Fiction Fundamentals: How to be a Hooker (Writing Great Intros)

prostitute

It’s our pleasure to welcome soon-t0-be-published author Jenn Windrow to Eight Ladies Writing. To continue Justine’s series on Fiction Fundamentals, Jenn is going to talk about writing great intros. Take it away, Jenn!

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The single most important part to any book, in my opinion, is the first few paragraphs.

Why?

Because this is where you “hook” your reader. And you want nothing more than to hook your reader from the very first sentence.

Think about it, a well written first paragraph should do many things. It should tell your reader what the story is about. Set the tone. Introduce your character. Introduce your world.

I could sit here all day and tell you what you need to include in your fist paragraph, but I think it’s easier to analyze some amazing examples. So, let’s dig in.

8788554“First Grave on The Right” by Darynda Jones

I’d been having the same dream for the past month—the one where a dark stranger materialized out of smoke and shadows to play doctor with me. I was starting to wonder if repetitive exposure to nightly hallucinations resulting in earth-shattering climaxes could have any long-term side effects. Death via extreme pleasure was a serious concern. The prospect led to the following dilemma: Do I seek help or buy drinks all around?

Just by reading the first paragraph of “First Grave on the Right,” I know what to expect through the rest of the book.

Humor and hot sex and more humor.

This book is going to be funny and sexy and full of supernatural thrills. I want to know who that dark stranger is. I want to know why she’s hallucinating. I read Darynda because I know that she is going to make me laugh. There is no surprise that Darynda won both a Golden Heart and a RITA with this book.

Let’s look at another…

6056520“Red-Headed Stepchild” by Jaye Wells.

Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal. So I ignored the chipped onyx polish. I ignored the dirt caked under my nails. I ignored my palms, rubbed raw and blistering. And when a snapping twig announced David’s arrival, I ignored him too.

That is one of my favorite first lines. But it does so much more. I get a hint of backstory. I know right off that the main character is a vampire. I know that she just killed someone. And I am left wondering who David is. There’s also humor, but undertones of darkness to this character.

Tell me you’re not interested in reading more.

Here’s one that is not paranormal.

16131208“The Sweet Spot” by Laura Drake

The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was grateful for the bull semen.

Charla Rae Denny wiped her hands with her apron and stepped back, surveying the shelves of her pantry. This month’s Good Housekeeping suggested using scraps of linoleum as shelf paper. It had been a bitch-kitty to cut, but cost nothing, would be easy to clean, and continued the white-pebbled theme of her kitchen floor. And for a few hours, the project had rescued her weary mind from a hamster-wheel of regret.

Once again I learn a lot about the main character from the first paragraph. I learn that she is in grief counseling. That she’s a country girl, because a city girl would not being playing around with bull semen. She’s a homemaker. And that even though the story is dark, there is going to be humor to scatter that darkness.

All three of those examples make you want to pick up the book. They make you want to keep reading to find out the questions that are laid out right at the start. They make you want to enter the writer’s world. They hook you.

So, when you are writing your first paragraph, think about the things you can do to hook your reader. Can you share a bit of backstory to entice? If your book is humorous is it right there in the first sentence? Do you leave the reader wondering, forcing them to keep reading to find out the answers? Does you reader know from the very first word what your book is about?

struckbyeros2-2Here’s the opening to “Struck By Eros.”

Last month, Cupid shot my size-six ass with an arrow and saddled me with the soul mate from hell. I lay on my side and looked at the snoring mountain of muscle next to me. Grayson Adler. Supposedly my perfect match in every way, but whoever was in charge of perfect matches perfectly fucked up.

Even though my body shook from a Grayson-induced, post-coital high, I still loathed my couldn’t-be-more-wrong-for-me mate. However, we were stuck together for eternity because of Cupid and his craptacular curse.

I want you to analyze the opening to “Struck By Eros” like I did to the ones above. Tell me in the comments what you learned from the first paragraph. What hooks you? Then go into your own manuscripts and analyze your openings. Do they do their job? Do they entice? Tease? Set the tone?

If not, they change them. Make them work hard. It may take hours to get them perfect, but once you do, you’ll be so happy and so will your readers.

Thank you to Eight Ladies Writing for allowing me to guest host today!

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head shot 1Jenn Windrow loves characters that have a pinch of spunk, a dash of attitude, and a large dollop of sex appeal. Top it all off with a huge heaping helping of snark, and you’ve got the ingredients for the kind of fast paced stories she loves to read and write. Home is a suburb of it’s-so-hot-my-shoes-have-melted-to-the-pavement Phoenix. Where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and a slew of animals that seem to keep following her home, at least that’s what she claims.

Jenn’s Urban Fantasy, “Evil’s Unlikely Assassin” won the RWA Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) “On The Far Side” writing contest in July 2014, top 5 in the RWA Desert Rose “Realizing the Dream” writing contest, and finaled in the Houston Writers Guild annual writing contest in April 2014. It was also selected as first runner up in Writers Type’s First Chapter Contest in April 2013.

struckbyeros2-2Her full-length Paranormal Romance, “Struck by Eros” placed first in the RWA’s “Golden Pen” Contest, third in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhoods “Make it Golden” contest, and fourth in the West Coast Romance Writers “Beacon” contest.

Struck By Eros will be released July 8th from Muse It Up Publishing. You can find it at your favorite e-bookstore: Amazon  B&N  Kobo  iBooks  Muse It Up

Her short story, Swallowed By Darkness is available at Amazon.

Visit her online at  BLOG   /  FACEBOOK   /   TWITTER

 

11 thoughts on “Fiction Fundamentals: How to be a Hooker (Writing Great Intros)

  1. Hi Jenn. So nice to see you here, and congratulations on your upcoming book release!

    I love that opening to Red-Headed Stepchild. It’s one of the reasons I bought the book. And Jaye Welles kept the story promise she made with the opening. It was dark, but fun and snarky, too. One of the things we discussed during the McDaniel program was the importance of rewriting the opening scene after writing through to the end of the book to make sure the tone and expectations set there match the rest of the story.

  2. Hello, Jenn! What an exciting time for you!

    Do you mind if I change the subject slightly? I’m in the middle of a first draft, and even the thought of first lines gives me a low-level anxiety attack. I like your cover very much. I think it conveys many of the same things that your first lines do: a hetero romance with lots of passionate scenes with a spiritual link (that blue!) involving Greek gods (words). How much input did you have in the cover? Do you know what your art designer did before creating it? (For example, worked from a synopsis, read the whole book, worked from your editor’s direction only?) What kind of things would you recommend preparing for a cover designer?

    • My publisher gave me 3 different cover options. I gave the designer 5 links to 5 covers that I thought would work with my book. I had more say than most do. Honestly, I was nervous about the cover. I knew what I didn’t want, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I did want. My designer made me proud.

      I think the most important thing you can do, is research what covers you like and keep a file. I use Pinterest and gave a whole section devoted to covers I love. It helped when it came time to show what I liked.

      Hope that helps. And sorry to be getting back so late, just got back from Mexico.

      • That’s great advice! I have a bunch of pictures that portray the feeling of the stories I’m writing, but none of them are really cover material. I guess that’s the next step for the ones that are done: look for covers, and also genre-related covers that I like. (And don’t like? Sometimes a negative can define a positive.)

        • I had plenty of negative ones too. It was easy for me to find covers on Pinterest just by searching paranormal romance. Then I kind of went nuts with the pins!!

          I have thanked my cover artist many times over for giving me something I could be proud of she really listened. And I do think my research paid off.

  3. Your opening promises snarky humor, Greek mythology references and a strong-willed heroine. Perfect!

    Like Michaeline, I love your cover. I’ll be leaving you an Amazon review soon after I have it in my hot little hands.

  4. Pingback: Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Taglines, Loglines and Concepts – Eight Ladies Writing

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