I’m almost through with my mammoth MS revision, and now I face the
horror pleasure of fine-tuning the first pages. More exactly, the opening line.
It’s gotta bite. It’s gotta grab you by the throat and drag you into the story. It has to tickle your synapses and make sweet love to your curiosity, until you ache to know more. It’s gotta do all that and still make some logical sense — ’cause I hate opening lines that are superb and pristine, yet as you read on, you realize they’re like yummy cherries on top of a pile of crap.
So because I’m entirely subjective, not to mention burned-out, I need to consult your mighty collective wisdom and submit several potential opening lines to your scrutiny. I will put up 2-3 sentences each, because I want the context to flow as well, and not just dangle isolated hooks around, with no strings attached.
Please be blunt. Slice and chop if you feel like it, or just give me your vote. I treasure every tiny bit of feedback.
Have at them!
And thank you.
*offers sacrificial goat*
Here’s the “original” opening line, from my drafts so far:
(0) I jolt awake to an alien face shimmering before me. My brain struggles to make sense of itself in the aftermath of FTL fugue, and put my old self together again. I press my back into my egg-shaped chair and take long deep breaths, reflexively going through my drop-out routine.
All kinds of suckiness, I know. I avoided dealing with the opening for quite some time now. But no more.
Here be my brain’s contents:
(1) The alien head hovering in front of me shakes me back to reality. The projection crackles as the alien face splits open in the middle, and a large, scarlet tongue rolls out of it in a gush of stretchy spit.
(2) The alien waits for a reply but we’re all stumped, still dazed from the FTL fugue and unsure what to do—which is kind of stupid since we’re the welcoming committee.
(3) Finally, first contact. But as the alien waits for my reaction, I feel my entire life collapse upon me.
(4) I haven’t come this far only to watch some idiot ruin my chance to make a difference. As Bray replays the alien’s message, staring in shock at the disembodied head projected in the middle of our tiny deck, I gather my courage and stand up. And I need all the courage I can muster, since nothing about this first contact is the way I imagined.
(5) This is what I’ve worked for all my life, but as the alien stares at me with bioluminescent eyes, waiting for my reaction, I feel the sweat slide down my back and realize I’m nowhere near prepared.
Or maybe a combination?
(6) Finally, first contact. But as the alien stares at me with bioluminescent eyes, waiting for my reaction, I feel my entire life collapse upon me.
I know it’s highly advisable to at least hint at the protagonist’s core problem, the one the entire novel hinges upon, but that’s pretty damn hard to do since the plot must start slightly before the true inciting incident. And the alien she first meets is not THE alien either. So I have to resort to subtext. Did you catch a glimpse of her actual problem in the above versions?
Here’s the blurb again, maybe it helps to narrow things down:
Taryn Harber will go down fighting before she surrenders to the alien warlord invading her mind. But in her desperate struggle to regain control of her life, she finds that her tormentor has irreversibly changed her — and she has, in turn, changed him. Caught in the middle of a war, both outside and within, Taryn is forced to grow into an unexpected role and take charge of more than her own life.
Hm. Maybe this is the closest I can get to nailing it?
(7) Finally—first contact. But as the alien stares right through me with bioluminescent eyes, waiting for my response, I realize that even the strongest ambition won’t survive in the face of fear.
Or is that too abstract? Too impersonal?
What am I doing wrong? Argh, I don’t know.
*bangs head against desk repeatedly*