Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Part V Suspense - The Opening Sentences

The very first concern in beginning the novel is the opening sentences. An author’s goal is to hook the reader from page one. Create curiosity or intrigue, make readers ask questions, and this creates a page-turner.

Understood elements: To write an effective opening, you must have three things resolved.
• Compelling, believable characters with real emotions.
• A sense of place—town, building, year, time of day, atmosphere and mood.
• Plot with driving internal and external conflicts built on realistic motivation and goals.

Next your opening begins with the purpose to Hook the Reader. As in fishing, hooks come in different types with bait or lures depending on the fish. Different novels require different hooks, but the hook must catch the fish. In this case, the reader.

Read these opening lines:
He couldn’t sleep that night.
From the moment she stepped off the bus, Jane knew what she had to do.
By the time Ralph telephoned, Rose knew it was too late.
Keryn Wills was in the shower when she figured out how to kill Josh Trenton. (from Randy Ingermanson’s Double Vision)
Yank Lucas fell asleep late one night and left the gas burning on the kitchen range. (from John O’Hara’s The Informant)

After reading these opening lines, ask yourself what they have in common.
The answer is fairly obvious. They leave the reader with questions. They arouse the reader’s curiosity. The pull the reader into the story.

Opening Hooks should puzzles the mind, arouses curiosity, asks questions.
Reader wants - action, characters in conflict, something unique or unexpected

Every novel should open with:
• With action in the form of dialogue, conflict, and the unique or unexpected.
• Close to the point of change - a day that’s different, a character’s arrival, a problem.
• A sense of urgency with captivating character or an intriguing situation.

Here’s the opening of my suspense: A Love for Safekeeping
Jane Conroy asked herself the same question a hundred times as she peered at her vandalized classroom and cringed at the crunch of glass beneath her feet. Two wide windows stood with shattered panes, their glass slivered on the wide marble sill and scattered across the floor. Textbooks lay in jumbled heaps around the room, and student desks had been strewn topsy-turvy

This opening leaves readers asking question, and it presents an omen of things to come.

Keep these ideas in mind when you write the opening lines of your suspense novel.

The next blog will cover Plotting a Suspense Novel


Martha Ramirez said...

Awesome reminders, Gail. Thanks for sharing.

Sherry said...

I have been following your threads on writing suspense novels, and checking them or applying them to my mystery novel. All are extremely helpful reminders.

Sherry Hudson

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Hi Sherry - Thanks so much for letting me know the information has been helpful. It helps make the effort worthwhile.

Martha - Thanks also.