As we look toward the New Year we hope for new beginnings. We want a fresh start and our good intentions to succeed. A lot of us fail at resolutions and new beginnings turn into regret as the grind of life takes the polish off. Welcome to February!
This is not what we want in books we read. We want those gripping beginnings to hold us and not let go until the satisfying conclusion.
I’m a member of a long time writing group, the Pen Warriors, who retreat 4 times a year to discuss craft, the writing life and our books. For the past few years we’ve discussed and studied strong opening paragraphs. We even wrote a series of blogs studying good beginnings and why they work. Today I’m dissecting a couple of my own stories.
From Love in a Pawn Shop https://books2read.com/Love-in-a-Pawn-Shop
April 1 Seattle, WA
Dane Caldwell ignored his better judgment at 3:45 p.m. and walked across the street into Dixon’s Pawn Shop. Like millions of others in every city in America, the shop sat in a row of storefronts with overhead apartments. Except for the signs, they were all identical. Each one had a door at the side for the apartment stairwells, and he’d bet each one also had a rear entrance to the apartment from an alley in back.
Cops liked to know where the exits were, but since he was here without backup, he’d take the most direct approach and walk in like any other customer. He was so far out of his jurisdiction he might as well be from Mars.
Good beginnings should raise questions in the readers’ minds while feeding background, foreshadowing conflict, introducing character (more than a name…a sense of what makes this person tick), setting and more.
By having my hero ignore his better judgment I’ve introduced internal conflict in the first six words. Then I show his observant nature with a description of a row of businesses we’ve all seen. This is a universal experience or knowledge. Not only do we have a place, we have a sense that it’s an older area of Seattle, and because he’s watching a pawn shop the neighborhood may be seedy. The seediness increases a sense of foreboding. But I don’t say it’s a seedy area, I allow the reader to discern on their own.
In paragraph two we learn Dane is a cop without backup who is out of his jurisdiction. This explains why he should listen to his better judgment, not ignore it.
And then, we have the title of the book which should be fresh in the mind of our reader: Love in a Pawn Shop. Our hero has no idea what he’s stepping into in Dixon’s Pawn Shop, but the reader does. The reader is in on the joke! Will a romance reader continue reading? I tell myself they will.
Not-So-Blue Christmas (2015 only 99c!) https://books2read.com/Not-So-Blue-Christmas
December – Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada
7:40 a.m. and dawn was still too far away to imagine. Not that Kirk Fontaine believed in mornings anymore. The idea of a light sky and sunshine felt foreign and old and impossible, especially above the forty-ninth parallel in mid-December.
Out of the gloom came the tip-tip-tap of running paws along the wooden pier. The woman’s dog must have slipped away from its owner again. The dog with a stalker mentality. No matter where he was on the Nanaimo waterfront, the scruffy little mutt made straight for him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like dogs it was just that this one came with a woman Kirk could barely take his eyes off of.
Coincidentally, I’ve started with the hero again. (Most of my books start with the hero.) In the first paragraph I’ve shown Kirk is in a dark place emotionally. Using words like sunshine felt foreign and old and impossible. Also he doesn’t believe in mornings anymore. I like to think that most people have had periods where they feel this way. Grief or struggles with divorce and family is universal, so I tried to tap into that.
Out of the gloom came the tip-tip-tap of running paws… Something is already coming to save him! A herald of better times is in the sound of the paws. And because the dog has a stalker mentality we know that Kirk can’t escape the change that’s coming his way. Thank goodness! Readers are already rooting for the hero to move on from the darkness. And then, bam…there she is, a woman he can’t take his eyes off of.
Invitation to Christmas (2016 on sale for only 99c!) https://books2read.com/Invitation-to-Christmas
Christmas Day, Vancouver Island, Canada
Tom Fontaine wanted his father back at work, plain and simple. He had big plans to expand Fontaine Homes and he needed his father there to do it with him. He grabbed his first coffee of the morning and heard his grandmother call from upstairs. “Did I miss them?” she asked.
“Yes, they just left.” His dad and his new girlfriend were on their way to serve up Christmas breakfast at a shelter.
New girlfriend. Shit. His mom had only been dead six months. What was up with finding a new woman already? And in Nanaimo of all places. It was pretty, but still, it was a backwater tourist town perched on the edge of Vancouver Island. In Canada!
This opening differs from the other two. We know exactly what Tom wants and why: wanted his father back at work, plain and simple. He had big plans to expand Fontaine Homes. Tom’s thoughts are all about business…and then…his grandmother’s voice breaks into his thoughts, reminding him subtly that Christmas is about family.
The next paragraph emphasizes that Christmas is about giving: to serve up Christmas breakfast at a shelter.
In paragraph three we get to the crux of Tom’s internal conflict: There’s a new woman in his dad’s life, one who may usurp his dead mother’s place. As with the other openings, I tried to hit a universal. Then, just to make it worse, this new woman is in a faraway backwater town which will make it even harder for Tom to get what he wants: his father back at work at home.
In preparing this post, I analyzed my openings and have discovered why I so often start my stories with the hero. I believe romance readers want to fall in love with our heroes or want to know what makes them tick right away. At least I hope I’ve got that right!
Bonnie Edwards is planning a big year in 2017 with up to 5 releases (including another Christmas story) If you'd like to be first to learn what's coming out then sign up for her newsletter. http://oi.vresp.com?fid=4ecdcb6889 or Follow her from her Amazon author page here:http://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Edwards/e/B001IO9UTO