Overheard in a waiting room, grandmother to her two young grandchildren: “I’m radioactive for twenty-four hours.” That line gripped the attention of anyone listening. We’re human beings, and most of us are curious, so I’m sure if ten people had overheard that line at least half of them would be repeating it in conversation. Opening lines in books need to be riveting like that. Compare the following two sentences:
1. Red roses blossomed along the curving drive.
2. The scarlet stain spreading from the headless corpse contrasted horribly with the red roses blossoming along the curving drive beside it.
So, back to what the grandmother said. The writer in me thought of all kinds of reasons why: 1) the grandmother had to be the one to bring the children to the doctor, 2) the children had to come to the doctor, 3) why the children were the patients and not the radioactive grandmother, and 4) why the grandmother was radioactive. I always wonder at people’s motivations and I build my own stories about them in my mind. A great opening line stirs the imagination. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the grandmother to explain, so my imagination got a free pass on this story.
If this was a novel or a movie, how great if the reader/viewer saw the grandchildren dressed in HazMat suits. Then we find out their parents were killed in a nuclear explosion aimed at the president. The grandmother resided within range of the bomb, but the children attended an exclusive school in the country, outside of the bomb’s range.
Or this is a young adult or new adult novel and the children were exposed, too, and gain super powers. They will investigate the bombing to avenge their parents and save the country and the world. Hm, all from a riveting opening line. Well, for me, at least. Your mind probably conceived a totally different story. But that line set expectations in your mind. Maybe a feeling of “Oh goodie!” Words should do that. They shouldn’t make you yawn at the beginning of a novel. They should grip you and yank you into the story.
P.S. The concerned human in me thought, “How dare you expose those little children (and ME!!) to your radioactive self!” But that’s another story.
Shay Lacy writes erotic romance, romantic suspense and futuristic romance. See all her novels at her website, www.shaylacy.com.