Openings: Hooks and Hope

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Next week, an excerpt of the manuscript I’ve been writing will be sent to a number of agents and Australian publishers. I’m aware that I am very privileged to have this opportunity.

This draft novel,Where The Fruit Falls, has already opened up opportunities for me. It was short-listed in the 2017 Richell Prize. And selected into the 2018 Hardcopy professional development program for writers, which I was awarded a scholarship to attend.

And I am thankful that it (and I) have now been accepted to participate in the Hardcopy Going Public weekend in November. During this weekend, publishers and agents will provide the ten selected writers with confidential 1:1 feedback on the extracts of their manuscripts.

Which means I need to polish up mine. And ensure my opening has the type of hook that captures a reader’s attention from the very first sentence.

So I thought about openings of books I’ve read and liked. Currently on a 4-week writer in regional residence, my personal library is far away. But these books’ openings are embedded in my memory:

No living thing flew over the village of Gibbeah, neither fowl, not dove, nor crow. Yet few looked above, terrified should an omen come in a shriek or flutter.
John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James

My great-khalto Mariam collected colours and sorted them. Two generations later, I was named after her imaginary friend.
The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given. I rarely did as I was told.
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from the grave after being dead for twenty-one years.
Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

124 was spiteful. Full of baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children.
Beloved by Toni Morrison

And I noticed that they had similarities. These hooks not only lured me in, to keep reading to the last page, but to re-read them. Some, many times.

An avid reader, I know if I want to read a book from the first few sentances, if not the first. And I want readers to pick up my book (if it gets published) and not be able to put it down. Can I write an enticing opening? Can I hook readers with my first sentence?

I can try!

This is my revised first sentence:

That distinctive aroma of apples evoked many memories, but it was the beloved that lay on the bottom of a distant ocean that she now recalled.

Does it work? Do you need more?

Ok, this is the first paragraph:

That distinctive aroma of apples evoked many memories, but it was the beloved that lay on the bottom of a distant ocean that she now recalled. This particular aroma had been carried on a wisp of a wind that had travelled through the orchard outside her door, teasing ripe apples until they had dropped to the ground. That heady perfume of apples and first love was not the only thing that had arrived on her doorstep that afternoon.

It pales in the presence of the great openings I’ve shared here, but it is better than the original opening I had. I think. Hope. Maybe. Ugh!

Openings are frightening to write. Which is why, when we come across good openings, they often become firmly fixed in our memories.

Do you have any treasured openings to novels?

I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment

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