Every now and then, authors on Facebook play a game called, “The First Seven Lines.” As the name implies, they post the first seven lines of the opening of their current WIP (work in progress) or of a particular chapter within and then tag seven other authors, challenging them to do the same. The game not only builds camaraderie among those of us who primarily communicate online, it introduces our stories to Facebook connections and hopefully builds interest in them.
Because of the latter goal (and because we really want our work to shine) those lines must vibrate with life, introducing the reader to the character and setting, and speaking to the overall plot is well. That’s a lot of information to pack into a few sentences, especially if the story is a novella with a smaller word count. To accomplish this, I usually have to tweak and retweak, rework and often rewrite my openings until I find the right words.
Author Ane Mulligan tagged me in the game this morning. Since I’m iffy on my latest WIP, I decided to post the first lines of all my stories below, starting with Dash of Pepper, one of the seven novellas in the Coming Home collection. (See note below regarding the differences in my approach to novella openings versus full-length novels.)
Dash of Pepper
Nina Pepper slipped on a silver hoop earring and snapped it shut. The last of her accessories in place, she smoothed her black dress along her hips and inspected her reflection in the mirror. Chad would flip when he saw her.
River of Life
If he had to do it all over again, he would choose a place like this. A house that was built when quality and craftsmanship meant something. A solid structure that could withstand weather and the ravages of time. But the old house he now repaired on occasion wasn’t the home he’d purchased for his wife. Without realizing it, he’d picked one that spoke volumes about their marriage—good looking on the outside, but cold and empty within.
Fall in Eden
Maybe it was true to have friends a person had to be a friend. Judging by the number of guests at his goodbye party, he’d failed in that respect. Twenty years of cultivating relationships with clients and business associates, and the only people who showed up for the sendoff were his parents, his ex-wife, and the man who stole her from his life.
And they say Robert E. Lee picked the wrong side.
Adam Tucker closed his front door and tugged until the lock clicked into place. The promise of daybreak had lightened the sky to a murky gray, but if he timed it right, he would be eastbound on I-20 before the sun spilled over the horizon.
[As with Dash of Pepper, the following are novellas, so the openings contain concrete details regarding character and setting instead of the more abstract concepts I strove to present in their literary siblings.]
North of Broad
Patience and determination, that’s all it took to achieve a goal, her father always said. And right now, she wanted nothing more than to take a picture of Charleston that didn’t include hordes of sweaty tourists.
Claire Simms stepped into a sliver of shade on the sidewalk that lined Meeting Street. A grimy sheen from heat and humidity coated her skin, plastering her hair to the back of her neck. One more photo and she would head to the house for a shower and a gallon of iced tea.
The middle-age couples spoiling her view of the temple built over Charleston’s famous open air market finally moved on. Before another sightseer could intrude on her moment, Claire angled her phone, snapped a picture, and posted it to Facebook with the caption, Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. Seconds later, Like clicks popped up along with comments warning her to watch out for crazy southerners.
It took an immense amount of time over the years to craft these sentences. I hope they give you a hint of the “vibrant life” contained within each of the respective story’s pages.