Mystery – Novel’s First Line

She kneeled, her back pressed against the searing metal of the Suburban’s door, hoping it would shield them from gunfire, praying her smile would stifle the wail she saw in her toddler’s eyes.


This is my entry for the Trifecta Weekend Challenge: What we want you to do this weekend is to give us a 33-word opening line to your book. That’s it. Make us want to read the next 333 pages of your work.

This beginning is from my first novel – a mystery that takes place one hot, Phoenix summer. It has not been published, but I still hope one day it will. Dreams keep writers writing, you know!


76 thoughts on “Mystery – Novel’s First Line

  1. lumdog July 27, 2012 / 10:00 AM

    Your opening line certainly grabs the reader. You should have it made with the puplishers.

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:42 PM

      Thanks, Lumdog. I just might find a publisher one day (well, if I start shopping again, that is :))

  2. Jeanna July 27, 2012 / 10:55 AM

    Awesome! I want to read more.

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:42 PM

      Thanks, Jeanna – I’m glad you liked it!

  3. Tessa July 27, 2012 / 11:16 AM

    Great job Janna. It definitely caught my attention and pointed out the fear she was facing all in one sentence.

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:44 PM

      Thanks, Tessa. It’s not all fear – I do have a fair amount of humor mixed in, too.

  4. newwhitebear July 27, 2012 / 11:45 AM

    This novel’s line is nice and amazing. How will it end?

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:46 PM

      Hmmm….it ends fairly happily and with hope…how’s that for a vague answer, Newwhitebear?

  5. momsomniac July 27, 2012 / 12:04 PM

    It’s a powerful line – but too real for me, at the moment…
    though your fan in Colorado will certainly buy the novel WHEN it is published

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:48 PM

      Oooh, I didn’t think about that when I posted it (sorry!)

      My started-but-not-finished second novel needed a paragraph to make it work, and I’ve written about Ellie so much in the last few months, I ended up here. Thanks for your vote of confidence, Momsomniac. I’ll definitely do a blog post when it’s published (love the positive thinking :))

  6. braintomahawk July 27, 2012 / 1:29 PM

    Throwing us right into the action – like diving into the pool without dipping your toe in 😉 Perfect!

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:51 PM

      Thanks, Braintomahawk. I like your analogy – I also like to keep things interesting (unfortunately, sometimes at the expense of my characters’ development…that’s something I’m working on.)

  7. El Guapo July 27, 2012 / 2:10 PM

    A great opener! Grabbed me and left me wanting the next sentence!

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:52 PM

      I’m glad it got your attention, El Guapo. Too bad you’re not a literary agent…are you? 😆 (I’m only kidding, of course!)

  8. Libby July 27, 2012 / 2:46 PM

    Excellent first sentence! Not a normal day in the life of a soccer mom!

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:55 PM

      No, not a normal day at all. If the gunfire wasn’t bad enough, she also had to endure the humiliation of passing out and coming to in the mall’s food court. Thanks for reading, Libby!

  9. Renada Styles July 27, 2012 / 5:29 PM

    the action has already begun, and it’s just the beginning! sounds like this would be an exciting book to read.

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 6:59 PM

      Thanks, Renada. Someday, I’ll get back to polishing the manuscript and shopping it again. Right now, I’ll just write 🙂

  10. Marie July 27, 2012 / 6:10 PM

    Oh her poor toddler.

    • jannatwrites July 27, 2012 / 7:00 PM

      It was a frightening experience, but he was unharmed in the incident. Thanks for reading, Marie!

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 8:28 AM

      Thanks, Rosie. I’m glad it captured your interest!

  11. vivinfrance July 28, 2012 / 5:47 AM

    Good in media res hook – you’d be obliged to read on. Maybe if you changed kneeled to knelt?

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 8:29 AM

      Funny you should mention that word, Vivinfrance…I waffled between which one to use. I found that either usage was an acceptable past tense form, so I flipped a coin 🙂 Thanks for reading my entry!

  12. Gina July 28, 2012 / 6:51 AM

    I sure hope they stay hidden and the toddler responds positively to mom’s smile. Scary beginning, Janna!

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 8:31 AM

      If ever there was a time the child should listen, this is it 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Gina.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 8:34 AM

      Thanks, RubberChickenMa! It’s encouraging that it didn’t bore you 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 8:34 AM

      Thanks for reading, Nancy. One of these days, I’ll dust off that manuscript and give it another go. But not today!

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 1:46 PM

      Thanks, hypercryptical. (Like that name, BTW :))

  13. Carrie July 28, 2012 / 9:55 AM

    A tense opening, one that makes you want more. My only critique is that for such a tense opening line, it’s much too long a sentence. I think it would be more effective if you could break it up a bit. Short choppy sentences lend well to tension 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 1:50 PM

      I agree with your note about short sentences creating tension. I actually strung everything together because I didn’t know how strictly Trifecta was looking at this…I took “a 33-word opening line” to mean a single sentence.

      Thanks for taking the time to offer your critique, Carrie. It really is helpful to get feedback!

  14. trailertrashdeluxe July 28, 2012 / 10:43 AM

    I want to read more of this book. I think it works fine either way, as one sentence or several. Today’s short-attention-span book shopper might have their attention grabbed better by leaving it in one sentence. They ought to give the writer the benefit of at least reading one whole sentence before going on to the next book. Who knows? In any case, I want to read more of this book.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 2:00 PM

      I’m glad this was enough to get your attention, Trailertrashdeluxe. I might be unusual, but I give an author at least a couple pages to lose me or hold my interest 🙂 This is a lot of pressure to put on one line! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  15. Ruby Manchanda July 28, 2012 / 10:55 AM

    A very tense situation. I do hope both of them are safe. And I appreciate the last line – the mother giving courage to her toddler even though they are in toughest times. Truly loved the expression.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 2:05 PM

      Thanks, Ruby, I’m glad you liked that part. I appreciate you stopping by!

  16. Carl D'Agostino July 28, 2012 / 12:45 PM

    He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

    This is first line from a novel I wrote about an old fisherman in Cuba in the 1950’s. You are welcome to use it.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 2:06 PM

      This must be a patient man – eight-four days is a long time to not catch a fish. Did you ever try to get it published?

      Thanks for sharing this line, Carl.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 2:08 PM

      The good thing is that if we make it through the summer, the winters are great 🙂 Glad you dropped by, Kelly!

  17. SAM July 28, 2012 / 1:34 PM

    yes, I’d have to know how she got there.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 2:08 PM

      I guess it works well enough, then, Sam 🙂 Thanks!

      • SAM July 28, 2012 / 4:08 PM

        it definitely worked!

        • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 10:44 PM

          🙂 Thanks for making me smile.

  18. Mel July 28, 2012 / 3:40 PM

    This is intense. My stomach flipped when I read there was a toddler involved. Strong start!

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 10:45 PM

      Thanks, Mel. I’m glad the emotion of the scene carried through.

  19. cuhome July 28, 2012 / 4:34 PM

    I definitely would want to keep reading into this chapter. Grabbed me and held on. I like it.

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 10:46 PM

      I’m glad it interested you enough to want to read further, Janet 🙂

  20. Sandra July 28, 2012 / 9:41 PM

    How exciting you are writing/have written a novel! This opening is gripping–I’m intrigued by the reflection in the child’s eyes. Well done!

    • jannatwrites July 28, 2012 / 10:52 PM

      Thanks, Sandra! I finished this novel in 2010 (the first one I ever finished…all the others died before the 50-page mark.) I’ve been practicing writing with the hope that my writing improves, so one day I can go through the novel again and make it shine 🙂

  21. uneven steven July 29, 2012 / 12:34 AM

    good contrast with the child and the violence – very effective

    • jannatwrites July 29, 2012 / 3:08 PM

      I’m glad, Steven. (That it was effective…not that the child was in a violent situation :))

  22. Annabelle July 29, 2012 / 9:00 AM

    Love that last phrase! The detail here really grabs the reader right off.

  23. Christine July 29, 2012 / 1:54 PM

    Eeek! Tense and intense. I love in media res beginnings.

    • jannatwrites August 1, 2012 / 12:19 PM

      Thanks, Christine! I’m glad you enjoyed the action.

  24. trifectawriting July 29, 2012 / 5:07 PM

    I like your mix of contrasts here–you get the well-off mom vibe along with the gunfire thing along with the child who wants to cry and the mom who’s trying to smile. It’s a good beginning! Thanks for linking up with Trifextra this weekend. Hope to see you back soon.

  25. Drew Merten July 29, 2012 / 6:50 PM

    It is a good opening line. I’d read it. Have you ever given thought to self publishing?

    • jannatwrites July 29, 2012 / 10:57 PM

      I haven’t seriously considered it at this point, mainly because I probably need an editor. I wouldn’t want to ruin my name with something that needed lots of help 🙂 Thanks for checking out my novel sentence, Drew.

      • Drew Merten July 30, 2012 / 5:16 AM

        I have three people that vet my manuscripts. My father, who does both a ton of writing and reading (that’s where I get it from), my father-in-law, who’s a retired college professor, and a good friend of mine who’s as picky about grammar as I am. 🙂 If you know some people that are grammar nazis (as my friend puts it) you’ve got some good editors right there. Just my opinion of course 🙂


        • jannatwrites July 30, 2012 / 7:30 PM

          Wow, that’s a great group you have there, Drew. You are so lucky! I have a couple people that can spot a plot hole a mile away, but none of us are grammar nazis 🙂 I do think eventually I’ll get there. It’s another exercise in patience!

  26. Christine Macdonald July 29, 2012 / 7:10 PM

    Gripping. Give us more!

    New to Trifecta and your site. Following. 🙂


    • jannatwrites July 29, 2012 / 11:03 PM

      Hi, Christine – I’m glad you tried the Trifecta. Thanks for reading my entry (and following my blog :))

  27. The Gal Herself July 29, 2012 / 10:04 PM

    Gulp! This is intense. I can tell this story is going to be a thrill ride.

    • jannatwrites July 29, 2012 / 11:06 PM

      It is a mystery/suspense, so there is a little bit of nail-biting, Gal. Thanks for reading!

  28. Misky July 30, 2012 / 12:47 AM

    I foresee that toddler complicating things for its mother!

    • jannatwrites July 30, 2012 / 7:27 PM

      Could be, Misky….toddlers do have a way of being heard 🙂 Glad you stopped by!

  29. Cameron July 30, 2012 / 6:01 AM

    Ok, you’ve got me.

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