The Power Of A Great Opening

LipsPage magic, lips pressing down on hers. Kate’s eyes fluttered open and she found herself looking into soft, brown eyes that were liquid pools of concern. Kind eyes. Without thinking her arms went up around his neck and she found herself responding to him. Applause burst out from the bystanders around her

Opening from: Amsden, Pat, Lost In Vegas.

Hopefully that makes you want to read further. In a short presentation  on writing best selling novels earlier this year, Phyllis Smallman said, “great writers are great readers.” We all nodded sagely. Then she clarified. You not only have to love reading but you have to read to learn how others write.”


She suggested going to the nearest library and reading the first paragraph from best selling novels. I’d like to think the above example from Lost In Vegas works. It has at various times made it into the top 100 books on Amazon. Below you’ll see an opening line from one of Phyllis Smallman’s books. It definitely draws me in.

Do you think you can catch crazy? In Dutch’s where I mix martinis and pull drafts, some nights a madness swirls through the air, like a virus infecting everyone.

Opening from: Smallman, Phyllis, Jack Daniels and Tea

Then start to think about how books you love are constructed. Chances are none start with a page on botany. Chances are you’ve met at least one of the main characters in the first page and there’s been an inciting incident within the first thirty. Whether it’s romance or mystery there’s probably a giant problem in the way that makes a neat resolution impossible and makes you wonder “how on earth will they solve that?”

That’s what makes you keep reading. Maybe the botanist is trying to save a plant in the middle of a proposed logging site. Conflict! The life blood of  books everywhere. If the botanist is gorgeous and the logger a testosterone soaked version of man candy even better. Switch it up and make the botanist a male version of sex on  a stick and the logger a pissed off blue-eyed blonde who’d look more at home in a women’s magazine than at the job site decked out in steel toed boots. Excellent!

Depending on size you may have a sub plot or maybe two. Maybe three. They should tie into the story line, adding depth to the story and characters.

Then think about the ending. You want to end with a bang, not a whimper. There should be a resolution which leaves the reader feeling emotionally satisfied. They should close your book feeling that the ending you wrote was the only way the book could’ve ended.

This post originally appeared on my blog  I’d love to hear more great openings.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Great article, Pat. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pat Amsden says:

    Thanks for stopping by Marian. Having read Burn In Hell, I’d say you’ve mastered this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Pat. I’m very honored and so glad you like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeannie Hall says:

    Reblogged this on Jeannie Hall Suspense and commented:

    The importance of those first few lines…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pat Amsden says:

    I know! Now I try to remember to periodically visit the library and check opening lines. Thanks for reblogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Pat! Your examples worked to draw me in, I want to read more!
    First lines are the hardest. It’s the hook needed to grab the reader and make them hang on- crucial, in other words.
    I have a couple that I especially loved:
    From Susan Elizabeth Phillips Natural Born Charmer,
    It wasn’t every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of the road, not even in Dean Robilliard’s larger-than-life world.

    Anyone But You, Jennifer Crusie
    The last thing Nina Askew needed was Fred.

    I agree, if you aren’t a reader, you can’t be a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pat Amsden says:

    I love the first one by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Not so much the second one but I do love Jennifer Crusie so I’d probably give a few more lines and knowing Jennifer Crusie I’d be hooked.

    I was passing by the library today and decided I should heed my own words so I went in and disappeared happily for a few hours. I now have Jayne Castle(Krentz)’s Hot Zone to read.

    First Line: The dust bunny was back.

    I have a few more too but this isn’t about ME!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, Jacquie. Great post. I’m terrible at first lines. Thankfully, most people will give the author the benefit of the doubt and go a bit further–not much. LOL Not by choice but because of my broken ankle, I’m catching up on a lot of reading-sticking with the RS genre which is my favorite and I’ve found a new author who really pulls me in. Kendra Elliot writes whopping sexual tension, scary dudes, and multiple plot lines. I’ve now devoured several of her stories.Here’s from SPIRALED: “Blood exploded out of Misty’s thigh and splattered across Ava’s legs.” It just got better from there. I’ll share your post. 🙂


  8. Pat Amsden says:

    There’s an upside to everything. I’m glad you found a new author to enjoy. I’ll be adding Kendra Elliot to my TBR pile.


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