I’m currently on retreat to revise my novel draft. To help guide me, I’ve been reading Les Edgerton’s book Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go. This book has illuminated many way I may make my novel opening much stronger. Here’s where I need you help.
Below are two opening snippets. Please read them both and then let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page which one you find most compelling. I don’t care for corrections at this point. The main function of the opening is to make the reader want to read more. Between these, which prompts you to want to keep going?
How many men do you need to sleep with to kill love? Basic tootsie-pop question with a twist. I could tell you about each one, but that would make this merely a story about sex. I don’t want the book of my life to sit on that shelf. Not enough traffic. Readings would be awkward.
I could easily make this a book about what the other writers call “the long dark wilderness of the soul.” Frankly, I never cared much for tragedies. Even the queens of my generation grow tired of brooding and dramatizing now and then.
This is simply a love story. A true story. My story.
For 25 years, the story of my life played out like a sitcom. I was the girl who fell in love at 16, married her sweetheart, earned a college degree and had a beautiful daughter—though not necessarily in that order. I built a successful life in a foreign country where I worked as an English teacher. Happy endings forever and ever.
Unfortunately, that plot was unsustainable. Every arc has an upward stroke, but also a twin descent.
Let me show you where it begins.
Let me show you where it begins.
Japan. Christmas Eve. Cold rain, but no snow. The apartment provided to me by the university where I teach has a wall of glass, sliding doors that lead out to a balcony and show me all of Osaka’s twinkling orange lights. Strings of tiny white bulbs wrap my scrawny fica tree. Brightly colored packages circle round the pot. My two-year-old daughter has finally succumbed to the inevitability of sleep and snoozes safe and warm in her pink Hello Kitty room. My husband has stepped out. Just for a minute. He’s probably halfway down the hill by now, hurrying to buy milk and Christmas cake topped with giant red strawberries before the grocery closes.
I’m sitting at my desk by the balcony, my face bathed in the deathly grey glow of my husband’s computer screen, scrolling through an accidentally discovered folder named 98taxclassifications filled with pictures of my best friend. Laughing. Smiling. Half-naked. Naked. In some her naturally blond hair is long and full of curls as it was years ago, in others her hair is chopped short and dyed red as it has been just last year after her divorce. In some photos, I see my husband’s feet, or a bare shoulder, or his shadow painting a swath of her skin a darker shade of pale. In a rare few, I see his face, pressed close next to hers, beaming up into a camera held at arm’s length.
I click, click, click through sub-folders with names like Christmas 99, Rainier Cabin or simply favs. The last set of photos seem to be dated the very month we left America for Japan.
My mouth gaps open and closed like a carp.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you for your help!