MEANWHILE … Opening lines set the stage. Whether it is a first encounter in a dimly lit club or a meeting with clients in a dark paneled boardroom, the first few words can make all of the difference.
The date or the deal depends largely on whether or not those initial words and sentences elicit a spark of interest. A kind or desperate soul might be patient enough to wait through a mangled start, but most lack the patience. It is either catch them at the beginning or never catch them at all
As a writer, I always strive to create an opening that gets the reader to turn the page. Whether or not I am successful, I suppose, is up to the reader. Assuming that you have read this far … I thought I would share some openings with you and let you tell me if I am successful.
Following are 6 story openings: 2 from published stories, 2 from stories that should be published soon, and 2 from works in progress. Let me know what you think.
“The Chop Chop Chang Adventure from DOC CLAUS:
With the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Columbia only a couple of days away, Ramon’s Restaurant, like the rest of Cocoa Beach, was eager to relive its glory days. While fresh paint and polished woodwork tried to turn back Father Time, one thing had never changed. There was no question that Ramon’s Caesar salad was still the creamiest, most amazing in the land just as it had been years ago when Alan Shepherd and Gus Grissom were regulars at both the restaurant and Ramon’s Rainbow Room.
But Norman Latham, Doctor Norman Latham, PhD, was not thinking about the Caesar salad. He needed a drink, a drink to still the voice in his head, and Ramon’s was the only place he remembered from the old days. He found a booth in the back where he could talk with some privacy and had that drink and then a few more.
Had it really been over twenty years ago?
“Harvey,” Latham slurred slightly, “Your name is Harvey, isn’t it? You look like a Harvey. Anyway, Harvey, as I was saying, my team was ready to go before Shepherd. Before Glenn. Before any of them. At least Chop Chop Chang made it. Even after everything that happened.”
“Mike Fink and the River Round-Up” from TALL PULP:
Back in sweeter times, back between the wars, travelling men would often stop at this little river town in Kentucky. Some claimed to come for the waters and others for the peace and quiet. But, these were travelling men and, truth be told, they came for the poker game that could always be found in the back of Dodd’s Barber Shop. The amount of money that changed hands in that room was the stuff of legends. Literally legends, as more than once, the likes of Titanic Thompson or Nick the Greek or someone with a similar reputation sat around that table stacking chips, tossing cards, and spinning yarns.
But that was a generation ago. Oh, there is still a poker game in the back of Dodd’s, but it’s only a couple of times a week now, the players are a lot older, and the travelling men don’t pass through any more unless they are on their way to visit grandkids. The bankrolls and bets tend to be smaller and the stories larger.
It was a crisp winter evening, coming up on Christmas 1961, when Coot Dillingham arrived about twenty minutes into the game shaking the snow from his coat and hat. Coot was spry for seventy-two, with a full head of wavy white hair and mischievous blue eyes.
A soon to be published story featuring Dix Delacorte, a private investigator in Saint Louis, Missouri circa World War II:
In an alley a few blocks away from Sportsman’s Park, a penny clattered to rest no more than a quarter inch from the exterior wall of Bergmann’s Bakery. My penny. I gleefully snatched it up along with the three pitched by the losers. Hard to imagine that there was a time when I would not bother to stop to pick up a penny from the sidewalk. These days, I had no trouble taking pennies from twelve year olds. In this case the three twelve year olds were Johnny Davis, Skeeter Randolph, and Mickey Lowe, part of a group that called themselves the Knothole Gang. As they floundered for excuses for losing to an old man, their emphasis, certainly not mine, I made some reference to candy and babies just for their edification.
What I had neglected to tell them was that I was flush from a nice night at Vic Doyle’s and with flushness came generosity. In my pocket were tickets for the Knothole Gang to the Cardinals doubleheader against the Phillies which would be starting in less than an hour. Actually my gesture was not entirely altruistic; the tickets were more a payment for services rendered. The Gang was a great source of information and errands. And in my business, you can never have too much information or too many eyes and ears.
Right on cue, Cotton Masters and Boo Radcliffe came skidding around the corner. Alternating phrases as they waited for their breath to catch up with them, they spilled the latest news.
“Dix … Dix …” Cotton started.
That’s me. Dixon Delacorte. Once upon a time I would have followed that up with “of the Saint Louis Delacortes.” For the last eight years, I have followed it with the words “Private Investigator” instead.
A soon to be published story featuring a character that I cannot discus … yet:
Despite what some may say, I like the quiet life. that’s one of the reasons I left Saint Louis for the Middle East some years ago. The pace is slower. The people are patient. It is an ancient land and an ancient culture and with that comes an appreciation for the simple things in life.
Sure, the cacophony of sounds from car horns to camel bleats and the contrasts of bespoke suits with Bedouin burnooses might strike some as crazy. The bartering in the Bazaar and the incessant demand for baksheesh can appear chaotic to visitors. But from Istanbul to Marrakesh and back to Cairo, I have enjoyed the company of these proud people who seek little more than to provide for their family and please Allah.
These days I have carved out my own quiet little corner in Cairo.
From Work-in-Progress #1:
As the Great Depression ravaged America, humbling even New York City, and the expanding economic plague wreaked havoc on the great cities of Europe as well, one city in the Orient rose above them all. For those seeking wealth or those already prosperous and seeking only the pleasures their riches could buy, an intoxicating pearl emerged from the Whangpoo River.
Shanghai beckoned the dreamers and the decadent, the rich and the refugees, the adventurous and the artists, along with the criminals and confidence men that congregate wherever money and opportunity meet. There were many Shanghais and occasionally one bled into the other, but it was possible it live in Shanghai as a Westerner and never experience the Orient or as a Chinaman in Old Shanghai eternally avoiding the foreign devils. But for most it was an exotic blend of East and West, an Occidental Babylon.
From Work-in-Progress #2:
Glorianna Hastings stood with her hands on her hips, wearing nothing but a step-in, as she scrutinized the last two items left hanging in her armoire. One was an empty hanger still swinging from when she pulled the dress free and let it drop to the ground. The other was a gorgeous Coco Chanel number that she just could not cast onto the floor with the others. It was a Christmas gift from her father, just a little over a year ago, in 1928, back when they both thought the party would never end.
Her bottom lip pooched out into a pout, as much out of habit as anything, she stomped her bare foot in frustration. She had business to attend and somewhere amid her myriad of flapper dresses and co-ed ensembles there had to be something to wear. With her toes she poked and prodded the garments on the ground, wrinkling her nose at the options available. She moved to the bed and rustled through the clothing there finding nothing that even earned a second glance. A sigh turned into a soft, almost silent giggle, as she grabbed the Coco Chanel and pulled it on.
MEANWHILE … I need to get back to those works in progress ….