Opening sentences in setting-focused books
Your sentences, Part II
Three things to start with. I put Part 1 of our opening sentences exploration in the “Craft Hacks” section last Sunday— they should actually be in “Friday Office Hours,” but I have December brain.
And number two: I posted a video about my obsession with epigraphs to my TikTok, and subscriber Kerri sent me a fun idea for our next Friday Office Hours, in which I’ll discuss how to go about finding (and clearing!) the perfect epigraph, while also sharing some of yours. Here’s how to do it:
Send the epigraph for your project in an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Epigraphs.”
Include your book or story title, its genre, and the epigraph (with an attribution).
I’ll only get in touch if I intend to use it in an upcoming newsletter.
Only paid subscribers can participate in these open calls for workshopped submissions. Darlings, I check whether you are subscribers or not when you send material to me, so don’t try to bend the rules! You can upgrade if you’d like to join our community of live critiques.
And finally, I’ve gotten some questions about my holiday book plate offering that I’d love to answer here. If you’d like to gift any of my books to someone special in your life, I will happily send the recipient an autographed book plate1 and a personal note. So either you supply me with your address, and you stick the book plate in the book for them, or you give me their address, and I send the signed book plate and personal note along, and you send the book on to them separately. Indiebound and Bookshop.org are both great places to order from because you can choose an independent bookstore anywhere in the country to ship the book out from.
Trust me: most of these stores carry only one of any given title, so ordering even one book from an Indie goes a long way to help the store thrive, and forces the bookstore to re-order that title—which helps the author. Win win for everyone!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Bookplates) if you’d like to make this happen.
Without further ado, let’s get to your opening lines!
Feedback on opening sentences Round II: Stories that focus on place
With this second batch of opening sentences, we’re going to look at sentences that appear to rely heavily on setting. I say “appear” because, like you, I’ve only got the title, genre, and opening sentence to go from—but that’s part of the fun. Oftentimes, books that use setting as a character cue that in their titles.
Ready for some examples of how?
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING (Delia Owens)
The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog.
Humidity? Oaks? Pines? Honey, we’re in the South. The title suggests it; the opening confirms it.2
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (Hunter S. Thompson)
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
From the book’s title, we could surmise that Barstow is in (or around) Las Vegas, but guess what? It doesn’t matter where the hell Barstow is. The drugs are taking hold, baby! Barstow is about to shape shift.
THE LOBSTER KINGS (Alexi Zentner)
We’re named the Kings, and we’re the closest thing to royalty on Loosewood Island.
Ugh, this sentence is so genius, can you stand it? First of all, we get right away that this is going to be a family saga, and it will have to do with class. Lobsters used to be a food so looked down upon that they were only eaten out of desperation: used as fertilizers, thrown at prisoners, so abundant that even servants felt offended when they had to eat the things. Today, lobsters are a delicacy, so the comparison of the family name (Kings) to royalty is clever and sardonic. Plus, we learn we’re opening on an island, and we can guess from the great title that the Kings are lobster fisherman. Alexi sets the up the whole damn book here, it’s just brilliant. A perfect opening sentence. Now let’s look at yours!
Our first subscriber example comes by way of Humaira:
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