Monday, December 24, 2012

6 Imagery, Intrigue, and Danger in Novel Openings

Hi everyone! My name is Jan, and I’m a new contributor here at Adventures in YA Publishing. Martina asked me to post today and introduce myself. I live in Oklahoma with my husband, two kids, two cats, a dog, and my mom. I write YA fantasy, both contemporary and traditional. I am much better at rewriting and editing, so I usually spend an ungodly amount of time dragging myself through the drafting process. One of my favorite things in the world is critiquing, because I love the process of shaping a manuscript into a book.

Okay, enough about me. Let’s get to the real post: Inspired Openings. I figured what better way to mark my beginning with the blog than a post about beginnings.

As readers and writers, we all know how important openings are. They help you decide whether to buy a book or put it back on the shelf. They help agents and editors decide whether to read on or send a rejection. So what makes a great opening?

1. Imagery – It paints a picture with words, a picture beautiful enough that you want to see more of the author’s art.

Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark—in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight—but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor

The air in London was grey. This was no surprise; but the common eye could not see the particular heaviness of the atmosphere or the unusual weight of this special day’s charcoal clouds: the sky was pregnant with a potent wind, for The Guard was searching for new hosts.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
Leanna Renee Hieber

2. Intrigue – It makes you sit up and ask, “Ooh, I wonder what that’s about?” So you read on to find out.

I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.
Maggie Stiefvater

I think I killed a girl who looked like this once.
Girl of Nightmares
Kendare Blake

My mother thinks I’m dead.
Obviously I’m not dead, but it’s safer for her to think so.
Marie Lu

Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.
The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater

3. Danger – It makes you worry about this character you know nothing about, because there is an immediate threat to them.

She grabbed the hilt of her knife and scrambled backward into the darkness, holding the baby close in her other arm. Beyond the fire, the wasteland was still, as if the wind and even the stones had frozen in the night to listen, and then she heard it again, a faint chink, like a footfall in pebbles. Someone or something was out there, watching her.
Caragh O’Brien

He didn't know how long he'd been clinging there. Long enough for the bone-cold water to drive the feeling from his legs. Long enough for his fingers to tire of holding his head above water. Somewhere in the distance, the eerie wail of the hounds quickened his heartbeat.
He closed his eyes, concentrating on keeping his hold on the old well's uneven sides, willing his heart to slow. They can't smell you in here. They'll lose your scent in the stream and they'll never find you here.
Maggie Stiefvater

4. Other – These are the openings that don’t really fit into one of the above categories. The ones you read and just know the book is going to be great.

She’s so lovely, so fragile. Those haunted eyes. Those rosebud lips . . . they’ll scream so prettily.
Poison Princess
Kresley Cole

All children, except one, grow up.
Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie

So, what kind of openings do you like? Share some of your favorites in the comments.

I am so happy to be a part of Adventures in YA Publishing. Thanks so much for having me, Martina!

I hope you all have a fabulous holiday!



  1. Nice to meet you, Jan! I love these examples, especially having just read THE RAVEN BOYS and DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE recently. Gorgeous stuff! I like these categories of openings. THE NEAR WITCH has an intriguing beginning too: It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark. :)

    1. Oh, nice. I haven't read that one yet, but it's on my TBR list. I might have to bump it up after reading that opening line. Thanks!

  2. welcome, Jan! Im so thrilled to have you join the blog and love your fantastic examples!

    Merry Christmas Hugs!


  3. It's great to meet you Jan! Wonderful examples. :)


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