A dark man with a dark sword

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ShadowbredSo, I’ve been thinking about book openings lately (you know, since I’ve got books to write :-)).

You’ve all heard the book openings are important, have to hook the reader, you won’t get a second chance, etc. And that’s all true, though I think it’s sometimes overstated a bit, in that I think readers will stick with you for a while, even if a book’s opening doesn’t contain bang-zoom-wow.

In any event, I try to write compelling openings and I’ve gotten more conscious of this (and maybe even better at it) as I’ve gone along in my career.  I used to struggle with this.  These days, it seems it’s one of the first things that pops into my head when I’m conceptualizing a novel.

At this point, I think my Riptide opening (which you can read here) might be my best (in part because I think the prose is very crisp and evocative, even though there’s not a lot of bang-zoom), though the opening of Shadowbred, which I’m posting as a pdf below, is right there in my mind.

Now, Shadowbred is the first book of The Twilight War, the second trilogy starring Erevis Cale.  With this opening, I wanted to do a couple things. First, I wanted to reintroduce the reader to Cale and give some insight into his psychology.  Second, I wanted to put a clear marker down that said — This is where Cale’s character arc for this trilogy begins. And finally, I wanted to imply the end of that arc, which is the purpose served by the last sentence in this sample.  I also wanted readers to come away with something akin to “Wow, that’s was pretty frickin’ cool.”

Obviously (since I’m not really shy when it comes to self promotion), if you dig this, you’ll dig the Cale stories, and Shadowbred is a fine place to start them (Twilight Falling is the other place). And if you’ve already read them, well, thanks.  🙂

Also, please let me know in the comments which books you’ve read that had really compelling openings, won’t you?

Shadowbred prologue (click to view, or right click to download)

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8 Comments

  1. One that always comes to mind when thinking of openings:

    “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

    A simple line carrying so much more significance than it would seem, especially when one finishes reading King’s The Dark Tower.

    • Oh, yeah! I had forgotten that and it’s a GREAT opening. Powerful sentence, given the rest of the story.

  2. i think that shadow storm had the best opening because the eigth hell felt so real when you wrote it i got chills

  3. I read all your Forgotten Realms novels, including the short story in Hall of Stormweather. I personally loved the beginning of Shadowbred. The feel of the darkness and the proposed light in Cale, to save himself by saving others, sent chills down my spine. Still do after the 6th or so time. I like the feel of the characters. To be honest, Shadowbred was the first of your novels I read and without knowing Cale and his past deeds and growth it built a great character and gave the story the whole theme of the book. How far will this Shadowman go to save? Can’t wait for more.

  4. The prologue of C.S. Friedman’s “Black Sun Rising”, first book in the Coldfire trilogy, always grabbed me. The first sentence, “She wondered why she was afraid to go home.” and follows with one of my all time favorite quotes, “The sacrifice is not of your body…. It is …of my humanity.” I have been hooked ever since and it is one of the most read series in my collection.

    • I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read any Friedman. Perhaps time to add it to the “to read” pile.

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