THE LINES THAT YANK ME INTO A STORY AND THE DIFFERENCES ACROSS GENRES

2015-02-18 07.42.58My friend and fellow author of Main Street, Jill James, blogged about reading this month. Jill got me thinking, as she usually does, about what grabs me by the throat and reels me in when I first fall in love with a book. Sometimes the throat grabbing is more of a warm smile, a heart tug, a laugh, or just a: If I don’t read this right now It’s going to occupy my thoughts all day kind of moment. That’s love for you—throat grabbing, funny, heartwarming, intriguing and sometimes damn irritating. My favorite authors evoke one or more of these emotions in the first line or two.

I know this to be theoretically true, because I keep reading. I wondered how it actually worked in practice, so this morning over my first of numerous cups of coffee, I pulled random books from random bookshelves in my house—truth be told some of them were in piles on the floor and one was leaning by the waste basket nearest my desk.

After reading the first few lines of more or less randomly selected books nearest me I found some of them “Mash-Up” rather well. Here are two of my favorites put side by side:

 

HISTORICAL ROMANCE—Cathy Maxwell from: Lyon’s Bride.

      “A mother knows. ‘Tis the curse of giving birth.”

THRILLER—Stephen Hunter from: Time to Hunt.

      “We are in the presence of a master sniper.”

 

Here are two more that struck me funny read side by side, yet oddly similar in intent:

 

ROMANCE—Joan Johnston from: Texas Bride.

      “It’s a disaster,” Hannah said. “Plain and simple. We’re DOOMED.”

THRILLER—Lee Child from: Gone Tomorrow.

      “Suicide bombers are easy to spot.”

 

Here are three with religious themes:

 

HISTORICAL—Bernard Cornwell from: Stonehenge.

      “The gods talk by signs.”

FICTION—Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett from: Good Omens.

      “It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn’t been invented yet.”

YOUNG ADULT (and me)—Terry Pratchett from: Snuff.

      “The goblin experience of the world is the cult or perhaps religion of the Unggue. In short, it is a remarkably complex resurrection-based religion founded on the sanctity of bodily secretions.”

 

And here are two that begin with a sense of immediate expectation:

 

HISTORICAL ROMANCE—Jennifer Haymore from: A season of seduction.

      Tonight I will be his.

THRILLER—Steve Berry from: The Jefferson Key.

      “President Andrew Jackson faced the gun aimed at his chest.”

 

I have enjoyed each of these books and it was the beginning that got me hooked no matter what the genre. Beginnings need to hook, if for no other reason than that’s where we start reading, but the story has to entice and entertain. The love feeling has to sustain as well. I loved most of these books, with the exception of one that was really well written, but had me skimming from about halfway through ‘till the end.

Loved them all—sans one—and yet they all begin with a different tone that when read side by side just makes me smile. Reading after all should be like being in love: funny, irritating, anticipatory, sensual, ire-inducing and ultimately an experience that leaves the reader better and fulfilled for having read—until the next time.

So what are your favorite lines? Have you noticed that similar subject matter is handled in completely different ways depending on genre and sex of the author? Do you think about this kind of “Mash-Up” or opening lines at all when you’re immersing yourself in the stories you read—and really why should you if you’re immersed? If you have a favorite, “Mash-Up”, please share, I’d love to experience it!

Happy Reading, and for those of you who write as well, may your words shine brightly and be received with love!

 Leigh

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16 Responses to THE LINES THAT YANK ME INTO A STORY AND THE DIFFERENCES ACROSS GENRES

  1. E. Ayers says:

    It’s a small world! Cathy Maxwell is a friend.
    I think we all know that curse of giving birth!

    Those first sentences are so important!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leighmorgan1 says:

      I love Cathy Maxwell. She’s a wonderful writer and an even better human being. I think she foils very well with Stephen Hunter. Good writing is so much fun to read. Gotta love it. Thanks, E.!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Romance lover says:

    What a great take on first lines. They truly do set the tone of a story, and when done well, can engender immediate interest. Thanks, Leigh, for your mashups!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kristy Tate says:

    What do you think of books that open with a line of dialogue? I’ve been told it’s a no-no, but I’m doing it anyway in my current work in progress. I may give in to pressure, but I do love this line. (It’s a YA)
    “Teenage girls are genetically wired to be unkind to each other,” Uncle Mitch said. He adjusted his glasses and met the hostile gaze of Dr. Roberts head-on, making me proud. Uncle Mitch rarely met anyone’s gaze head-on, not even his students at Yale. “It’s in the DNA. They have to compete for mates.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • leighmorgan1 says:

      I love this opening, Kristy. I’ve opened with dialogue, and while I wouldn’t advise anyone to do what I do, I really believe a great opening is a great opening, dialogue or no dialogue. I read something about writing this week that resonated: “F*** the static” and write well (I added the last bit :D). Here are some other openings from paperbacks I had on a shelf downstairs that start with quotes:

      Johanna Lindsey’s, THE PURSUIT from 2002 opens with this line, “You don’t like your mother very much, d’you, m’boy?”

      Heather Graham opens, THE UNSPOKEN (after a prologue another supposed “no-no”), with, “Amun Mopat, Katya Sokolov said to Logan Raintree. “You’re kidding me, right?”

      Susan Elizabeth Phillips opens, NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE, with, “Let me get this straight,” Jodie Pulanski said. “You want to give Cal Bonner a woman for a birthday present.”

      J.A. Konrath opens, BLOODY MARY, with, “It would be so easy to kill you while you sleep.”

      And there’s E.B. White, who opens, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, with one of the most frightening lines of dialogue in a children’s book I’ve ever read: “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

      Aside from me, I’d say you’re in excellent company, Kristy. I love your opening. Go For It!

      Liked by 1 person

    • susanrhughes says:

      Who says it’s a no-no? Who gets to dictate these rules? Don’t change a thing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • stephaniequeen says:

      Love that opening, Kristy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol says:

    Those opening lines are great, Leigh. I also like Kristy’s. I like dialogue as an opening for books. If done right, dialogue will hook me every time. Cathy Maxwell is a great author! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leighmorgan1 says:

      I agree, Carol. I’m getting back into more historicals and really enjoying them. Dialogue works for me in an opening. Kristy’s opening brought me right in. Can’t wait to read her story!

      Like

  5. I agree with Carol and I lately I am in a mood to rebel against traditional rules! LOL Great post Leigh, It was the best of times, It was the worst of times….hooked!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. stephaniequeen says:

    Love this topic, Leigh! I always get hooked by Lee Child–one of my all-time faves! An example–from 61 Hours: “Five minutes to three in the afternoon. Exactly 61 hours before it happened.” Talk about your ticking clock and compelling anyone with a heartbeat to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leighmorgan1 says:

      I’ll read every Reacher novel, Stephanie. I love Lee Child’s writing because it’s fast and entertaining and I can finish it in a day. He needs someone like Ray Stevenson to play Reacher in the movies though–I’m never going to pay to watch Tom Cruise in another “Reacher” movie. I think we should get together and have a Reacher-Off, or we could invite all the AoMS authors, and have a Quote off. We could quote great bits to one another from books we enjoy as we drink copious amounts of tea—for Myren’s sake—or wine.

      Like

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