Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Opening Paragraph III

So the opening of a book should capture the reader's attention and tease the imagination. A lot of us novice writers often strive to shock for the sake of being shocking, and agents/editors surely see plenty of death, dismemberment and debased sex in the samples that pummel them daily. There's probably a million different approaches you could take for the first few paragraphs, but I enjoy an author who creates the expectation of something i haven't seen before. Here's the first 7 lines of "The Unseen" by Montana scribe T.L. Hines:

Perched on top of the elevator, Lucas peered at the woman below and created an elaborate history in his mind.

Elevators and their shafts were easy places to hide. Easier than utility chases. Much easier than ductwork, popularly portrayed in movies as cavernous tunnels through which a man might crawl. Lucas knew better; most ductwork was tight and narrow, and not solid enough to hold 150 pounds.

I know a little about urgan explorers and creepy-crawlers who get a thrill from spying out secrets and riding elevators in office buildings. But this excerpt promises more - a character (possibly the protagonist) who makes up imaginary biographies about those he watches (stalks?). I just got this book for Christmas, so I'm not deep into it yet, but so far the writing lives up to the tease.

I hope my fan hasn't heen holding her breath waiting for my entry in Nathan Bransford's most excellent first-paragraph contest. Sometimes anticipation will whet the appetite, but there's only so much you can do with peanut butter and stale bread. Anyway, I've had an idea bouncing around in my cranium about a college-age dude with some geeky roomies who've logged copious hours of internet porn but don't know the first thing about women. The dude is something of a smooth operator, mostly because he genuinely enjoys being with attractive, funny, intelligent women. To do well at that pasttime, he's learned to pay attention to them and decipher the code behind some of the words and behaviors.

The dude realizes that there are hundreds of thousands of nerdy guys in the same situation as his roommates. A guy could get rich by videotaping pretty college girls talking about their preferences in men, dating and sex. Then splice in some soft porm that illustrates what the dude has learned, and, the trickiest part, find somebody to distribute the DVDs nationally. He recruits some beauties who are willing to talk about their sex lives if the pay is right, but has to deceive them about the commercial use he has in mind. Naturally, he falls for one of the girls, yada yada yada, then quits his lothario ways, and rides off into the sunset with the love of his life.

Well, that didn't turn out to be the one-sentence summary I'd envisioned. Following is the opening paragraph that hopefully hints at a shallow dude with possibilities and the future object of his affections. For emphasis, I've since split out a sentence in the middle as it's own paragraph, but it was originally spliced together as one fat stream-of-consciousness paragraph:

She sits on the other side of a small table littered with ashtrays and highballs, entrancing him the way her perfect features twist imperfectly as she talks. God knows she talks nonstop, pausing nano-momentarily to knock back some scotch and milk or puff on a Kool. Sometimes the tip of her tongue pokes out the corner of her mouth for no apparent reason, causing a tingle to run up his cock for no apparent reason.

Are they having A Moment?

Like two comets flirting with the same star though never colliding, they’d been hanging out at Jack’s and screwing their way through the denizens for a couple months. By now she knows his playbook. He suspects it’ll require honesty and spontaneity to nail her but he’s not sure it‘s worth the risk.

Have a wonderfull New Year, and keep on writing.

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