Grand Openings

By Veronica Helen Hart

The first few lines of a story must draw in a reader, make him or her want more, give an indication what the story will be about, and provide a promise as to what the reader should expect.

A man in a fedora is lurking in the shadows behind the bar below the flashing yellow neon light promises a different story than a lady sipping tea from delicate china in a drawing room carpeted in Persian rugs.

The more detail you can give your reader without overloading them with information, the more they’ll feel a part of the story. Imagine a book that begins with:

The girl opened the door and said hello to the woman.

Now imagine a book that begins with:

The small child reached up and, just able to reach the doorknob, opened the door for the police officer. She backed up and slipped in the blood on the ceramic tile of the dimly lit foyer.

Expand the view for the reader. The man in the fedora and the lady sipping tea could be in the same noir story. But if more is added to each opening, the setting becomes clearer:

The man in the fedora, who had been lurking in the shadows, moved out of the alley into the glare of traffic and streetlights on the busy avenue. The bar with the flashing yellow neon sign beckoned with its dark interior. He hoped it provided relief from the blaring horns and screaming sirens. He wrapped his gloved hand around the weapon in his pocket and pushed the door open.

The lady sitting in her parlor sipping tea doesn’t do much to entice a reader, even if she does own a Persian carpet. Adding more to her setting might draw in a reader:

Mrs. Ralston held a fragile teacup willing her hands not to tremble as she sipped the now tepid liquid. The man holding the bloody knife slid behind the draperies at the front window as her granddaughter unwittingly opened the front door.

Grateful he hadn’t seen the child, she pretended not to notice her when she came down the stairs still in her stockinged feet after her nap. She carefully took another sip as a police officer lifted the child and then held a finger to his lips, signaling Mrs. Ralston to remain silent. She did her best not to give any hint to the man behind the curtain that Lindsay had opened the door. Did he really think no one would notice all the blood?

I read that and I wonder what the heck is going on.

Reading those openings, I still don’t know what country or city the characters are in. I don’t know anything about their backgrounds, or what happened, but I’m darned curious about them.

I hope this helps both writers and readers understand why and how an opening can work.

Why would anyone read a book in this day and age?

A post from Charles E. Stoll

A friend of mine walked up to me at a party holding my novel Sorry and Morticum in his hand. With a straight face, he asked me why anyone would read a book in this day and age when there are so many other media options.

I cringed; my throat constricted. I studied his eyes to make sure he was the same person I thought I knew. I mentally lowered him three positions on my speed dial. I answered:

There is no comparison with any other media to the relationship a reader has with a book. It’s like having a friend who always has something he wants to tell you. In this busy, complicated world, it is a private, uninterrupted thought. The reader gets to interpret all the words himself, what the characters look like, their interactions, their feelings, not have them spelled out for you by the director of a movie. The reader gets to experience the limits of the author’s imagination and take on life, and in fact, forms a kind of friendship with an author he likes. I have always enjoyed hanging out with good friends. I feel comfortable with them and the comical ways they interpret their own lives always amuses me. A book can also be a friend that provides a starting point for good feeling.”

His question made me look at the reasons I write books. Mostly, it’s to share the incredible experiences I’ve had in a rather ordinary life. I want to provoke your mind and make you feel something that you don’t feel every day, something to get you excited about life again. It’s my way of saying I love you to the world at large. I know that when I write, there is a chance of reaching the souls of my readers and in so doing, possibly pull that thread that runs through all of us a little tighter. I believe the world will always respect the author that tells the truest story. That is all I hope to do.

I wrote Enigma, discovering the moments that form your life in 2014 to explore the real moments in our lives that determine who we eventually become. It isn’t just the weddings and big promotions. Sometimes it’s a difficult choice we have to make or the way we choose to look at something.

In 2015, I wrote The Time Thief to unravel the concept of time. Because I have seen the effect of having very headstrong personalities come together with unexpected results, I used five very determined main characters whose combination can end wars.

Sorry and Morticum was written in 2016 to discover the limits of my imagination. An aging wizard and his werewolf husband must clean up the mess in Daytona a thousand years hence. Working with Mutmuts, Freemonkeys, mutants, sea sprites and twelve foot cockroaches, they must restore civilization.

I hope my novels provide a little more than just entertainment, but also leave my readers with a new thought to consider or possibly even a new perspective on life. My wish is that you enjoy them all and make them friends of yours.