Second chapter, first lines

EDIT: 7/24

I have closed the comments only because I don’t want to miss anyone’s posts and have them think I’m ignoring them. I’ll have a new post on Tuesday, the 25th for more of your first-lines.

It was so encouraging seeing all your first-chapter, first lines on Wednesday. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one sitting alone at a desk trying to herd those literary cats. You guys have some great ideas. Today, I’m going to open the blog up for more as I keep this first-line madness going.

After a hellacious afternoon yesterday, I’ve got the first few lines of chapter two of SKINS to share, and if you have more of your work ready for visual consumption, post it! I think it’s fascinating, and a good exercise, to see how much of a story comes through from just those first lines.

In genre fiction, chapter two doesn’t have to be as attention getting as chapter one, and you can see that as the focus turns from action/dialog to a little more scene setting. In my case, chapter two introduces the three main characters in a setting I will be using over and over. (Chapter one introduced the “sparkle element,” the thing that makes the story unique, the secret that I slowly reveal through the first third of the book to keep you interested.) Again, I’ve started with dialog just because I tend to be description heavy in the first three pages of any chapter, and I need something to break it up.

If you want to make an exercise out of this show-and-tell experiment, give me two versions of your opening chapter two: the first as you have it, and the second rewritten using dialog if your original lacks it, or pure description, if your original has dialog. See what happens. (But please, limit this exercise to no more than five lines of text. 🙂

Original chapter two, first few lines from SKINS

“Gosh darn tower is still down,” Nat muttered, squinting at the faded screen in annoyance. Her body was angled so her shadow would fall across it, but the morning sun was so intense, it made little difference.

rewritten without dialog, expanding on sensations and place setting:

The heat of the sun on her back was intense, and Nat squinted at the sun-bleached phone screen in annoyance as the little beachball of death spun. Either she was in a dead zone, or last night’s storm had taken out the towers.

The first has more action, the second more back story and connection to the previous chapter, both work. Interestingly, though, the first feels more connected, as if just the act of speaking makes a deeper connection.

Your turn! Show and tell!


Filed under Drama Box

53 responses to “Second chapter, first lines

  1. This is so cool! I love reading the first lines of everyone [especially for SKINS]. While I missed getting in on the first chapter lines, here is my second:

    I sat up in a cold sweat. Fear and desperation gripped me as I brushed at the creatures, trying to throw them off. Frantic, my motions picked up speed, but the creatures kept coming back.

  2. Monday, October 23rd, 6:05pm
    The late lunch had been good, and very welcome – far better than Bella would have been able to afford on her own – but it had taken over an hour to extract herself from Buster’s gratitude. It had seemed as though the man couldn’t stop going on about her saving his life and how he owed her.

  3. From a story about childhood, lighthouse summer holidays and helping to catch drug smugglers;

    First version
    With banshee wails seven boys and girls erupted onto the wharf near the edge of the beach. They had been crouched down until they saw me step off the boat. They ran with their arms waving in the air and their legs pumping. I edged a little behind my Aunty Julia as they skidded to a halt in front of me.

    Second Version
    “I won, I won,” yelled John as he slid to a halt in front of me.
    “You pushed me over half way down,” said Peter as he shoved his brother to the side.
    “It’s not fair. Your legs are longer and you started running before you yelled ‘Race’ at us,” grumbled the next few new kids to surround me. I shrunk back thinking aloud, though I didn’t know it, “Who are all these people?”

  4. Original:

    “Daegan Kyrian Scott! Come back here, ye long legged Highlander!”
    Ahnya shrieked and threw off the heavy furs before bolting after him. The frog he’d placed in her bed leaped for cover and hopped across the stone floor of her bedroom to seek shelter. Daegan’s laughter was soon joined by another and she narrowed her eyes at the two boys running ahead of her.
    “Connal! It doesnae surprise me that yer’re in league with him! Yer’re both brats, do ye hear me?! Brats!”

    Re-written with just description:

    Ahnya shrieked and threw off the heavy furs before bolting after Daegan. Her fury rained down on him as she yelled after the gangly youth. The frog he’d placed in her bed leaped for cover and hopped across the stone floor of her bedroom to seek shelter. Daegan’s laughter was soon joined by his friend Connal’s as well. She narrowed her eyes at the two boys running ahead of her, kilts flapping in the breeze. Brats they both were.

  5. Current chapter two opener for Dual Blessed:

    Lucien Glacies paced the marble floor of Silenda’s Headquarters, his limited patience already worn to a thread. Three days—three days of meetings, discussions, interrogations with the leaders of this Element-forsaken city, three days that could have been better spent on the journey to rejoin his allies.

    Revised with dialogue:

    “You: boy!” Yulene’s harsh bark had his spine stiffening with indignation. “Stop your fidgeting. Come here.”
    A familiar bloom of frost accompanied his irritation, but Lucien took another deep breath to calm it. He didn’t care what name they called him, as long as they offered assistance. Timely assistance.

    Personally, I think the first works better at showing Lucien’s current mood, which plays a big part in the events of the chapter. It’s hard to show three days worth of red-tape bureaucracy in dialogue …

    • You’re right, Crystal. The first has more info. But you could start with Lucien muttering to himself, “Three days bloody hell wasted,” Lucien muttered as he paced from the room, and then his spine stiffened at Yulene’s harsh bark from behind him. Or something. . .

  6. Current chapter 2 opener:
    Awareness returned to Coleton Sheffield slowly. His body ached as if he hadn’t slept for weeks. As if he hadn’t been beaten for months, a full six of them that his mind could scarcely remember but his muscles weren’t yet ready to forget.

    Alternative attempt for dialogue:
    “Good evening.” More than the words, it was the witch’s voice that woke him, silkily rubbing down his spine and lilting–as if she’d made a joke. Cole blinked to find her smiling prettily over him.
    “Damn it, Mari,” he growled. “Where the hell are we?”

    Out of context, these samples are a bit, erm, eyebrow raising. >_> The witch aided the werewolf’s escape from chapter 1.

    You’re going to beat me to chapter 3. 🙂 I love the southern flavor to your SKINS dialogue, Kim! Also, great advice on UF/PNR first chapters. I wish I’d considered that on the book I’m currently querying. Might try a new revision for the first few chapters. Loving the updates!

  7. “Facing down one of you hairy monsters before coffee tends to make me crabby”, I muttered at the werewolf invading my kitchen. “How many times we gonna dance this dance before you give up?” Oh, to live in a world without werewolves and other demons, or at least to be able to take a vacation in one that was monster-free.

  8. From book 12 in my Alexa O’Brien Huntress series:

    “So you didn’t kill him?”
    “Nope. I didn’t. Got a problem with that?” I glared up at the fallen angel, annoyed with how he insisted on towering over me as I sat in my office chair.

  9. “All things consider…”
    “Really” she mutters effectively cutting me off. Rubbing the rim of her glass before carefully placing it back on an alcohol saturated napkin. Her long bangs shadow the raised eyebrow as a haunted eye meets mine in wary distrust.
    Our gazes held in soft consideration, hers is a mask born of historical betrayals, branded on her as obvious as the blonde of her hair. My eyes shift uncomfortably to the bar padding to witness my fingers unconsciously digging in, deep in the knowledge I lost the unspoken challenge.

  10. Amber

    Cold rippled through her as she quietly walked down the smooth stones. The wind pushed her forward, beckoning her towards the iron gate that lay ahead. The gate was the only thing that separated her from the castle, and that thought terrified her.

    My chapters start with nightmares the mc is having!

  11. Andrei woke to the sound of rain, as he had every night for half a century. He lay still in the darkness, listening to the steady thrum on the roof of the inn. Some nights it was a light shower, others a downpour – but rain, always rain.

  12. “Vincent was waiting by the dock for Jet Lee Jetson to show up. They had spoken in code on the phone in front of Raven. She didn’t know what had been discussed really were the fact that Jet and he were to meet at the docks. They never returned to a scene of the crime. Ever.”

    First Lines from Chapter Two Friends Forever (Besties) from Satan’s Prophets Book Two: The War Of The Two Princes

  13. Vampyre

    Sorry to be off topic but I just saw something very interesting and feel compelled to share it with you.

    Netflix is releasing an original movie starring Will Smith on Dec. 22. It’s called BRIGHT. You might like it.

    Here’s the link.

  14. Anne L

    Images of Missy’s smiling face drift through my mind as I sip coffee at the counter of yet another empty house. The yellow walls remind me of her family’s kitchen, but I dare not let my thoughts wander in that direction, not now. I have too much to do and I need to keep moving forward in order to remain sane

  15. Original: I extend my claws as I curve my fingers around the armrests of my Commander’s chair which was now a deep red.

    Revised: I leaned back into the faux leather of my Commander’s chair, now a deep shade of scarlet, and curved my extended claws over the ends of the armrests.

  16. Ch2
    This has been too easy, exactly per Tate’s well-choreographed plan except for the thunderstorm’s perfect timing. His gamble depended on Tori picking me up but had she been five minutes later when the heavens opened up I would think she wouldn’t have seen me on the side of the road.

    Ch2 is Gordon’s POV letting the reader know why he was at the side of the road. He can’t tell Tori for reasons disclosed later so I don’t want dialog at this point. Their locale description is in Ch1

  17. Since I missed the Chapter 1 section, I’ll do both
    Chapter 1
    “Where’s the blood?”
    I’d been muttering to myself for the better part of an hour staring at the photos spread out on my faded gold comforter. The thing about blood theft, my specialty at the DEC, was it always involved, well, blood.

    Chapter 2
    Someone digging a bullet out of your arm is not fun. Trust me. The less said about it the better.
    “Son of a shifter-humping blood thief,” I muttered, jerking my arm from the DEC’s door and choosing the more sane option of opening the heavy glass with my uninjured side. Never again did I want to have someone dig a bullet out of my arm. Healing ability be damned.

    Uh oh, now I’m not sure that the original is the best one.

  18. I missed the Chapter 1, but I’m super excited to participate in Chapter 2. 🙂

    After realizing she was still gaping, Ody closed her lips together and bit the top one. Everything she came to believe the last ten years changed instantaneously. She could feel her heart beating fast inside her chest. “You need to start talking.” She demanded. He healed her. He performed magic. He had powers. He found a way to use his powers. He really did figure out a way to escape. Escape! He could get her out of there. The box. The dreary enclosed space she came to know as her home until she died.


    “You need to start talking!” Odelynne demanded as her heart drummed in her chest and her thoughts ran wild. She couldn’t believe he just performed magic right in front of her.
    “Where do you want me to begin?” This new cellmate gave a cocky laugh.
    “Can you really get us out?” She tried not to stammer her words. They wanted to pour out of her, but nothing else came out. Asking him is name now seemed less of a priority.
    “Yes. I can’t do it alone, though.”

  19. (Beginning of Chapter 1)

    Talbot County, Easton Maryland, October 17th 2016

    42 year old Karren Taylor sat behind her desk looking at the folder with 12 year old Adam Walker’s crime scene photos. Not only were they gruesome but completely baffling. There was neither any sign of anyone entering or leaving the Walker’s home, the Alarm had been set, and ONLY Adam and his parents had the code. Looking at the photos Karren could only guess why anyone would want to Literally deface Adam. His parents were demanding answers that she simply could not give. “Where did his face go?”, “Why didn’t we hear anything?”, “did he let someone in while they were asleep?”, and the big question, “What were the police going to do about it!?” THAT last question was the one she was afraid she could not answer first.

    (Beginning Chapter 2)

    Talbot County: Easton Maryland October 12th 2016: 6:15am The Walker’s House

    The House smelled of breakfast, Maddie Walker was busy getting it ready for her husband Frank Walker and Adam her son. Adam was late coming down, usually he got up before her and was down for breakfast before now. Hell the smell of bacon was so good, it could wake the neighbors! She smelled burnt toast, she went over to the smoking toaster and pulled the slide back up. The smell permeated the kitchen, and then the smoke alarm went off. A high piercing Beeping, like an annoying cicada at a pic-nick. Maddie grabbed the broom and with the handle and proceeded to hit the alarm over and over until the annoying noise finally ceased.

  20. Prologue

    Talbot County, Easton Maryland, October 12th 2016

    Adam woke up, He had had the nightmare again. He was covered in sweat and was shivering, even though it was almost 75° in his bedroom with the fan running, it had been an unseasonably warm Fall so far. He could still smell the retched odor of Soured Milk that was on the Monster’s breath, such an unforgettable part of his dream. This would make the fifth time he would be shocked awake by the same Nightmare in as many days. He looked at his digital clock, it glowed 3:00 AM. He still had three hours before he had to get ready for school. Adam was awake now and knew he would never get back to sleep, so he reached between his mattress and box spring and found one of his favorite comic books. He pulled out his flashlight from under his pillow and turned to the page where he left off. Immediately in his imagination, he becomes the Great Dark Knight!

  21. ndfessenden

    Was this why Snezhana was avoiding me? Did she know she was going to be married off to another house? I paced the room.

  22. Rose Inskeep

    Leaving Mark’s office, I paused to look around the room. I could tell everyone had questions. As Mel headed straight for me, I realized that I wasn’t ready to answer.
    As I left Mark’s office I could hear my name being called from across the common area. “River, do you still have your job?” Mel was headed straight for me, and I wasn’t ready to answer.

  23. I missed the post about first lines for Chapter 1, so here it is:

    Brush strokes were as immutable to Mira as her life—unchangeable and only able to be destroyed once created.

    My Chapter 2 first lines:
    Mira walked with Nayomi down the bustling streets of New York City. She watched as Nayomi wound her way through the people as if she were perfectly aware of where the openings would be. It was the exact opposite for Mira. She bumped shoulders, and elbows, and she was about to lose Nayomi’s blond ponytail in the throng of people.

  24. Original version without dialogue:

    I sat on an orange-and-brown patchwork divan, one of Edgar’s newest acquisitions, as a fourteen-year-old boy stared a hole through my face. I crossed my legs and offered the boy a three-quarters profile, listening to the pounding of feet overhead.

    Re-written to begin with dialogue:

    “So you’re, like, Elle’s brother or something?”
    I turned to the fourteen-year-old boy who’d spent the last ten minutes staring a hole through my face. “What?”