Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


HOW to get a-WAY with MUR-der

No, this post isn't about writing murder mysteries. It's about great beginnings that "start where the story begins."
A recent TV series starring Viola Davis (The Help) opened to a roaring beginning. The way she says the title, "HOW to get a-WAY with MUR-der," might be the most clever way to open a series ever. I read that the producers and Viola worked a long while to get the cadence and the emphasis just right. And, wow, did they ever. I listen for that before every episode.

What grabs your attention when you choose a book? It's been argued that the cover is most important, or the blurb alone determines whether you read it or not, or perhaps the first line, the first paragraph, or the first chapter.

Or if the book starts "Where the Story Begins."

Beginnings. That's what it's all about--how to make a reader choose your book. For this little exercise, I have chosen first lines from ten books written by author friends or acquaintances. In other words, this list does not contain, "It was the best of times, it was..." Or with the weather. You get the picture.

Want to take this poll? Read the ten lines and choose three you like best, or those you think would make you buy the book. Rank your three choices  using the letters...and tell me in a comment. If you want to take the time, tell me why your first choice caught your attention.

List them in order of best first in your comment. Ready?

A-The front door slammed shut, silencing Lizzy's eighteenth birthday celebration.

B-"He has walled us in alive! Our own lord has abandoned us!"

C-Gideon entered his sister's crowded SoHo gallery in Manhattan and glanced at his watch.

D-"Reese, if you weren't dead, I swear I'd kill you!"

E-Her swift fingers rushed over the keys like a flood of water tumbling over a dam.

F-"Sorry you got shot, Cole. Damn, this is gonna mess up all our plans."

G-Dallas McClintock sprawled on the ground, three rifle barrels pointed at his chest.

H-'...but other women my age have a lover.'

I-"Don't kill me! Please!"
J-Absorbed in her thoughts about Mark, the man who jilted her on what was to be her wedding day, she almost drove past the baby grand piano sitting out in the front yard of a little cottage.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
My Blog
Sweethearts of the West-Blog
My Facebook Page 


  1. I have to pick D as #1. The first signals major conflict plus the situation. We know Reese is dead and that the speaker wants to kill Reese. The questions that follow are How did Reese die, why does the speaker want to kill Reese and are those two facts connected. None of the others really grabbed me, but I would the second sentence for most of them.

    1. D seems to be the most popular. And yes, all your reasons are valid. Thanks.

  2. I like "D" because it's right in the middle of the action and it has an amusing note to it as well. Some others were also good.
    I believe every writer tries to get that first sentence to hook the reader. We all worry over how to get that story started and make it exciting and interesting. It's something I certainly work on, even though oftentimes it just doesn't come out the way I wish it would.
    This article was a good reminder for all of us to get those stories started right.

    1. D is poplar...for all the stated reasons. I have a habit...hobby...of picking up a book and reading the first line. I even check my own older books once in a while. It's not easy to most right into the story.

  3. D,F,H in that order. All start me right in the action and create a tension driving me to read on. Doris

    1. Yes..those are the good ones, although I like J even though no one mentioned it.

  4. D, G, C--although I could have a lot of fun with F. ;)

    The beginning of a story sets the mood, the rhythm, the tempo of what comes after. If you don't grab them immediately, the reader may put your book down and never pick it up again. Thanks for the post, Celia!

    1. I liked F and J, but no one else seemed to. Those you mentioned were by far the popular ones. Thanks, Tracy!

  5. Sorry I'm a day behind, but I liked G then F and J. I picked G because it had big potential for action and suspense. F because I want to read more, and J because I already had empathy for the heroine and must know what that piano will hold in store for her. Actually I liked them all and thank you for revitalizing our juices to give that start a BIG BANG. Great post as always.

  6. Celia,

    My choices are G then D then F. I liked G because I went many through many scenarios that included historical to futuristic. D was a close second, because wanting to kill a dead guy is intriguing. *grin* F is my third choice, because I read sarcasm/humor into it.

    I will admit, thought, that after I read your article, I hurried to re-read the beginning of my stories to see if I'd started them off with a bang or with ho-hum. Whew! I did okay. *wink*