Saturday, February 24, 2007

American Author

I had never watched “American Idol” until last year when I began watching it with my youngest daughter because it gave us something to talk about. (She’s in middle school. Need I say more?) I didn’t really expect to like it, but I completely fell in love with the show, although I can’t bear to watch it before it progresses to the live broadcasts where all the contestants can actually sing. However, seeing some of the clips from the early audition rounds made me wonder what it would be like if there were a similar show for writers.

Think about it. All the best books on writing (and all the most popular editor and agent blogs) tell writers that their first lines absolutely MUST hook the reader. What better way to test your first line than auditioning it before a panel of judges? Let’s say . . . Anna Genoese, Stephen King, and Miss Snark. You can bet I’d make damn sure I didn’t have any passive voice or clichés or general dullness in my opening line before I read it in front of that trio! (The announcer should be Michael Bublé, for eye candy!)

Then, after making it through the first-line round, the contestants would read their first paragraphs the next week, with the survivors reading their first pages the following week. When there were only two contestants remaining, they would read their entire first chapters for the finale, and viewers would vote to choose the winner of the publishing contract.

Yeah, okay. I know a show like this isn’t likely, but it’s a good exercise for writers to see if their openings need work, and it would be a fun game for critique groups to play.

Here’s mine: Jess always woke a second before she could complete the castration—curses, foiled again.

Well, Steve-O probably wouldn't like it, but maybe the ladies would vote me through.

~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true!


  1. Loved your opening line and the concept for an American Idol for writers.

    Okay, I wanna play. LOL. I thought of a great opening last night (notice I didn't say line as it's actually four lines long, but . . .), though as yet I have no story for it - well maybe. Might have to add it to the first chapter of another project I'm working on. So - here goes.

    She bolted straight up in bed, her nightgown plastered to a trembling body. A light breeze forced lace curtains into a shadowy dance. The window, barred and locked before she'd turned out the lights stood wide open. The nightmare she'd held at bay had entered her room.

  2. Isn't that what the First Chapters contest is, just not visual?

  3. Oh, sure. Try to give someone else the credit for my idea, flyboy. I suppose they're about the same, except mine would take place in real time with the added pressure of spoken presentation.

    Ciara, that's a great opening. Here's the rest of mine:

    Jess always woke a second before she could complete the castration. Curses, foiled again.

    She blinked at the red numbers projected onto her ceiling by the clock on her night stand—4:23 a.m. Plenty of time to go back to sleep and finish the job, but she knew it was useless. She’d just end up dreaming about giving birth to a canned ham or grocery shopping in her pajamas, and Lee’s manhood would escape the knife again.

    She snuggled against the body pillow occupying his place beside her in bed and got an indignant rowl from the Siamese cat curled up there. Jess smiled at the thought of what Lee would say about letting Ming sleep with her and thought maybe she’d tell him he’d been replaced by his feline nemesis when she saw him at the meeting later that morning.

    She fell asleep reminding herself of how much better off she was without her two-timing, cat-hating, conceited jerk of a husband, and she dreamed he made love to her on the conference table at work, castration the furthest thing from her mind.

    God, she hated him.