Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Inquiring Minds

47 Comments

Photo Courtesy of Photobucket.com

Photo Courtesy of Photobucket.com

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.  ~  Albert Einstein

 

When I was a kid I loved the Curious George books. I was always curious what George would do next. He flew a kite, went to the beach, took a job, rode a bike and he even went to the hospital after he ate a piece of a jigsaw puzzle; he thought it was candy.

George had a desire to learn about everything. For a monkey, he was pretty smart; after all curiosity has been the driver behind the greatest discoveries in science, medicine and technology. George knew, without curiosity, there would be no creativity.

As a writer, curiosity allows me to venture into the “what if” of my creative mind. It encourages me to try something bold and different, especially when I attempt to craft the important opening line of a story. First lines draw the reader in and set the tone. Choice of verb and the number of words can suggest fast pace with a lot of suspense or a slower, more cerebral story.

To write a winning first line, I have to make my readers curious so they’ll stay with me. If I fail to intrigue and hook them in the early sentences, I haven’t done my job.

I’ve read many articles and posts about how agents never get past the first line or paragraph when they go through submissions. It’s all about first impressions. If I’m unable to make a good first impression, it doesn’t bode well that my story will get any better and my readers may start looking for the bad stuff.

Curiosity lives in all of us. As children, we embraced and pursued it. As I continue to write, I’ll think about George and his passion for the “what if.” When my opening line is read, I want the reader to think, “Oh, this is going to be good.”

Do you have a favorite first line? Perhaps you’d like to share a first line from your own WIP.

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, published by Harlequin Love Inspired released on February 21, 2017 and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

47 thoughts on “Inquiring Minds

  1. OK Jill, now you’ve got me thinking. I’ve done lots of reading on this, too, and I know the importance of the first line can’t be understated. I once read one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, won’t start writing the first draft of her newest novel until she thinks of a “killer first line.” I’ll share a couple of my opening lines here, but now I’m second guessing whether they do the job… :/

    From the flash story I’m currently submitting: “I slip in through the front door and ease it shut until the latch clicks into place.”

    From a piece in the revision stage: “When he steps out of the taxi, Daniel’s eyes dart about the neighborhood.”

    A brand new story I just started last week: “The ancient television mounted on the wall is tuned in to a reality courtroom program.”

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    • I’ve heard that about Jodi also, Gwen. I love her writing.

      Thanks for sharing some of your first lines, All three make me wonder why and that’s a good thing. I particularly enjoyed the line from your new story. I also like the line written in first person. I’ve been experimenting a lot with first person lately and really enjoying it.

      Have a great holiday weekend and good luck with your new story!

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  2. I think Daphne Du Maurier’s line, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ takes a bit of beating.

    You’re right Jill – we need to grab our reader’s attention from the off.
    Here are a couple of my WIP’s – still not complete, but getting there…

    ‘Imagine no possessions: it’s easy if you try, especially if you don’t have many to begin with.’ – A possible 2000 word short story

    ‘James sat in the waiting room with his mother, his eyes fixed on a mark on the carpet which looked like an old chewing gum stain.’ – Opening lines of a longer piece which I am currently editing right down.

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    • Oh, I love that first line from Rebecca, Jenny. I believe that’s one of the most famous first lines written.

      I appreciate you sharing your first lines. I love the twist on the Lennon song. I’d like to read that story. Love how the mark on the carpet looks like a chewing gum stain. I’m wondering why James is in the waiting room and what kind of waiting room they’re in….a doctor’s office, a police station, a lawyer’s office…I wonder.

      Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

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  3. You got me thinking and digging through my bookcase this morning, Jill. I don’t have a WIP, but I’d like to share the opening lines from “Separating,” one of my favorite short stories by John Updike: “The day was fair. Brilliant. All that June the weather had mocked the Maples’ internal misery with solid sunlight–golden shafts and cascades of green in which their conversations had wormed unseeing, their sad murmuring selves the only stain in Nature.” I love the way this description of the setting actually describes the characters and sets the tone for the disintegration of the Maples’ marriage. To me this is a great example of showing, not telling.

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    • LOL! When I started working on this post, I was digging through my bookcase as well, Candace. I agree, Updike certainly packed a punch with that first line. I’ve got a lot of work to do to write a line that smooth, it’s like butter…I’ll keep working on it though.

      Enjoy the holiday weekend, Candace!

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  4. Hi Jill,
    One of the reasons I have become bogged down with my WIP is that I now have two possible starts. The story is told in the first person and goes back over about twenty years of a woman’s life. My first opening paragraph linked straight into the start of her story and the new version links to an event about 90% of the way through and winds its way back to the start over a couple of pages. I thought about asking a few people to read it and say which they preferred but getting the opening paragraphs right is so vital I feel I should take total responsibility for deciding which approach to take; I can then just ask for feedback on the choice of words. Sounds simple……….

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    • If it only were so simple, Lynne. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.

      While studying about first lines, I’ve also read a lot about the importance of where you start your story. Apparently it’s not always best to start from the beginning of the character’s story. But that can be difficult since we don’t want to confuse the reader. Isn’t writing hard? 🙂

      Good luck to you! I can’t wait to hear what you decide. Enjoy your weekend!

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  5. “She thought she was dreaming, until she felt the enormous weight crushing her ribs one by one emptying out the remaining futile air escaping her crippled lungs.” The beginning of a story about pain. 🙂

    My favorite Curious George book was the one about the hospital and the puzzle piece!! Because I always loved puzzles, I was thrilled that in the end the piece was recovered and the puzzle completed! hee,hee

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    • Nice Maria! I’m not sure if I should have asked you all to post your first lines because now I want to read more about all of them. 🙂 Love the “crippled lungs.”

      That was my favorite Curious George book also! Leave it to George to go through all of that drama and still complete the puzzle. 🙂

      I love puzzles. I always have a puzzle going on the dining room table. I especially loved that cup cake puzzle you worked on at the beach. I keep meaning to check it out on Amazon.

      Enjoy the upcoming three day weekend!

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  6. I don’t have a good one yet for my WIP, but I really like the first line from Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”:

    On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.

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  7. I bet you’ve got several good one tucked away, Phillip. Get back from where? Gawd…now I have to add another book to my TBR piles.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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  8. Despite my English teacher background, I was never that loyal to “Call me Ishmael.” I’m also not impressed by Faulkner-length compound-complex, 62-word opening lines that are intended to impress. I’m more taken by opening paragraphs that set a mood, open a scene, and contain a surprising phrase or detail.

    I once assigned the students in my writing class to go online or to a bookstore or the library, and copy the five best opening paragraphs they found. Then in class they chose what they felt was the best one…and for the next day (without referring to the original work), they were to create and writ the next paragraph after the first AND create a title for this story possibility.
    It was always a great prompt and practice writing to jump start creativity.

    p.s. I agree with Phillip about the powerful first line of I AM LEGEND.

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    • What a fun and creative assignment, Marylin! Your students were lucky to have you as their teacher. I might try that myself as a writing prompt.

      I agree, Faulkner’s 62-word opener is a major zzzzzzzz for me. The surprising phase always keeps me wide awake and reading.

      Enjoy the holiday weekend, Marylin!

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  9. I’ve spent more time on opening lines than the entire story that followed. One day I’ll get it right.

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  10. One of my favorites is the first line of THE HOBBIT: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” I like the next line as well: “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

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  11. Excellent post Jill. I agree with you the first few lines set the tone and draw the reader. I also approve of what Marylin has said that the opening paragraphs set the mood and open the scene. My teacher during my masters in lit. Always emphasized on the opening paragraph and the opening line of the paragraph as equally important. I have one WIP but am stuck on the opening sentence so I have chosen some opening lines from my favorite writers’ books.
    “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem,a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a nostalgia, a dream”. (Cannery Row by John Steinbek).
    “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. (Anna Kerenina by Leo Tolstoy.
    “On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the tiny room which he rented from tenants in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. Bridge.” Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
    I hope you like them. Take care and have a lovely long weekend.

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    • Thanks, Samina! And thank you for sharing a few of your favorite first lines. Those are all great. Wouldn’t it be nice to write a first line that is remembered for years and years. I guess we’ll keep working on it! I hope you have a fabulous weekend, Samina!

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  12. I always read your posts from beginning to end because you have great winning first lines!

    When I was eight years old, we got a new reading book and to this day I still recall the first lines of one of the stories. “It all began when the white leghorn hen reported that she had laid the egg which was now in the nest. She told the news to the big fat hen…”. I don’t remember the title of the story nor the reading series, but those first lines are still with me. It is evident that the story made an impression on my young mind:-)

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    • Thanks, Elaine! Boy, that story did make an impression on you. I tried to Google those lines, but wasn’t able to find the title. It’s amazing the things we remember from our childhood, but then sometimes I can’t remember what I’m heading upstairs for. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!

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  13. Let me see – two WIPS
    1. The lady came by again today.
    2. ‘Well I guess we could swing by tomorrow, take another look.’

    Work needed 🙂

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  14. Great post, and an important thing to consider when writing. I know I’ve spent lots of time thinking about or rewording an opening line, or lines. I don’t feel too badly about that, though, after reading a recent article about one of my favorite authors: “Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences”. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/07/why-stephen-king-spends-months-and-even-years-writing-opening-sentences/278043/

    He gives some great examples from other people’s works, then talks about some of his own books.

    I was going to post an opening line from one of my works in progress, but after looking through them, I decided they all need a bit of work 🙂

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    • Thanks, Dave! I appreciate you posting the article by Stephen King…love him. I’ll check out the article as soon as I dry my eyes. The video you posted on your blog was incredible, such a wonderful couple. Have a great Labor Day!

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      • I found the article, and things he writes about writing in general, to be full of great advice on how to be a better writer. Love him, too … one of my favorite authors.

        That video, and their story, is so very sweet. My wife and I have watched it a couple more times and we weren’t able to hold back the tears 🙂

        So far, the Labor Day weekend has been wonderfully quiet and relaxing. I expect tomorrow to be the same. Hope yours has been restful and enjoyable as well.

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  15. Great post! Very nicely done – AS ALWAYS! My best to you for the Labor Day Holiday…

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  16. Jill, I love the Curious George book. Have you ever heard the story of how the Jewish writers escaped Paris during WWII on their bicycles with the CG manuscript with them? If they had been caught, they would have been in great danger, and we would never have gotten the CG books. Great post–being super curious is the first requirement for writers :).

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  17. Huge Curious George fan here, too. I love the “what-if” part of writing and will spend a number of days and weeks as needed to plot the best ones for my WIP. Here are my opening lines from my MSS and current WIP.

    1 – The closer Aiden came to the end of the Key West Historic Seaport boardwalk, the faster his heart beat.
    2 – Where’d I put that damn key? Abby Stone juggled two grocery bags on her hip and watched the elevator light jump from the lobby to second floor button as she scooped the lone key from her coat pocket.
    3 – Kathryn knew better than to drink three glasses of champagne.
    4 – The man wove his black SUV through the sleepy side streets of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Sweat trickled down his face. He leaned forward to turn up the AC. Dios. It was already on high.

    I love opening lines! I feel it’s critical to capture the mood of the novel right from the beginning and draw that reader in, posing questions and answering them as they go, onto that last page. I wonder if you can tell which three are romantic suspense hooks as opposed to the one contemporary romance…

    Have a wonderful first week of September. 🙂

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    • I had a feeling you’d be a Curious George fan, Jolyse. 🙂 Like you, I love the “what if” question. It’s fun to fill pages of “what if’s” for a new story.

      Thanks for sharing some of your opening lines. Oh…I like them all, but I really like number 4! I’ll take a guess that number 3 is the contemporary romance.

      I always wondered if Key West was a setting in any of your manuscripts. I should have known! 🙂 I hope September is a great and productive month of writing for you.

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  18. Number 4 is from my WIP, and yes, Number 3 is the contemporary romance (which I will be ripping apart and making into a romantic suspense in the foreseeable future.) Key West is the primary setting for my most recently completed MS as well as a future WIP that I’ve plotted but haven’t yet finished. Love escaping to KW any chance I get. Thanks for the good wishes. I’m intent on finishing two projects by the end of December, so I’d better be productive!!! 🙂

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  19. I love Curious George….and I love the thought behind this post and totally agree. When I open a book the first line or two has to grab me or I am a book snob and don’t read any further.

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  20. Thanks, Susan. I’m the same way when deciding whether or not to purchase a book. If those first couple of lines don’t grab me…no sale. Good luck against Houston on Monday!

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  21. Passionately curious certainly worked for Einstein!
    What is it about monkeys? Your photo immediately put me in mind of another blogger- Kongo, The Travel Monkey. 🙂 I like him a lot.
    Yes, you lured me in, Jill. Many thanks 🙂

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    • I don’t know what it is about monkeys, Jo. When I was a kid, I begged my mother to buy me one. I wanted to dress it in overalls and a baseball cap. 🙂 I’m glad I “lured” you in. I’ll have to check out The Travel Monkey…thanks!

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  22. First lines are tough. It’s many drafts before I have the perfect first line to open a manuscript. I love this line from Harlan Coben’s Caught: I knew opening that red door would destroy my life. How can you not read on?

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