Monday, October 19, 2009

Openings

It’s all about the opening . . .

The lights in the theater dims, the music begins to play, and the curtain goes up . . .

In a book, it’s a bit more complex, and often less dramatic. In a book, the opening – the first sentence, paragraph, page – is often the determining factor whether or not someone will do more than just pick up the book because of an interesting cover, title, or a combination of both. If, like me, the potential buyer is going to read the first sentence, paragraph, or page before they will buy the book . . . well, the stakes just got a heck of a lot higher.

As for me, I read the blurbs on the back, the book cover, and the first page or so of a book before I fork over my hard earned dollars from work in the diamond mine with Grumpy, Doc, Sleepy, Bashful, and the other Dwarves. Yes, I make my decision based on some of the pages in the book.

Now, I will admit, my favorite book of all time (well, one of them) is Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. I love, love, LOVE, the book. I didn’t love the opening of the book. In fact, I owned the book for probably three years before I forced myself to sit down and read this book that someone gave me. Oh, joy of joys, I am so glad I did. Brilliant. Brilliant. BRILLIANT!!!!

So, the book didn’t have the best opening in the world. It is still probably one of the best books I have ever read in my life.

But, I digress, and you probably have better things to do than get lost amid my various digressions (well, some of them have been quite fun, but those will have to wait until my autobiography is published – HA!).

Following are three openings from a current Work in Progress (WiP). The first is, well, the opening I wrote when I did the initiall draft of the project . . .

Jake was beyond furious. If rage had a color, his would be the most vibrant red tinged with just a hint of yellow for drama queen effect.

Rage, unfortunately, did not have a color. Rage – silent for so long, if he didn’t speak the words, they wouldn’t come true – only had an outlet now: his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated – granite counters, stainless appliances, hardwood floors – kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago.

“Don’t you think this is something I should have been told about at some point in my life?” He reached up and ran his fingers through his curly dark hair.

Cordelia met his angry gaze. “Perhaps.”

He arched one brow slightly – an affectation learned from his mother and his Aunt Ophelia. “Perhaps? That’s your response?”

The second, is from a possible revamp of the opening . . .

Jake looked out the window. He couldn’t look at his mother. Where was the woman who taught him the difference between right and wrong, honesty above all else? Who was this woman who seemed so calm and composed, so indifferent to the horrible lie she and her sister told once upon a time in the way of fairy tales and unhappy endings?

He inhaled, held the breath for the count of twenty, and slowly exhaled.

He turned to face his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago. “At what point, Mother, does a person decide to tell such a lie and toss away her soul?”

“Souls are so easy to toss aside.” She shrugged her shoulders. “How long have you known?”

This last opening, is what I wrote this morning . . .

The first day Jake’s partner hit him wasn’t the worst day of his life. Oh, it was a bad day, but not the worst, just a prelude to worse days yet to come. The day Jake learned the truth about his parentage – you are the son of Antonio and Ophelia DeMarrco – wasn’t the worst day of his life. The day he learned his private adoption wasn’t legal, wasn’t the worst day of his life. The day he learned the full specifics of his alleged adoption, the lies told by two women and the lives devastated in the process, wasn’t the worst day of his life either. The day he finally realized what he would have to do to protect his mother and aunt’s dark secret pretty much scored first place as the worst day of his life.

Today – here, now – was slowly gaining on the worst day of his life. He didn’t think tomorrow would be much better, or the next day, or the day after, or the months yet to come that would each take their place in the lovely algebraic equation of his life.

I will strip of your free will! Esmeralda DeMarrco, matriarch of the DeMarrco family, spoke those words to him from beyond the grave. He had – arrogance at it’s beth, plus a healthy dose of youth and naiveté – laughed at those words.

He was no longer laughing.

Jake looked out the window. He couldn’t look at his mother. Where was the woman who taught him the difference between right and wrong, honesty above all else? Who was this woman who seemed so calm and composed, so indifferent to the horrible lie she and her sister told once upon a time in the way of fairy tales and unhappy endings?

He inhaled, held the breath for the count of twenty, and slowly exhaled.

He turned to face his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago. “At what point, Mother, does a person decide to tell such a lie and toss away her soul?”

Yes, the third incorporates some of the second, which incorporated some of the first. I’m clever that way.

For me, I personally like the third the best. I like the tone of the third – a bit laid back, a sense of snark, but not too much, and a bit more revealing than in the previous openings.

For me, personally, I’d more likely keep reading a bit before I forked over that money that Bashful is so stingy about handing out after a hard week in the Diamond Mine.

How about your openings? Are they dramatic? Revealing? Would you fork over your hard earned money if your opening was written by somebody else and you were perusing the book in your local bookstore? Do you change the opening of your brilliance throughout the various phases of the writing process? Huh? Huh? Huh??

5 comments:

Marybeth Poppins said...

I put lots of thought into my opening paragraphs. They are probably my favorite part to write.

SJDuvall said...

My very first novel that I wrote, I changed the beginning on several several times. Other novels, I tweak them some, but I think unless I truly LOVE my opening, I'm always open to change as long as it maintains the feeling I was going for. In a whole, I like to make my openings dramatic, to catch attention, and maybe leave a little mystery so the reader will continue.

Davin Malasarn said...

I do change my opening a lot. That's the most revised section in my last book, by far. But, I realize I have to stop put pressure on the opening. For me, it paralyzes me. Even though it may not be the best solution, I have to tell myself that the opening isn't that crucial. That's a survival mechanism more than anything.

I was excited to read your excerpts! It's really fun to get a better sense of your voice.

StephanieD said...

The first page is the deal maker or breaker for me. Attractive cover, interesting hook, and then once I open the book, it has to wow me. I do get impatient; I'm afraid I only give unknown authors a minute before I decide whether I will buy their books or not. Well-recommended books and authors whose other works I love are exempt.

Cammie said...

It's exciting to read the evolution of your openings (and yes, the tone really came through boldly in the last one.) I have found that practice definitely makes perfect (well, better, at least) with each subsequent re-write of an opening. I did my own over 3x last week, and will probably have to rework it again at some point ...