Famous First Words by Ashe Barker (@ashebarker)
We all know the importance of having the last word, and making it a good one. History is full of examples of profound statements or sparkling wit in the directs of circumstances – ‘Et tu Brute’, ‘Thank God, I have done my duty.’ ‘I told you I was ill’. There are countless others, but I’ll allow Julius Caesar, Lord Nelson and the late great Spike Milligan to prove the point for me.
But for authors I suspect the first words are the hardest. Not only do the opening sentences need to introduce the characters, the situation, the story, but they must also draw in the reader, engage them pretty much instantly. And hang on to the audience long enough for the plot to start flowing. Readers look at the blurb on the back of the book, maybe admire your beautifully designed cover art, but their next step will be to open the book and scan the first few lines. This is the acid test – well, it is for me. That’s the point when I either head for the counter or the one click button, or move on to the next offering. The competition is fierce, so those immortal opening lines are crucial.
The greats of literature knew this, and some had it down to a fine art. My own personal favourite is the wonderful Jane Austen whose immortal opening line to Pride and Prejudice is always my inspiration.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Austen manages to entangle the mundane and the profound, the serious and the plainly ridiculous in just a few words. Would that I could match it. In my own stories I usually aim to immediately throw the reader into the middle of a dramatic situation – a disastrous BDSM scene, a crime in progress, some sort of conflict or confrontation. I always try to convince the reader that the next few seconds are vital – it only takes a few seconds to read the first few sentences, then we’re in business.
With a series of course, things shift a little. A reader opening book two or three is probably already committed. They’ve read the first book(s), engaged with the story, the characters and. we assume, now they want to know what happens next. But there’s still no harm in getting off to a flying start. No excuse for letting the drama fade, for taking the reader’s continued interest for granted. Sure Thing, the second book in my Sure Mastery trilogy opens with the heroine, Ashley, stranded on the wild Bronte moors, in the middle of winter, ill, and alone apart from a dog. It’s dark, bitterly cold, there’s no prospect of rescue that she knows of. And it’s snowing. Her chances of surviving the night are slim.
Clearly she does survive – it would be a short story otherwise – but the point remains valid I hope.
How do you like to see a story open? What is it that grabs you, and holds your interest? What are your personal favourite opening lines?
The first two books in the Sure Mastery trilogy are on general release. You can get your hands on Unsure and Sure Thing from the usual places – Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com Totally Bound Barnes and Noble All Romance Sony Kobo
The third book, Surefire, is available for early download from Totally Bound, and will be on general release from 31 January 2014.
Excerpt from Sure Thing :-
I meet Tom at the top of the stairs as I come out of the bathroom, clutching a mug of steaming coffee. His head is cocked to one side, his eyebrows raised in some surprise but obvious appreciation that I’m naked and wandering shamelessly around his house. I pad wordlessly past him, back into his bedroom, and he follows me in. He sets the mug down on the bedside table, only just in time as I launch myself at him.
Startled, he catches me as I straddle his waist, clutching his wonderful latter-day Viking face between my hands and sink my lips onto his. In true Viking fashion he recovers from the surprise admirably and within seconds his tongue is in my mouth. I have a moment’s relief that I had the foresight to clean my teeth when I went to the bathroom just now, then I’m bouncing backwards onto the bed.
“Bugger off, Barney, find your own lady.” Tom’s voice is gruff, urgent, and the dog gets the message, lumbers off the bed and out onto the landing. Then it’s just us.
Maybe it was the shock of nearly dying just yesterday, but all I can feel is desperation to have him inside me. And I can’t wait. I need the life-affirming impact of hard, fast, deep sex. And I need it now. When Tom would have likely stroked, caressed, made me ready, I pull at his belt impatiently, tearing his work jeans open and reach greedily for his cock. He’s already rising to the occasion, solid and hard and thick. My fist around his huge erection, I push him off me, onto his back. I suppose he could have it his way if he decides to insist, but he simply lets me take charge.
I climb on top of him, my thighs spread, place my knees on either side of him. He’s still fully dressed and I’m naked but it doesn’t matter for what I have in mind right now, it heightens the pleasure if anything. One hand on his chest to steady myself, I use my other hand to position him at my entrance. But he rolls to one side, stops me from sinking onto him as I intended. At first I think, dismayed, disappointed, that he’s going to throw me off, that he’s going to roll on top and take over after all. But no, he just reaches into the back pocket of his jeans and pulls out a foil packet, hands it to me.
“Be prepared, sweetheart.” His grin quirks up the edges of his mouth as he lies still, waiting for me to do the honours.
And I realise that I’ve never actually put a condom on a man before. Perceptive, he sees my indecision, my uncertainty, and takes the foil pack back. He rips it open, then hands me the rolled up condom.
“Just nip the end between your thumb and finger, like this”—he demonstrates—“and then put it on. Just roll it down slowly.”
My desperation mounting, there’s no time to waste. I shift back a little to sit astride his legs, his jeans crumpled beneath my thighs, and concentrate on my task. It’s remarkably easy, thank God. Complicated would be quite beyond me at this moment. The condom safely in position, I glance back at his face to see that his eyes are now closed. He’s grimacing, but I’m sure he’s not in pain.
“It’s done,” I whisper.
He opens his eyes. “Then, baby, I’m all yours.”
With no further ado I wriggle back up him, and with a soft moan lower myself gratefully onto his shaft. I groan. The sensation feels wonderful. Fabulous. I’m stretched, tight, almost to the point of pain. It’s near, but it’s not quite painful, not really. It’s more that I’m—full, complete. And in control.
For long moments I don’t move, and neither does he. My eyes are closed as I savour this—connection—between us. Then I open my eyes, look down into his glittering, emerald gaze. He smiles up at me, his eyes warm as he reaches up, the back of his knuckles delicately tracing my nipples, first one, then the other. He takes one between his finger and thumb and rolls it, gentle at first then firming his touch. His smile still light, he squeezes the hard little bud. I gasp, and startled out of my reverie I begin to move. I use my thighs to raise myself up then sink back each time, revelling in the feeling of being stretched, filled entirely. I concentrate on sliding up and down on his hard, thick shaft as I settle into my rhythm. I use my inner muscles to squeeze him, to clench around him. He groans, releases my nipple to take firm hold of my hips. And I’m no longer the one controlling this, I’m no longer alone in setting our rhythm. He holds my body as I continue to move on him, but he’s now thrusting upwards to meet me, filling me each time, angling the thrusts to hit my most sensitive spot. The pleasure builds and I share my power willingly—I arch, scream with the mindless delight of it.
I feel the boil of orgasm starting, deep within, bubbling, simmering, gathering heat, gurgling upwards and outwards like a volcano. It’s new, unfamiliar, as though I’ve never been so thoroughly fucked before.
And maybe I haven’t. At least, I’m only just starting to become accustomed to being fucked by a man I love.
With that realisation comes release. I pitch forward, collapsing boneless, on top of Tom’s chest as my orgasm pulses through me.
More about me : I live in the UK, in northern England, on the edge of the wonderful Bronte moors in West Yorkshire. Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company before becoming convinced there must be more to life. I left to work as an independent consultant, and still do some of that though most of my time is now spent writing. At last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance myself. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres, and I still love reading historical and contemporary romances – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse – research.
In my own writing I usually draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters, but my stories of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid imagination.
When not writing – which is not very often – my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, tortoises. And most recently a very grumpy cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles.
I’ve just completed my third trilogy in the Black Combe ‘family’ and I’m working on a fourth. Currently in the publication pipeline are a novella, a short story, and a stand-alone novel for Totally Bound’s ‘What’s Her Secret?’ imprint. All are due for release over the next few months.