completely that my pulse quickens, my eyes open wider, my breaths deepen, … When readers have a physiologic reaction to your writing, you’ve arrived.
“She sleeps beside me, her narrow chest rising and falling, and already I miss her.” – Kristen Harmel’s The Room on Rue AmÈlie
I challenge anyone to read that line and hear anything but a whisper. If not a full whisper, a quiet voice, a voice not wanting to disturb. I further challenge anyone to read that line and not feel an ache. You know something’s going to happen and it’s going to change the narrator’s world completely. Can you read that line and not have a sense of illness? The narrow chest rising and falling followed by already I miss her?
Amazing emotional power in fifteen words, to me. I need to know Harmel worked hard at that opening line. If it just came to her, I should quit the writing business.
Unfortunately, the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to that opening line. By chapter 3 the strong narrative voice is lost, the storycrafting weakens, and the reader is left wondering what happened to the author of the first two chapters. Certainly they left and let someone else take over the writing of the book. There are sparks of the original brilliance here and there, but nothing like the evocative power of that great opening line and the first two chapters. Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Nov 2019’s Great Opening Lines)”
No, actually I can because I revision everything – four.
Some of those early versions…a beautiful demonstration of not knowing what to write about. There were lots of ways to go at it. Do I write about my many years teaching hand-to-hand mixmaster beef loin braising techniques at the Academie du HaHa in Paranormal, France?
Probably too graphic for most readers. No.
Instead I went with how to write a combat scene such that the reader believes it.
Psychologists and philosophers debate “horror” as a concept. Authors have it much easier. They want to give readers chills. They want to make readers nervous. Uncomfortable. They want readers to turn on all the lights, to check locks on the doors, to tuck their feet up under themselves so nothing can grab them from below, to check under the bed before getting under the covers, to look in their closets, to look at their loved ones suspiciously.