Over the years I have presented many a lecture to writers’ groups on a variety of subjects. One topic in particular, presented on several occasions, examines outstanding opening lines in books, why they work, and how writers can use that knowledge to create better openings for their own stories.
One example I use—one of my favorites—is, “He was dying faster than usual that morning, striping the sides of the dry sink with bloody sputum and shreds of shattered lung.”
So begins Bloody Season by Loren D. Estleman.
Not only does it begin in a way that intrigues and engages readers, it drags us into the story to find out the who, what, where, and why of Estleman’s opening line. And it doesn’t stop there. The entire book sings with wordsmithing that makes the reading as fascinating as the story.
Bloody Season is the story of the famed gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Not only do we learn what led to the altercation, we learn what happened in the aftermath—a bloody season of manhunts and murders. You’ll come to know Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and other well-known characters better than you know them now, no matter how well that is.
Few writers can evoke the level of feeling that Estleman can, or paint characters with such vivid color. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this book. But I can promise you I’ll read it again.