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Monday, February 20, 2012

Capturing Readers

What makes a book capture a reader?

Whether you are a reader or a writer, chances are, you know the answer to this question. A book captures a reader with an intoxicating first sentence, first paragraph, first page–followed by equally addicting pages two through two hundred or more.

Oh, compelling cover art, back "blurb," author quotes, and a few other things help too. Unfortunately, most of these other things cannot be controlled by authors if they are published by traditional print or ebook publishers. If they are indie authors who self-publish, then they have a complete control over the entire package.

What Writers Control

However, what all writers can control regardless of the publishing process is the writing–the words they choose and the way they put them together to create the story. That's what all writers should focus on.

Each time I start a manuscript, I think I've got the perfect opening sentence for the story and the character. Often, I compare my opening sentences to some of my favorites to see whether I feel that frisson of awareness that shivers up my spine when I read some of my all-time favorites.

I want to share some of these sentences that always intrigue me no matter how many times I've read them. They sing a siren song that made me read the book the first time, and they still tease me with their sense of music and rhythm. I think these opening sentences evoke an emotional response in the reader, and that's what readers can't resist.

Favorite Opening Sentences

"Last night I dreamt I went to Mandeley again." (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York." (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)

"I never knew her in life." (The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy)

"Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow." (Carrie by Stephen King)

"Death was driving an emerald green Lexus." (Winter Moon by Dean Koontz)

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

Opening Acts

I have two books featured here on 99cent Ebooks: Just One Look and Still The One. Though they have been re-priced to their regular $2.99 price, Amazon still has them discounted so you can get them for only $.99 each. I've linked each to the Amazon page in case you'd like to do that.

Here are the opening sentences of each book.

Just One Look

I bet every woman reading this has felt this discomfort and frustration!

"Jennifer Monroe shivered and rubbed the goose-bumped flesh of her arms. A meat locker would feel warmer than a doctor's examining room! Why do they have to keep it so cold? And why do they act as if you have nothing better to do than sit around clad only in a piece of paper and your birthday suit, and wait?"

Still The One

I'm fairly certain every woman has fantasized about what she'd do if given the chance to show someone from her past how she has grown from an ugly duckling to a swan.

"Ally Fletcher had waited six years for this opportunity. Six long years. There was no way a mere thunderstorm was going to stop her. Of course, in Texas, calling this a mere thunderstorm was like saying a Texas tornado was a mere puff of wind."

Author Confession

The worst thing about reading someone else's sparkling prose is that I despair of ever being as good. The best thing is that I'm motivated to improve my writing skills. So I keep writing and working on my prose, from the first few sentences to the last one preceding The End.

Do you want to know the truth? I honestly can't think of anything that's more fun! I'm one of the luckiest women on the planet. I make my living by writing stories about sex, romance, love, commitment, and all the funny, crazy things that happen to a man and a woman who are made for each other–but who don't yet know it.


  1. Hi Joan, I love your positive attitude. Yes, it's fun writing what we like. The necessary evils associated with writing are less fun, entering contests, submitting to publishers, expecting reviews, and coping with rejections. But in the end there is hope. Successful authors like yourself are the heroes we try to emulate.

  2. Hi, Mona. I'm flattered, but I'm not a hero--just a working writer who loves my job.

  3. Love all Joan's books...even the one's that aren't 99 cents!!! They are funny, page-turners, that make you feel good and then you start them again!

  4. Thank you so much, Elaine. You brightened a dreary, gray day!

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

    1. If you don't want to be called a hero, ow about role model? I vote for that one! You keep on keepin' on!