Mrs. Gabaldon’s bird feeder was ravaged again last night.
When you live in a rural area a neighbor’s angst can quickly be made your angst. This act of vandalism is the signal for me to bolt before everyone for a mile around is, once again, grilled for an alibi — it’s off to the library for me.
I wonder among the shelves, picking a book at random to see if it’s the one. We all have our ways of making that decision. I start with the title; it tells me something about the story and reflects on the author’s style and mindset. Of course I look at the cover, but that’s often more a statement from the publisher so I don’t give it too much weight (which is why I love Indie covers; those reflect the author). Quick read of the blurbs and then always, always, I read the opening. That seals the deal.
The brash hook is a raucous opener: She was ten years old, but knew enough to wipe clean the handle of the bloody kitchen knife. Whoa! I’m in, Annie Hauxwell! An opening like that is so bold, so intriguing I had to learn more, I had to know what happened. I completely enjoyed A Bitter Taste.
That’s one way to grab a reader but I love it when an opening sets the tone of the story and tells me something about the characters. My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. I read that and love the autobiographical voice; it is filled with innocence and a gentle wisdom I know will tell me a tale of sorrow, and maybe redemption. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is unforgettable.
An opening can also bring the reader immediately into the genre and instantly set up expectations. It was a bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. With just thirteen words (!) George Orwell has let me know that this is not the normal, comfortable world. There is something ominous about clocks plural, and of course clocks don’t strike thirteen —accept in the world of 1984. Who can pass on an opening like that?
Opening lines can make a book irresistible—after all, that’s what it’s about. There are no rules for openings except, of course, to make them well constructed sentences. Ask yourself what you want to reflect about the book and construct the opening around that. Make it a promise of the richness to come; make the reader unable to resist learning what happens.
BTW, as I turned onto my road, bulging book bag beside me, I could see the Cullison twins tidying up Mrs. Gabaldon’s bird feeder. They worked diligently under the watchful eyes of their mother and the stern direction of the lady herself. Phew, mystery solved, angst averted. I’m pretty sure I’ll get the details tonight and I’ll learn what happened.
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.
I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.
Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.
Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of the Paranormal
Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2018 Short Story Award is accepting entries. Send us your stories about wizards, clairvoyants, other-worldly creatures, vampires, werewolves, telekenetics, hosts, goblins, witches, mediums, poltergeists, the supernatural, and other unexplainable experiences.
Early in my career, when I was writing romance and women’s fiction, a bookseller, who I greatly admired, commented that my idea of romance was a chuck on a man’s shoulder. The other authors gathered in her store for a book signing laughed – and so did I. She was right in context of the romance genre. I was never comfortable writing love scenes or covering my ‘author lens’ with gauze. I didn’t care for characters having long involved conversations about their relationships. It never occurred to me to have brooding heroes or pining heroines. I was less interested in cupid, than I was in the arrow he shot and, I suppose, that is why I write thrillers now.
However, that does not mean I am unromantic. Why? Because in each of my books I take great care with character relationships, character’s moral core, their willingness to take chances and their curiosity about their mysterious world. To convince myself I was correct in believing these attributes to be romantic, I looked up the definition. Here you go, straight from Meriam/Webster:
Romantic: marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized.
In other words, romance for one heart might carry an emotional connotation that leads to a sexual encounter or a committed relationship. For my heart, romance is embodied in how characters react to challenge. As a thriller writer I want my reader to feel the romance of suspense, of mystery, of the idealization of a hero who will walk through fire to make things right.
I find John McClane in Die Hard, Indiana Jones in any of the Indiana Jones movies, romantic and yet you never see them in sexual situations. The focus of these movies is on action within a mysterious world. The romantic in me sighs over their heroics, my heart beats faster at their commitment to justice and the place of honor in which they put women while also treating them as equals in adventure.
Whether you are an author or are a reader, do not pigeonhole the idea of romance. If you do, you will be limiting your talent and your reading enjoyment.
This Valentine’s Day, I hope cupid brought you candies and flowers. In the next year, I wish you a different kind of romance; the kind that take you to exotic, mysterious and adventurous places in your imagination.
The unromantic romantic
USA Today and Amazon bestselling author, Rebecca Forster is the author of over 38 novels including the acclaimed The Witness Series and her new Finn O’Brien Thriller series. She is married to a Superior Court judge and is mother to two sons.
Find Rebecca here:
Twitter: @Rebecca_Forster (https://twitter.com/Rebecca_Forster)
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