Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to Write a Great Beginning

For those of you who follow me, you know I participate in a lot of workshops available at SavvyAuthors. I'm currently taking a class on how to write a great beginning and one of the assignments was to find two great first sentences, two great first paragraphs, two great first pages. Afterwards, comment on why we think they're great. I thought this was a great exercise and should share the results with you. Later, when we discuss what makes a bad beginning, I may share those results with you as well.

  1st Sentence:
The box was a mystery, and for that reason it was the most exciting gift Mary had ever received.
New Orleans Legacy by Alexandra Ripley, Historical, Adult
Comments: This is the very first sentence in the book. I know for a fact that the box that Mary is excited about is going to have a huge impact on her life. What, though, could a box do to change a person's life?

2nd first Sentence:
Family Secrets are like terrible birthday gifts.
After Midnight by Lynn Viehl, YA
Comments:I really wanted to actually use this as a page, but decided the first sentence worked well enough without the full page. I find the comparison unusual. Secrets = terrible birthday gifts? And I'm curious about what secrets she has. And why they are so terrible.

1st Paragraph:
I close my eyes, hoping he won't come tonight. It's later than usual. I hope he's given up, or just gone, and I can finally sleep. Cool air blows through the window, and I marvel at my bravery. Or stupidity. It's opened just a crack, no more than an inch. But until tonight I've kept it closed, so I know he'll be wondering what it means.
Uninvited by Amanda Marrone, YA
Comments: This is actually one of the few books I bought solely on the first paragraph. I found myself reading through the entire page than the chapter and was like....I need to buy this thing. The first paragraph intrigued me. I feel a connection with the girl's apprehension right away and I'm curious as to who he is and why she doesn't want to see him. Also, why does he persist in whatever he wants?

  Second 1st Paragraph:
Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. Screamers was packed tonight, full of women wearing leather and men who looked like they had advanced degrees in violent crime. Darius and his companion fit right in. Except they actually were killers.
Dark Lover, by JR Ward, Urban Fantasy, adults
Comments: This one I wasn't so sure about using. I bought the book because of the one page excerpt at the beginning of the book and not for the actual beginning. We get a good description right off. However so many Urban Fantasy novels start in a similar way. A dance club, half-naked people, etc. What really intrigued me though was the last line. They were actually killers. What kind of killers were they? Did they kill humans? Vampires? Some other boogey? It made me curious enough to read the next paragraph and then the next....

Full Page:
Have you ever had such a horrible day that you wondered why your mother didn't just eat you at birth like a gerbil does and spare you the hassle?
We've all had days like that. I've had a lot of them--way more than my fair share if I want to be whiny about it (which I don't because I try really hard not to be a whiner), but none can compare to the day I accidentally opened a demon portal with my zit cream.
Oh, yeah. I did. Would this happen to anyone else? Probably not. But for me, Kenzie Sutcliffe, it is totally typical. If there is mud to step in, ketchup to squirt on my shirt, or a volleyball to be hit on the head with, I will manage it. What can I say? It's a gift.
Demon Envy by Erin Lynn, YA
Comments: I was stalking this author before this book comes out. She usually goes by Erin McCarthy but since this was a YA book she decided to use Erin Lynn. Since I trusted her as a writer, I bought the book without really looking at it. But I absolutely love Mackenzie's voice in this story. She sounds very teenagery and we immediately know what the major plot will revolve around.

Second full page:
Roman Draganesti knew someone had quietly entered his home office. Either a foe or close friend. A friend, he decided. A foe could never make it past the guards at each entrance of his Upper East Side Manhattan townhouse. Or past the guards stationed on each of the five floors.
With his excellent night vision, Roman suspected he could see much better than his uninvited guest. His suspicions were confirmed when the dark silhouette stumbled into a Louis XVI bombe chest and cursed softly.
Gregory Holstein. A friend, but an annoying one. The vice president of marketing for Romatech Industries tackled every problem with tireless enthusiasm. It was enough to make Roman feel old. Really old. "What do you want Gregori?"
His guest whipped around and squinted in Roman's direction. "Why are you sitting here, all alone in the dark?"
"Hmm. Tough question. I suppose I wanted to be alone. And in the dark. You should try it more often. Your night vision is not what it should be."
How to Marry A Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks, Urban Fantasy, Adult
  Comments: This one I think originally caught my eye because of the title. Was she like a gold digger who wanted a millionaire and ended up with a vampire who happened to be a millionaire? No. Not at all. But that's what caught my attention first. The excerpt at the front of the book intrigued me but the first page sealed my fate. It shows Roman's personality at the beginning of the book, the humor Kerrelyn Sparks frequently uses in her books and made me curious: why would he need so much security? What's described in the first paragraph sounds excessive, even for a foreign diplomat.

What do you think of my choices?  And what books would you use as examples in this exercise?

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