The room stank when she opened the door. She hadn’t expected it to smell as fresh as daisies – it was a historic hotel after all. But this aroma wasn’t the sweet smell of history and heavy wood polish. No, this was a bit more on the rotting trash end of the scale.
What is that? Nancy asked herself. You would think that we were down wind from a dump.
She picked up the phone that was atop the solidly scrolled marble topped oak side table.
“Good evening. You have reached the front desk of the High Roller, San Francisco.”
That’s when Nancy saw it. A floor board ajar right next to her foot, almost hidden by the white duvet covered bed. But what were those little white things on the floor? She bent over to get a better look and let out a high-pitched scream.
“Ma’am! Are you okay? We are sending someone up to your room right now.”
“You might want to send the police,” Nancy said faintly. “And a cleanup crew. I think I found a dead body. And…and maggots are crawling all over the room.”
What did you think? Are you intrigued? Are you subconsciously wondering who this girl is, where she is, and why in the world she found a dead body in her room?
I’m glad! Because that is what the beginning of a story is supposed to do.
There is so much reading material out there that one person cannot take it all in even two or three lifetimes, let alone. So what is going to make your book different? My book different? What is going to make us stand out of the crowd?
Well, for one, a good opening! No matter how amazing your story is when viewed in its entirety, if you can’t grab your reader in the first moment or two then all the rest of the work you have put into your book is worthless.
You have to hook your reader from the getgo or you won’t HAVE a reader.
Did you see how I created the opening above? Instead of describing the setting, and the main character, I jumped right into the action. Now, your readers do need to know about your setting and your characters otherwise they will be lost. But those details should be woven into the story later on. You wan’t to catch your readers’ attention and then paint the picture for them.
Let’s take the opening to one of my all time favorite TV shows as another example. After all, successful TV shows are adept at grabbing your attention…and keeping it.
Have you ever watched Castle, that fabulously comedic police drama? Oh, please tell me that you have! And if you haven’t, please go and treat yourself to at least an episode or two right now on iTunes. It is amazing, from the story line to the way the script is written. Anyways, the very first scene of the very first episode begins with a frame of a posed dead body at a crime scene (a very dramatically posed body with flowers all over it). The screen then flashes to a woman on stage describing the mystery-writing main character to an audience of adoring fans in terms that could be used to describe a serial killer. Then the screen flashes back to the body and the police detectives arriving on scene. (I am pretty sure this is the exact order that it happens in, but it has been a few months since I have seen this episode so I could be wrong. Please don’t shoot me if I am!
By the third frame in this episode’s opening, you are hooked. Is the mystery writer the killer? What happened to the deceased woman? You will just have to watch more to find out what is going on…
Which is exactly what the script writer wanted, and is exactly what we novel writers want to happen too! (And what anyone who writes anything wants to have happen…you have to have a good opening for a blog post, too! 😉 )
So, how can you grab your readers’ attention from the moment they open the cover on your book (or virtually flip the page on their tablets)?
I would love to know what openings are the most memorable for you! Please let me know in the comments below!
Have a gorgeous day!