47 Mind Hacks for Writers by Karen Dimmick & Steve Dimmick
and using the exercises as blog post prompts.
I’m going to analyze the style of writing from books I like.
Since openings are what I struggle with the most, I’m going to focus there.
“I hate First Friday.”
Right off the bat, I wanted to know what First Friday was, and why the character hates it. I mean, it’s a Friday! People like those, generally. So I was hooked.
Then there’s a description of the setting which includes the time of year, temperature, the population of the area.
And the interesting expression of “enough to make the milk curdle.” That’s nothing something I hear every day.
I was drawn in by the odd mirror restriction. I got to know a few basics about the character. It was easy to figure out that she’s in a world where something’s not quite right.
Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World Through Tolerating My Family
“If you’re reading this book, I can assume you either want to take over the world and are looking for some pointers, or you simply want to be entertained.”
It’s long, for an opening sentence, but it’s also blunt and honest.
The book goes on to explain why the narrator wrote it. The descriptions are funny and relatable. It drew me in straight away.
As long as I’m doing this, I may as well take a look at my own opening with the same eye. Might as well see if I like the same in my own that I like in others, right?
Fractions of Existence
It was the smell that made him do it. Xavier’s nose suffered from an attack as he stepped out of a Manhattan office building he owned onto the bustling sidewalk of Madison Avenue. It wasn’t a food smell, or one found in nature, or even a kind of perfume. The athletic, agile man tripped twice as he swam through the crowd to find the source of this scent. Not the hotdog cart. Not the bouquets of flowers. Not the tall, unnaturally blonde woman wearing Chanel No 5 (and little else). It was a scent he knew but could not recall from what or where. The smell was like a migraine trigger, except his head didn’t ache with pain. Could he follow his nose to find a way to prevent the apocalypse?
Pretending I didn’t write this…
I’d want to know what the smell was and what it made him do.
I know the setting and population.
The descriptions seem relatable.
I find myself wondering about “The athletic, agile man tripped twice” — is there a lie in the description, or is this because the smell has messed with the character’s anatomy. ((It’s the second thing, btw.))
And then I wondered what a smell has to do with the apocalypse.
So honestly, yes, I do like my opening. I like it as much as three of my favorite openings by other authors.
Perhaps my mind was just “hacked” as intended.
What’s your favorite book opening? Does my opening hook you as much as that, why or why not?