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  • Writer's pictureMeg Howald


The summer women gathered each day as if childhood locked them in a playground, but that summer one of them stayed, a faded ghost no one could find.

Celebrated author, Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) discusses the penetrative power of the written word when he states, “Words can be like x-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”

How does a writer’s opening pierce their readers? Examine each of the following openings determining in what ways each hooks its readers. Is it a glimpse of conflict, a look into the soul of a troubled character, a powerful mood, an intriguing setting, a profound theme, dialogue or metaphor?

Which opening do you feel is the strongest? Why?

§ The summer was generous in its warmth . Mack and Pete decided to take a break and go fishing at a shack on an abandoned farm by a river that snaked through its land. But on that day the river was more swollen than ever in its twisted history.

§ He felt the cold plastic card between his thumb and finger – smooth and dangerous. The card slid into the locked door and the man entered the hotel suite - curtained and day proof. He heard dream speech in the next room. The incoherent mutterings of a young woman brought him beside her bed.

§ Lennon, the boy of six crouched inside a small, wicker trunk under the living room window. There were different sounds he listened to that night and expected more. Freezing rain smacked the pane above him while his dad, sprawled defenselessly on the floor across from him, struggled to breathe. These were the sounds closest to him. From the upstairs bathroom his mom sobbed and screamed at herself to help her deal with guilt. .”

§ The tree fell. Flinching at the horror in front of him, the logger stared at the body mangled among the branches and went into shock. Airways closed like an electric eel snaked through them and clutching his chest he stumbled backwards, unaware of the stinging warmth of urine in his winter overalls.

§ The blindfolded man stood rigidly on the porch of his country estate listening for the taxi on his two hundred foot, stone drive. He listened and waited. For two terror-filled hours he waited without removing his blindfold, then tears coursed down his pale face, and teeth bit into his lower lip until it bled. The vomit he couldn’t hold back dried rancid on his blue silk shirt. His hand reached up many times to unmask himself, then his courage weakened, leaving him to obey the men who had been there uninvited. The intruders messed with his mind, fucked up his designer life, and left with half a billion dollars in priceless art. They said two hours later a taxi would arrive with his daughter they had kidnapped three days before.

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