By Rachel Hauck
There are times we don't want to craft a novel. We just want to write one and be done with it.
But those books are closet books no one wants to buy or read. Those are the books that draw rejection slips.
Books are crafted. They have to be thought out, at some level, and orchestrated to some glorious, perfect end.
Books must be a continual flow of the story with daring obstacles that knock the protagonist off course, that challenge is resolve to get to the bottom of the story problem.
In the midst of the story there are overarching themes and questions. The infamous "story question" is the rudder to you vessel.
Will the heroine achieve her dream to star on stage and screen?
Can true love last through the decades? Or will it fade away?
Can one wedding dress be worn by four women and never fade, wear out or need to be altered?
There are other questions I ask as I'm writing:
What can the protagonist do in the end she couldn't do in the beginning?
What does she want?
What is this book about?
Why? I ask "Why?" a lot. When ever I make a declarative statement I follow with a why to get to the deeper meaning.
But all of these MUST be asked and answered in some form to really craft the best possible opening line.
The opening line must indicate some truth, problem or question about the story. It must set the hook, draw the reader into the story.
Far too often I read opening lines that are merely a physical action to begin the opening scene.
"Judy waved to her neighbor as she walked into the house."
Okay... unless she's in garden wars with the neighbor and the next line is, "She dreamed of haunting that woman on a dark and stormy night," waving to the neighbor isn't all that engaging.
It doesn't draw me into the question, the emotion of the story.
Let's look at Judy in the midst of a yard war with her neighbor.
"Judy waved to that crazy Linda as she made her way inside the house. If that woman stepped one foot in her yard this gardening season, she'd haunt her like a ghost."
Now we get a sense that something has gone on between the two women. And frankly, I'm a bit intrigued. What's going on?
Opening lines must set the emotion and feel for our books.
From Conversations with a Book Therapist, Susan May Warren offers this advice: