sallyhanan’s blog

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How to Write Opening Lines, Part Deux May 5, 2009

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 9:55 pm
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I thought it might be fun to continue writing opening lines in the other locations I mentioned (in a previous post). The second story should take place in a book store, so jump into my head and and see and feel with me.

I feel heavy—my body is matronly. I also have some sort of health issue going on . . . I get breathless quickly. Perhaps I’m even in a wheelchair after a terrible accident. I can smell books, and the lady I see at the desk doesn’t seem all too pleased to see me. There’s more of a story here. . . .

Angelika was masticating. I could see her through the window. Nasty habit, chewing-gum. I’d always told her. . . .

I put the chair into forward to get closer to the glass and tickled it with my fingernails—didn’t want to get the fingers dirty—can’t be too careful these days. She must have seen me out of the corner of her eye because I think I saw the eyeball roll into the back of her head before it turned my way.

I realize that I wrote way more than two sentences, but that’s because I had the joy of having the character take over. That’s the beauty of imagination.

I still needed to fix the opening a little.

Angelika was masticating. I could see her jawbone moving up, down, in, out . . . such a nasty habit: gum chewing. She would never listen!

I clicked the chair into forward to get closer to the book store window and rapped it with my cane—didn’t want to get the fingers dirty—can’t be too careful these days. Angelika must have seen me out of the corner of her eye because I think I saw her left eyeball twist into the back of her cranium before it turned my way.

I described the action of chewing to get into the woman’s judgmental mind, along with the instant denial of her being any part of Angelika’s choices. I changed put to click because I wanted the noise as well as the action. I added in book store so that the reader wouldn’t be clueless—just because I knew where she was did not mean readers would be telepathic. Rapping is more like an angry person’s action. She didn’t want to have dirty fingers—she obviously has some phobias. The name Angelika usually makes one think of Angelica in Rugrats—acts like an angel but is really a brat. I loved the left eyeball twist into her cranium part—that’s just me using a little exaggeration to emphasize the humor of Angelika’s stinky attitude.

I had a problem with the book store window being in the second paragraph so I changed it, and I wasn’t as comfortable using first person as I usually am, so I changed it to third person. Because of the change, the reader was not going to read as if they were in Mrs. Hobbs’s body, so I took out a little and called Angelika the girl to emphasize the age gap.

Angelika was masticating. The book store window was a bit grimy, but Mrs. Hobbs was certain she could see the girl’s jawbone moving up, down, in, out . . . such a nasty habit: gum chewing. So uncouth.

She clicked the chair into forward to get closer to the glass and rapped it with her cane. Angelika must have seen her out of the corner of her eye because Mrs. Hobbs could have sworn she saw the girl’s left eyeball twist into the back of her cranium before it turned her way; if she were a swearing woman, that is.

Again, we have the beginning of a story that makes readers want more. Who is this woman? Why is she in a wheelchair? Why is she so judgmental? Why is Angelika so rude? What’s the deal with the book store?

I challenge you to finish the story by writing the plot in your comments.

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