Category Archives: Inspiration

Hook Your Readers at Hello: Parts 7-10

In honor of NANOWRIMO, I’m finally finishing up this series on writing great beginnings. Whether you need some inspiration for your novel’s first lines when the alarm clock rings on November 1 or you’re looking to revise the beginning of your picture book or novel, here are four more techniques for starting strong, along with examples and writing exercises to get you going.

Feel free to share your favorite first lines (from your own book or someone else’s) below. Also, if you share this on FB or Twitter and let me know in the comments section before midnight Wednesday, November 4, I’ll throw your name in a hat to possibly win a $25 gift certificate to BN.com. The winner will be announced Thursday November 5.

No. 7 START WITH A FIRST, LAST, BEST, WORST OR OTHER SIGNIFICANT LIFE EVENT

Writing exercise: Ask yourself these questions about your character:

  1. Will she be experiencing a particular life event for the first time during your story?
  2. Will your character be doing something for the last time that she will never be able to do again, e.g., play a sport, dance, be with a particular person, etc.
  3. During the story, will your character experience the worst thing (or what she thinks is the worst thing) that might ever happen to her for the rest of her life?
  4. Will your character be experiencing some significant one-time-only life event such as a high school graduation, sweet sixteen party, bar mitzvah, or break-up with a first love?

If you’ve discovered a first, last, worst, or other significant event that your character will experience in the book, think about how you can make it a bang-up beginning? Take a look at how the following writers did it:

FC9780803737792This Monster Cannot Wait by Bethany Barton

Vacation is only a week away, and Stewart’s parents are taking him camping for the very first time.

It’s going to be so much fun. I absolutely cannot wait!!!

FC9781479538096Zeke Meeks vs. the Pain-in-the-Neck Pets by D.L. Green

It was Monday, the worst day of the week. It was morning, the worst time of day. It was raining, the worst kind of weather. I was in class, the worst place to be. I was so unhappy.

 FC9781423105169Schooled by Gordon Korman

I was thirteen the first time I saw a police officer up close. He was arresting me for driving without a license. At the time, I didn’t even know what a license was. I wasn’t too clear on what being arrested meant either.

 

FC9780385733984Going Bovine by Libba Bray

The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.

I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage.

FC9781442413344Where Things Come Back by Corey Whaley

I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body. It wasn’t my cousin Oslo’s. It was a woman who looked to have been around fifty or at least in her late forties…

 

FC9780756939182Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

The worst night of my life? My first—and last—date with Angela O’Bannon.

 

FC9780802734310Fracture by Megan Miranda

The first time I died, I didn’t see God.

No light at the end of the tunnel. No haloed angels. No dead grandparents.

To be fair, I probably wasn’t a solid shoo-in for heaven. But, honestly, I kind of assumed I’d make the cut.

FC9780142412022An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.

FC9781423184621Far From You by Tess Sharpe

It doesn’t start here.

You’d think it would: two terrified girls in the middle of nowhere, cowering together, eyes bulging at the gun in his hand.

But it doesn’t start here.

It starts the first time I almost die.

FC9780062322371Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

According to my mother, my first kiss happened on a Saturday in July. The weather: steamy, blacktop-melting, jungle-gym-scorching New York City sunshine. The setting: the 49th Street playground in Queens, good on the sand quotient, low on the rats. The kisser: Hector Driggs, cute but a little bit smelly, like wet blankets and aged cheese. The event: one sopping, clammy-lipped, deranged, lunging kiss, directly on my lips.

I bit him.

I was three.

 

No. 8 START WITH A PORTRAIT (PHYSICAL, BEHAVIORAL, OR PSYCHOLOGICAL) OF A CHARACTER

Writing exercise: Make lists of your main character’s unique physical, behavioral, or psychological features. Would starting with a description of any of those characteristics tell your particular audience something so intriguing that they’d have to read on to find out how these features will play into your story? Take a look at these character portraits in popular books to see how they made readers want to turn the page.

Suggested twist on this exercise: Make a list of traits your character doesn’t display, even though readers might expect her to. See You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis or You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison (below) for great examples of that technique.

FC9780544456099Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer

Viola Louise Hassenfeffer was not an ordinary princess.

She spent her time karate-chopping, diving into the moat, and skateboarding up and down the drawbridge.

 FC9780142408551Wet Dog by Elise Broach

He was a good old dog and a hot old dog, as he lay in the noonday sun. And he dozed and he drowsed in the beating-down sun, with his long pink tongue hanging out.

FC9780439287197Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andereae, illus. by Guy Parker Rees

Gerald was a tall giraffe/whose neck was long and slim./But his knees were awfully crooked/and his legs were rather thin./He was very good at standing still/and munching shoots off trees./But when he tried to run around,/he buckled at the knees.

 FC9781936261192Being Frank by Donna W. Earnhardt, illustrated by Andrea Castellani

 Frank was always frank. “Honesty is the best policy,” he said.

 

 FC9780439425193Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.

 

FC9780316807227Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

They say Maniac Magee was born in a dump. They say his stomach was a cereal box and his heart a sofa spring

They say he kept an eight-inch cockroach on a leash and that rats stood guard over him while he slept.

They say if you knew he was coming and you sprinkled salt on the ground and he ran over it, within two or three blocks he would be as slow as everybody else.

FC9780385740296You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis

I may be fourteen, but I read the New York Times. I don’t wear hair clips or paint my cell phone with nail polish, and I’m not boy crazy. I don’t have a subscription to Twist or Bop or Flop or whatever they call those glossy magazines full of posters of shiny-haired, full-lipped hunks.

FC9780142424179The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Later in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

FC9780062134516Mirrored by Alex Flinn

I was a strange child. Strange looking, for certain, with buckteeth, red hair (and matching invisible eyelashes), a hooked nose, and barely the hint of a chin. My classmates at Coral Ridge Elementary teased me about these defects as if it was their God-given right. Maybe it was. After all, if I wanted to fit in, wouldn’t I just act more normal?

FC9780544301122You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison

Let’s get one thing straight from the very beginning: I am not one of those shrinking-violet fat girls. I don’t sit alone in my bedroom playing Billie Holiday albums while drowning my sorrows in a carton of ice cream. Okay, once—maybe twice—a year, but not every weekend. I have friends, a great job in a vintage record store, and even some minor social status. But I am an overweight teenage girl going to an American high school. It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to figure out there are going to be some issues.

 

No. 9 START WITH FORESHADOWING

Writing exercise: Choose an important event or plot turn in your story. Make a list of ways you can foreshadow that event without giving the plot away. Could one of them make a good beginning?

FC9781416961109Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer

On the outside Bernadette was mostly monsterly. She lurched. She growled. She caused mayhem of all kinds. But underneath the fangs and fur, Bernadette had a deep … dark … secret.

 


51pf9xrxDRL._AA160_Wooby and Peep: A Story of Unlikely Friendship by Cynthea Liu, illustrated by Mary Peterson

Wooby loved his goldfish, Wendy, and his humble home. He lived on a quiet little street where the neighbors minded their own business.

Until one day …


61t+t7ptmgL._SY452_BO1,204,203,200_Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind

and another

his mother called him “WILD THING!”

and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!”

so he was sent to bed without eating anything.

UnknownChu’s Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

When Chu sneezed, big things happened.

 

FC9781619633742All the Answers by Kate Messner

The pencil didn’t look magic.

It looked the opposite of magic.

 


FC9781632204257Honey Girl
by Lisa Freeman

My sickest secret is about Dad. I stole his ashes and filled his internment box with sand, ground-up puka shells, and a mashed-up plastic necklace from a vintage shop in the Hawaiian Village. I gave it to my mom with the fake remains after she came back from the mainland with Uncle Mike. The freakiest part of the whole thing is that she sleeps with the box next to her bed. She thinks that someday her ashes and Dad’s will be buried together. Sorry about that. I loved my dad more than any other person on the planet. I just didn’t think about what the long-term karma would be.


FC9780385740562Paper Covers Rock
by Jenny Hubbard

When my dad gave me this journal two years ago and said “Fill it with your impressions,” I imagine he had a more idyllic portrait of boarding school life in mind.

 

41b5PL-CEbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Ruby said I’d never drown—not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone’s bottomless backyard pool.

 


FC9780399256936Rebel Belle
by Rachel Hawkins

Looking back, none of this would have happened if I’d brought lip gloss the night of the Homecoming Dance.

 

 

No. 10 START WITH A HINT OF A MYSTERY

Writing exercise: Think of a big question that will be raised in your story that will create suspense in your reader. See if you can bring up that question in your first few lines without giving too much away. Or, begin your story by relating a startling event and make the reader keep turning pages to find out both the cause and eventual effects of that event.

FC9781416989387Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Ben Cort (pb)

Dinosaurs were all wiped out/A long way back in history/No one knows quite how or why/Now this book solves the mystery …

 

FC9780375841958Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries By David Levinthal, illustrated by John Nickel

There are eight million stories in the forest. This is one of them.

It was a typical Sunday morning for the Bear family. They had gone out for a walk while their porridge was cooling.

I was working the robbery detail out of the Pinecone Division. My name’s Binky I’m a cop

The call came in at 12:15 p.m. It was Mrs. Bear, and she was upset. I knew I’d better get out there right away.


FC9781416954217Found
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

It wasn’t there. Then it was.

Later, that was how Angela DuPre would describe the airplane—over and over, to one investigator after another—until she would never speak of it again.


FC9781442408388Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware
by M.T. Anderson

When Lily Gefelty got out of bed on the morning of the big game, she looked out the window to see what kind of day it was going to be. She discovered that it was the kind of day when a million beetles crawl out of the ground and swarm the streets, forecasting evil.

FC9780375859557Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Imagine this:

You’re in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author’s books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.

What do you do?

The choice, I think, is obvious:

You take down the red notebook and open it.

                  And then do whatever it tells you.

 FC9781423143512Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

 I don’t know how I ended up on the side of Hollister Road, lying in this ditch.

This moment, last night, the details—all fuzzy. A reluctant glance down and I see I’m covered in scratches and bruises. The bruise on my shin appears to be in the shape of a French fry. French fries cause bruises? And I have at least five stains on my royal blue iridescent dress—two black, one greenish-bluish, and the remaining are various shades of yellow. What are these? Mustard? Curry?

Wait. I don’t even want to know.

FC9781606840238Blood on My Hands by Todd Strasser

In the dark woods behind the baseball dugout, I’m kneeling next to Katherine’s body, my heart racing, my breaths shallow and fast, my emotions reeling crazily at the sight on the ground before me. Katherine is lying on her side, curled up, as if she was cowering from whoever attacked her. Her body is still warm, but there’s no pulse.

 


Hook Your Readers at Hello: Part 6

START WITH A QUIRKY STATEMENT OF FACT OR OPINION

It’s been a while since I began this series, but I haven’t forgotten about it. In this post I’ll talk about a type of beginning I used in my middle-grade novel, The First Last Day (May 2016, S&S/Aladdin).

While working on that novel, I tossed out several first lines and pages before finding the one that will actually appear in print. In my first draft, I began in the middle of the story, or if you prefer Latin, in media res. Unfortunately, that didn’t work—in English or Latin. It gave away the whole plot.

Next, I started in the middle of the action again, but without giving away the story. That didn’t work either.

In the third version, I began with a list that hinted at the main plot element. That sort of worked, but not quite.

In the fourth, I started with a letter/prologue that gave away the whole shebang. And even though the novel sold, my editor nixed that beginning faster than you can say letter/prologue. She had me start with the first chapter, which happened to be a cool fact that I found when I was researching quotations for a possible title.

But even before that, I’d been intrigued with books that started with odd facts or assertions. Aside from being a fun and different way to start a book, beginning with this type of statement can also tell us so much about the narrator and the story.

9780786809219For example, one of my all-time favorite first lines is from Born to Rock by Gordon Korman:


The thing about a cavity search is this: it has nothing to do with the dentist.

Not only does the narrator tell us volumes in this one sentence, he also tells it in a voice I want to continue listening to. Just from these sixteen words, I can tell this guy:

  1. Is funny
  2. Is literate because he knows how to use a colon
  3. Is probably a troublemaker
  4. Has probably undergone a cavity search

The whole thing makes me wonder what he did that caused the cavity search. So, of course, I want to read on.

Here’s a list of several other beginnings with fun facts or assertions that made me want to keep reading, followed by a suggested writing exercise.

 

61KCmh4Q4hL._AA160_When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

If you build a perfect sandcastle, a dragon will move in.

 

 

 

 

9780763650704I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau, illustrated by Serge Bloch

Yawns are sneaky.

They can creep up on you when you least expect them.

 

 

 

9780803737174

When Dads Don’t Grow Up by Marjorie Blain Parker, illustrated by R.W. Alley

You can tell which ones they are. They know that milk tastes better through a straw, that bubble wrap is for popping, and they always throw rocks if there’s water around.

 

 

9780525464846Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson

Kidnapping children is never a good idea; all the same, sometimes it has to be done.

 

 

 

 

9780316002578Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass

In Iceland, fairies live inside of rocks. Seriously. They have houses in there and schools and amusement parks and everything.

 

 

 

9780142405079The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck

 If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time for it.

 

 

 

 

 

9780544340695The Center of Everything by Linda Urban

 In the beginning, there was the donut.

At first, the donut was without form—a shape-less blob of dough, fried in fat of one sort or another. The Ancient Greeks ate them. The Mayans. Even the Vikings enjoyed a platter of puffy dough blobs between pillages.

 

 

 

9780316058490Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

 My sweat smells like peanut butter

 

 

 

 

9780375850875Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

There’s this totally false map of the human tongue. It’s supposed to show where we taste different things, like salty on the side of the tongue, sweet in the front, bitter in the back. Some guy drew it a hundred years ago, and people have been forcing kids to memorize it ever since.

 

 

 

9781442446953Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

In musicals, characters break into song when their emotions get to be too big.

Whereas in life, of course, I break into song when my emotions get to be too big. Without getting paid for it, I mean.

 

 

9780545468039Loot by Jude Watson

No thief likes a full moon. Like mushrooms and owls, they do their best work in the dark.

 

 

 

9780142410370Matilda by Roald Dahl

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

 

 

 

 

81HByqWgT3LZeke Meeks vs His Big Phony Cousin by D.L. Green

There should be a law against homework. After a hard day of goofing off in school, I shouldn’t have to do more hard work. And I try very hard not to. But trying very hard to avoid work is hard work.

 

 

 

 

51kMPcgdliL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Little Dead Riding Hood by Amie Borst and Bethanie Borst

You know things are going suck when you’re the new kid. But when you’re the new kid and a vampire … well, then it totally bites.

 

 

 

 

61w+2qL1dGL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_The Tapper Twins Go to War (with each other) by Geoff Rodkey

Wars are terrible things. I know this because I’ve read about a lot of them on Wikipedia.

And because I was just in one. It was me against my brother, Reese.

 

 

 

41It6WDxVGL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

Everyone’s seen my mother naked.

 

 

 

 

 

51jM-uxIVbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Gotta Get Some Bish Bash Bosh by M.E. Allen

 If you’re planning on going out with a girl, take my advice: don’t start over the summer holidays. Do it in term time, when there’s loads of other distractions. Over the summer holiday, keeping a girl happy on a day-to-day basis can really drain you.

 

 

 

51dIK5xkl6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Godless by Pete Hautman

Getting punched hard in the face is a singular experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a little too cocky, obnoxious, or insensitive.

 

 

 

 


9780316324779My Best of Everything
by Sarah Tomp

The ingredients for moonshine are ordinary, innocent.

Corn, sugar, yeast. Heat and time.

 

 

 

 

51nhlCLwR-L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The majority of children who are kidnapped and killed are dead within three hours of the abduction. Thanks to my roommate, the walking encyclopedia of probabilities and statistics, I knew the exact numbers.

 

 

41lgc0DksAL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

The funny thing about almost-dying is that afterward everyone expects you to jump on the happy train and take time to chase butterflies through grassy fields or see rainbows in puddles of oil on the highway.

 

 

 

 

51Xoq4bjfAL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_What Remains by Helene Dunbar

No one ever calls in the middle of the night to tell you that you’ve won the lottery.

 

 

 

 

 

41ZDMT9ekBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor

In nineteenth-century novels, characters die of heartbreak. Literally. A girl gets dumped, and she’s so grief-stricken she suffers a “brain fever,” or goes wandering out on the moors, and the next thing you know, the whole town is hovering by her bedside while a servant gallops on a desperate midnight ride to fetch the doctor.

 

 

Suggested exercise: Google one of the main topics of your story. I started by googling “summer” because I was looking for quotes from songs, poems, or sayings that I might use as a title. Instead, I found a fun fact about summer that I knew my narrator would love. The statement even ended up working as a metaphor for the whole novel.

 

If you have any favorite beginnings that start with a quirky fact or assertion of some sort, please feel free to share in the comments section.

 


Hook Your Readers at Hello: Part 5

Hello, all!

I’ve been remiss in continuing this series of how to begin your story, so here is Part 5. I hope something below will spark a new beginning or maybe even a new story idea for you.

No. 5 START BY STATING A PROBLEM

I ended up revising the first few lines of a picture book recently after realizing I’d been noodling around instead of getting right to the point: the main character’s problem.

No good book is about a perfect character in a perfect world–unless that character is about to be thrust into trouble. Some characters find that trouble on the first page. Below are twenty books (picture books, middle-grade and young adult) in which the problem is evident from the first few lines.

Suggested exercise: Pretend your main character is on TV, talking to Dr. Phil. What complaint does your MC have? See if something from that complaint could work itself into your first few lines.

 

517NY5N54ZL._AA160_100th Day Worries by Margery Cuyler

 Jessica was a worrier.

She worried about everything.

 


9780689711732Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad
Day by Judith Viorst

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

 

51B3ewuwafL._AA160_

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems

Hi! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Pigeon is filthy. So, I could use your help because: The Pigeon Needs a Bath.

 

 

FC9780689832130Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Farmer Brown has a problem

His cows like to type

All day long he hears

Click, clack, moo.

Click, clack, moo.

Click, clack, moo.

 

9780448466934Just Jake: Dog Eat Dog by Jake Marcionette

Like lots of kids, I take the bus to and from school every day. And, like most kids, I hate the bus. For me, it’s a lose-lose proposition. Why? Because at Kinney Elementary, there are two different kinds of bus drivers, and they’re both awful.

 

 

FC9781595146915War of the World Records by Matthew Ward

It was unclear how the human thigh bone came to be sticking out of the seventeenth turret on the World’s Largest Sandcastle. It was, however, looking more and more likely that its builder would be disqualified.

 


FC9780385743914I Text Dead People
by Rose Cooper

There’s no such thing as ghosts.

Ghosts don’t exist.

Annabel Craven tried to convince herself that there was no reason to be freaked. But then the wrought-iron gate slammed shut behind her with a loud clunk and she knew she wasn’t crazy.

She definitely had a reason.

 

FC9780544336674Anastasia Again! by Lois Lowry

“The suburbs,” said Anastasia. “We’re moving to the suburbs? I can’t believe it. I can’t believe you would actually do such a thing to me. As soon as I finish this chocolate pudding, I’m going to jump out the window.”

 

 

FC9780547237602The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun.

Me.

 

 


9781423113393The Lost Hero
 by Rick Riordan

Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.

 

 

 

FC9780545691116What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott

There’s no question things could have gone differently out there in those woods. One zipper more tightly zipped, one foot more carefully placed on a rotted plank, and I might not be here today. I might be roaming free instead of sitting locked up in this hole, sucking my every meal through a straw, staring at a padded wall.

 

 

This is How I Find Her by Sara PolskyFC9780807578803

On the fourth day of junior year, sometime between the second bell marking the start of chemistry class and the time I got home from school, my mother tried to kill herself.

 


FC9780689866241Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters
by Gail Giles

Things had been getting a little better until I got a letter from my dead sister. That more or less ruined by day.

 

 

 

FC9780763662622Feed by M.T. Anderson (ya)

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

 

 

 

FC9781402278006The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler

I have fifteen minutes to get home. It’s a twenty-five minute walk. I’m so dead.

 

 

 

 Unknown-1Don’t Stay Up Late by R.L. Stine

My name is Lisa Brooks and I’m a twisted psycho. I wasn’t always a total nutcase. Before the accident, I thought I was doing pretty okay.

 

 

Unknown-2Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay

It was cold–too cold for the zoo. Still, the Doyles were here, looking at the cheetahs and deciding what to do next.

Ryan wanted popcorn.

Fiona wanted the pandas.

 

 

Unknown-9The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

The moment my horrible yearbook photo first appeared on millions of televisions, sending jaws dropping, phones ringing, and joggers tumbling off their treadmills across America, I was in the middle of my AP US History final.

 

 

 

FC9780062323286Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

I don’t make to-do lists, but if I did, today’s would have gone something like this: 1. get drunk, 2. get laid, 3. go surfing (not necessarily in that order). Noticeably absent  from the list: get arrested. And yet here I am, spending my eighteenth birthday with my back against the wall of the Colonel’s hunting cabin, two FBI agents prowling the dark with their guns drawn, both trying to get me to confess to the murder of my friend Preston DeWitt.

 

FC9780545651264Backlash by Sara Darer Littman

Now

Lara

The words on the screen don’t make sense. They can’t.

He says: You’re an awful person.

He says: You’re a terrible friend.

He says: I know you’ve been checking out dresses for the homecoming dance.

He says: What makes you think I’d ever ask you out?

He says: I’d never be caught dead at the school dance with a loser like you.

He doesn’t say it in a private message. He posts it publicly, on my Facebook wall, where everyone can see. Twenty-five people have already liked what he wrote. Even people I thought were my friends. Why would anyone like something that mean?

If you know of a great book that opens up with a problem, let us all know in the comments section.


Hook Your Readers at Hello: Part 4

Confession and Denial

They say confession is good for the soul. Turns out it’s also a good way to begin a book. And it’s not bad to begin with its polar opposite–a huge denial. Take a look at how these characters bared their souls to the reader right from the start and had me hooked.

Suggested writing exercise: Write a confession or denial from your character’s point of view. See if it would make a great beginning.

FC9780152024888I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont 

One day my mama caught me paintin’ pictures on the floor and the ceiling and the walls and the curtains and the door, and I heard my mama holler like I never did before …

 

9780763655990This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

This hat is not mine.

I just stole it.

 

FC9780545477116The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however, this is no Story of a Bad Boy, no What Katy Did. If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more.

FC9780802723932A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Haworth

 I didn’t do it.

I am innocent.

I know convicts say that when they’re guilty, but I’m telling you the truth. At 3:05 today, I didn’t mean to push Amanda on her bike so hard that she sailed off the curb and fell splat on the road in the pickup line after school. Thank God Mrs. McCrory had just paid the garage to tune up her Honda. That van stops on a dime now (and hardly even came close to hitting Amanda).

FC9781442467774-1Poached by Stuart Gibbs

I would never have been accused of stealing the koala if Vance Jessup hadn’t made me drop a human arm in the shark tank.

 

FC9780525426523Dangerous Deception by Peg Kehret

I only intended to help two children who were hungry and had no money for food. That’s an admirable goal for a sixth-grade girl, isn’t it? You can’t get in trouble for doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Right?

Wrong! I may have had noble intentions, but I still ended up causing a car crash, being abducted by a thug, and smuggling a scared cat on a city bus by sticking him inside my T-shirt, a maneuver I do not recommend unless you’re wearing a steel undershirt.

FC9780595269525Crosses by Shelly Stoehr

“We cut ourselves regularly. Not by accident, we do it purposely—and regularly—because physical pain is comforting, and because now it has become a habit. Like the drugs. These are, in fact, the two main things Katie and I have in common. They are how we met.” This was my diary entry on November fourth, 1985.

FC9781250060006Shattering Glass by Gale Giles

Simon Glass was easy to hate. I never knew exactly why, there was so much to pick from. I guess, really we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn’t realize it until the day we killed him.

 

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LarochelleFC9780439591096

Everybody has at least one ugly secret, and mine is as ugly as they come. I square dance. With my mother.

 

FC9780375842498Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

 My name is Evangeline Bianca Logan, and I am a serial kisser.

 

 

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

FC9781595145079

The first boy I ever loved, Steven Goode, was really into cars. He received a junky ’72 Chevelle for his sixteenth birthday and spent six months rebuilding it. Everyone in school knew about it because Steven worked on it during shop class, and half the guys at Cedar Cove helped him, wrenching and sanding and polishing until every piece was as good as new.

After it was complete, Steven cruised up and down the streets near the boardwalk, one arm hanging out the window, that adorable lopsided grin never leaving his face.

Then I killed him. I drowned him in the ocean just a few hundred yards from my own sweet-sixteen party.

FC9781416913184Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

 Day One, 8:07 a.m.

I’m a traitor to my generation. Seriously. All we hear about these days is being strong women and standing up for ourselves, and now look what I’ve done. I should totally be one of those true life stories in Seventeen. “I Built My Life Around a Boy! And Now I Regret It!”

FC9780763663322Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

You have to understand: I’ve been madly, hopelessly, tragically in love with Garrett Delaney for two years now—ever since the fateful day when I looked up from my list of the Top Ten Couples of All Time and saw him sauntering into the local coffeehouse.

FC9780142420928Chime by Franny Billingsly

I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged.

 

 

FC9781423152880Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I am a coward.

I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending. I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothers–and even though I am a girl, they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches. God, I tried hard last week. My God, I tried. But now I know I am a coward…

Confession of my own: I never thought to start a book with a confession until I started this post. Halfway through, I took a break, and changed the beginning of a picture book I’d been revising for months to a quasi confession. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

Next up: Start your story by stating a problem.