Award-winning author Amy Corwin is the romance author of
--Vampire Protector (A Contemporary Paranormal Romance, Published by: The Wild Rose Press, Black Rose Line, 2010),
--The Necklace (A Regency Romantic Mystery Published by: Highland Press, 2010),
--The Bricklayer's Helper (A Regency Romantic Mystery Published by: The Wild Rose Press, English Tea Rose Line, 2010),
--I Bid One American (A Regency Romantic Mystery Published by: The Wild Rose Press, English Tea Rose Line, 2008),
--Smuggled Rose (A Regency Romance, Published by: Cerridwen Press, Cotillion Line,2007).
And now a word from AMY!!!!
The importance of a novel’s opening versus the ending is just as impossible to answer as that old question: “which is more important to the integrity of a house, the foundation or the roof?” For me, the foundation is as important as the roof to the integrity of a house. And the opening of a novel is just as critical as the ending.
The opening encourages (or discourages) a potential reader to buy and read your book. The ending convinces the reader to buy (or not buy) your next book.
So if you only want to publish one book, you might apply most of your efforts to the opening lines. If you intend to write more than one, then you’ll have to make both the opening line and the ending the best they can possibly be.
So what makes a killer opening?
Not that I have all the answers, but I like to try to making opening lines multi-task. Ideally, I want my openings to do all of the following.
- Set the tone for the book. Funny if the book is funny, gritty if the book is gritty. If I can make the reader laugh at the first sentence, I've hooked ‘em.
- Set the scene. Where are the characters? What are they doing? Although I rarely do this, a lot of books start out with a sentence about the weather. It was a dark and stormy night... And it actually works for many writers.
- Introduce the hero or heroine. Most of the time, I try to start in the point of view of the character who “owns the book”.
- Create a question the reader has just got to get answered. I write a lot of mysteries, so a great question is, who just died? There’s only one question I don’t want my reader to suffer through and that’s: What the heck is going on? If I’m confusing the reader, it's not working.
So, how about a few examples?
I Bid One American
Here is the opening line from my historical romantic mystery, I Bid One American.
Despite his belief that White’s Club guaranteed Nathaniel Archer, current Duke of Peckham, freedom from the machinations of unmarried women, he could not concentrate on a simple game of cards.
This line sets the stage by introducing the hero, Nathaniel, his location at White’s, and his predicament. He’s relentlessly pursued by women to the point where he’s not even sure if he’s safe from them at a men’s club. I also hope it conveys a touch of the wry humor that pervades it.
The Bricklayer’s Helper
In another opening line, I present a question to grab the reader: why is Sam hurrying? Here is the first sentence in this historical romantic mystery that also involves the Archer family introduced in I Bid One American.
The sky glowed with morning as Sam passed St. Mary Magdalen’s, hurrying toward Crown Street.
And here are a couple of opening lines from other authors. These two are probably my favorite lines of all time.
From Gun Monkeys
I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer's headless body in the trunk, and all the time I'm thinking I should've put some plastic down.
This crime/suspense novel has a strong humorous element and the first sentence says it all. You know:
--The hero is driving a Chrysler, he's in Florida on the turnpike, a dead guy is in the trunk, and you can guess the hero has a less-than-honest background.
--You also know the guy sounds like the type who plans ahead, but somehow, he’s gotten into trouble that prevented him from handling the situation with his normal expertise. Finally, the dry wit firmly settles the reader into the tone of the book.
From Leave it to Psmith
At the open window of the great library of Blandings Castle, drooping like a wet sock, as was his habit when he had nothing to prop his spine against, the Earl of Emsworth, that amiable and boneheaded peer, stood gazing out over his domain.
P.G. Wodehouse is a brilliant humorist and is the creator of Jeeves, that annoyingly capable butler. His first sentence sets the scene at Blandings Castle, on a nice day (because the window is open) and we are introduced to the amiable and boneheaded Earl of Emsworth in a dry, witty tone that prepares you for the wildly funny tale ahead.
All-in-all, great opening lines are exceptionally difficult to write. At least I certainly find it difficult.
But, if you can write a first sentence that introduces your character, sets the tone, sets the scene, gets your reader asking questions, and mentions the weather your reader won’t be able to put it down.
Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.
Amy’s books include the two Regency romances, SMUGGLED ROSE, and LOVE, THE CRITIC; three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; and her first paranormal, VAMPIRE PROTECTOR.
Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.
Blog Tour Itinerary
Wednesday, February 2nd - Blog Topic - The Significance of First Lines
--Meet contemporary YA an adult romance author Linda Kage (ME!) at
--Meet contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance author
Caroline Clemmons at http://authorjenniferjakes.blogspot.com/
--Meet paranormal romance author Maeve Greyson at
--Meet author Amy Corwin at http://lindakage.blogspot.com/ (HERE)
--Meet contemporary and paranormal romance author Jill James at
--Meet romantic suspense author Kat Duncan at