I’m hosting a live chat this Tuesday, May 25, from 9-10 P.M. EST on Shenandoah Writers Online.*
Our chats sometimes run over, if we feel so inclined, but the “official” time for this event is from 9-10 P.M. Even if you can only stop by for a few minutes, it’d be good to have you poke your head in and say hello.**
We discussed story openers at the last Shenandoah Writers (IRL) meeting, and I’d like to further that conversation with the online group.
WHAT TO BRING
It would be great if you brought the opening line or lines of something you’ve written as well as the opening line or lines from one of your favorite books.
I would like to discuss what makes these openers successful (i.e., what hooks the reader, what we learn in the opening, etc.) as well as what we think are the elements of a successful opener.
This will also give participants a chance to workshop their own opening lines/paragraphs with the group and gain some feedback.
Here is one of the openings I’m bringing:
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.
What do we learn from this opening?
- We gain some insight into the characters of the Dursleys:
- J.K. Rowling (yes, this is the opening line to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) straight out tells us they are “normal” and happy to be so. “Perfectly” in front of “normal” and the “thank you very much” shows that they are a bit snooty—it gives a sense of being uppity (a.k.a. we’re getting voice here).
- Just from this first line, we learn the Dursleys are the type of people who don’t like their feathers ruffled—they like to maintain decorum. They feel strange and mysterious things are nonsensical.
- The first part of the second line (“They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious”) suggests to the reader that, although you wouldn’t expect them to be involved in something like that, they were involved in something like that. Thus, the juxtaposition of these opposites—normal and strange—hooks the reader. We want to know what it is they are involved in—and how these uppity people will deal with it/cover it up.
That’s just a taste. I’ve posted some other novel openers—including my two novel openers—in “Files” on the SWO site, so please feel free to take a look. If you’re not a member, see below to get started.
What do you think makes a good opening?
If you can’t make it to the chat but would like to get in on the conversation, please leave your thoughts in the comments of this post.
*For more information about SWO, click on “Shenandoah Writers” in “Categories” in the right-hand side bar.
**You must be a member of SWO to participate in the chat. Not a member yet? E-mail me or click here to get started.