Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesdays in Twinland: Twin Talk

Ever seen the video of talking twins on youtube? No? Well, allow me to enlighten you.

Less there be any confusion, let me reiterate that these twins are not mine. I don't feel comfortable publicly posting photos and videos of my children online. However, my twins sound EXACTLY like these twins. And their conversations sound EXACTLY the same.

It's kind of creepy, actually.

My twins aren't saying a lot of words yet, and I am convinced that it is because they can communicate with each other just fine. They talk a blue stream to each other all. Day. Long. And it seriously is one of the most adorable things about having twins.

Twinspeak is most definitely a real thing. Thing 1 and Thing 2 have a language all their own, and the are fully fluent in it. Too bad they won't clue me in on what it is they're saying.

TWIN MOM TIP: Don't compare your twins to each other, developmentally speaking. It's hard not to, but realize they are individuals and develop at their own pace. Thing 2 is definitely more chatty than Thing 1. I know he'll be speaking in full sentences before Thing 1 even bothers to use words.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: Blue Sky by Melissa Lemon

Today we have a book review of Blue Sky by Melissa Lemon. I'm so pleased to participate in this blog tour.

Synopsis: Sunny is bereaving the sudden death of her parents. Lewis is a homeless runaway seeking shelter in Sunny's basement from an early winter storm. When they unexpectedly meet, Sunny wants nothing more than to kill him. After a bizarre hostage situation and a poker game, Sunny realizes that Lewis isn't out to hurt her. Their initial distaste turns to friendship and love, but Sunny isn't keen on starting a relationship with a man she knows so little about. Lewis is loyal, and his patience paramount. Sunny is hesitant but her love runs deep and true. They are separated unwillingly, and must struggle and face overwhelming odds to find each other again.

What I Think: 3/5 stars! I loved reading about when Sunny and Lewis first meet, and seeing the dynamics of their relationship change over time. I also really liked meeting Lewis's family and learning more about them. This book also had a great supporting cast--I found Meg and Jack simply delightful.

I enjoyed learning about Lewis's past and watching his relationship with Sunny grow. However, Sunny's behavior was frustrating at times because she kept sending Lewis so many mixed signals! Even though Sunny's reasons for her poor behavior were understandable, I still felt for Lewis. Sunny eventually came around and in the end I was really rooting for Sunny and Lewis to get together. This is a sweet, clean, cozy romance, and makes for a great read on a stormy day when all you want to do is cuddle up in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate and a good book. This was the first book I'd ever read by this author, and now I'm excited to go read her other works.

Bio: Melissa has had many imaginary friends (and enemies) since she was a child. Her vivid imagination had her writing stories and jotting down book ideas for years until she finally sat down and finished a novel. She is married to an awesome man and the proud mother of three children. Music is also an important part of her life and she shares time with her music students teaching them piano, cello or guitar. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Utah and currently resides in the Salt Lake area.

You can buy Blue Sky here for kindle or here in paperback.

social media links: 
facebook * twitter * website * goodreads reviews


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesdays in Twinland: They Won't Share Mommy

Before having my twins, I had this vision of how things would be. I would hold both my sons in my arms and rock them gently to sleep, their heads nestled against me, soft breaths tickling my neck

I was wrong on all accounts.

They have never been the type of babies that enjoy getting rocked to sleep. When they are tired, they just want to be placed in their cribs and left alone.

My twins are also not the cuddly type. They love to give me kisses and to sit on my lap. But only for a moment. They are far too busy to spend any real time snuggling with mommy. There's a whole big world to explore, after all.

The last count I was wrong on was that I would be holding both my babies. I always assumed, since they were together every moment for eight months in the womb and have rarely been apart since birth, that they would always want to do everything together. Not so. My kids have always had a serious case of mommy envy. They really hate to share people.

Now the twins are eighteen months, and starting to be a little more willing to cuddle. At some point during playtime, one of the kids--usually Thing 1--will come up to me and say, "Up!" I smile, pick him up, and we cuddle for a few moments. But only a few moments. Because the second Thing 2 sees that Thing 1 is getting mommy attention, he rushes over and demands, "Up!"

I have room on my lap for two children, so I pick Thing 2 up as well. The second he is on my lap, Thing 1 squirms to get down and runs off to play. Thing 2 sees Thing 1 playing, so a few seconds later he scrambled down as well. Thing 1 runs back to me for cuddles. Thing 2 returns. Thing 1 gets down.

It's a viscous cycle, one that usually has me laughing out loud at their antics. It's nice to be so important they don't want to share me.

TWIN MOM TIP: Try to spend one-on-one time with each of your kids at least once a day, even if it's only for a few minutes. When you talk to them, use their name so they know you see them as an individual. Whenever I tell my children I love them, I always try to include their name.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Don't Limit Your Dreams

I've heard it said that you shouldn't put an age limit on your dreams. That you should just work towards your dreams with everything you have, and let them happen when they happen.

One of the traditions we have in our little family is that I cross-stitch a Christmas stocking for each family member. This tradition started with my mother, who cross-stitched my stocking for me my first Christmas. I made one for each of the boys their first Christmas, and finally finished Neil's (only three years after saying I would) this summer.

After finishing Neil's stocking in August, I got antsy and decided to start another Christmas stocking. A project like this takes a lot of hours to complete. Like probably close to a thousand, not exaggerating. It's no secret that we want another baby, but that getting pregnant doesn't come easy for us. I figured I'd get a head start on this stocking for the fifth member of our family. With two toddlers running amuck, time is in short supply, and I didn't want to be rushing at Christmas with two little boys and a baby to take care of. So I started the stocking. I figured it'd take me quite awhile to finish, and by the time it was done, I'd probably be pregnant. Maybe even have a name to place on top.

Six months later, I've finished the stocking, and still don't have a name to put on the top. It's empty. Blank. Who knows how long it will be until we can use it. Not this Christmas. Maybe not next. With the cost of in vitro, our "ideal family size" is dwindling, and our "ideal age gap" is widening.

I've delayed finishing this stocking for weeks. It could have been done at least a month ago. But I had placed a deadline on our goal of getting pregnant, and finishing the stocking without reaching that goal feels a little like failure.

This stocking has made me think a lot about writing. A long time ago, when I was probably about ten, I made a goal to be published by age 25. At the time that seemed so far away. I remember typing that goal out, printing it off, and pinning it to my writing cork board. And as I pushed that pin into the paper, I thought, I'll probably have like five books published by then. I bet I'm published by 20. Maybe I'll be published as a teenager! 

25 is now only two years away. That goal is seeming like a pretty steep one at the moment. If I wait until I'm almost 26, that gives me almost 3 years to make it happen. Not impossible, but hard. But I've realized something. If I'm not published by 25, the world won't end. I won't be a failure. I'm not going to stop working towards that goal. Nothing will really change. I'll still have the same hopes, same dreams. Same goals. Same steps I'm taking to achieve those goals. And eventually, I will be published. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of when. I don't need to put a time limit on it.

The same is true with a baby. It'll happen eventually, I just need to be patient. It's not about when I want it to happen. It's all in Someone else's hands. I'm not a failure because I didn't meet some ridiculous deadline.

I still am aiming for 25, but I won't give up if I'm not published by then. The goal is so much more than an age. After LTUE, I'm more motivated to work towards that publication goal. I feel like I've renewed my dedication to the craft and am more focused on the end goal. And you know what? I'm really loving the journey. I love learning. I love going to conferences. I love refining my skills and honing the craft. I love new ideas and getting that first draft down and then polishing it until it shines. Right now, anything can happen. Anything is possible. I don't need to put a time limit on my dreams. I just need to love getting there.


Saturday, February 16, 2013


I wasn't going to go to LTUE this year. I had never really heard about LTUE until this year. At first, when I started hearing about it, I assumed it was only for fantasy and sci-fi writers. Then I looked at the class schedule and realized there were tons of classes I was interested in attending.

I mentioned this fact in passing to my husband. He took off work without me even asking him to and said he was going to watch the kids and I was going to go to the conference.

My husband is a stud.

The conference has been fantastic, and I am so glad I came. The panels and classes have been educational and informative, but more than that it's been so fun to meet all the people I've been friends with online for months!

Wendy, me, Robin, and Donna...friends from iWriteNetwork finally meeting in person!

I think the real value of these conferences is in meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. I've always struggled with large social settings, and this was the first time I had people to actually do stuff with and talk to at the conference. I'm so grateful for that! Participating in my various critique groups and putting myself in online social situations has really helped me get over some of my fears and be a little less awkward (though only by a tiny bit) at this conference.

It's pretty rare in the "real" world to run into a writer. That's why I value my critique groups and online relationships so much. They're that connection with people who understand a craft and love it, just like me. Conferences are like writers groups and online chats on steroids.

I had an awesome time hanging out and chatting with people from my various critique groups today, as well as other friends. Me and two of the people from my online critique group, Wendy and Lauren, took off the afternoon to write. We found a relatively quiet corner and had so much fun! I was able to get some super awesome ideas from them during our brainstorming session for the new WIP I'm working on, and I'm more excited about this project than ever. 

I have had such a fantastic time at LTUE, and now I am so excited for LDStorymakers in May! I think the best part has been looking back and seeing how much I've done since the last writer's conference I've attended. I'm actually making progress on my writing, and it feels really good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesdays in Twinland: You Can't Relate to Other Moms

I've been struggling with a lot of things lately, and life in twinland is definitely one of them. I love my kids, but the truth is being a mom is hard, and being a mom of twins is really hard.  I am trying really hard to love the toddler stage--and there are things I truly enjoy about it--but most days I feel like we're in survival mode, just trying to get through the day without a meltdown.

Before I had kids, I often felt a little "left out" of conversations with other women. In Utah, it feels like most of the women I interact with are moms. Very few women in my neighborhood don't have kids. I think it is natural for women who are childless, whether by choice or by infertility, to feel excluded by other women who are in the "mom club." Moms gravitate to talking about their children, and if you aren't a mom, you end up accidentally getting left out. You can't relate. You can't offer anything to the conversation.

I never thought that having twins would bring with it another kind of loneliness in social settings. But the truth is, I still feel excluded from the mom club. In a lot of ways, I just can't relate to other moms, and they don't relate to me.

I often find that other moms treat me in one of two ways: 1) I am a celebrity they practically worship, because they have no idea how on earth I can handle two children of the same age, or 2) they think I'm some sort of weirdo for having twins, and don't understand how that's really that much different than having just one. There also occasionally is the the third response, where people seem to think I'm just an attention hog for having two. They take a, "What's the big deal?" attitude. Most people are in category 1, and it makes me feel horrible. I'm not some superhero. I'm just someone doing the best I can, and more often than not falling short of my goals.

In mom conversations, whenever I add to the conversation, people often say, "Yeah, but you have two." As though my comment is invalid because since I have two, I clearly don't experience the same thing as women who have just one. Which might be true.

Them: "My five month old baby is still sleeping horribly at night!"
Me: "The twins weren't sleeping good through the night until six months."
Them: "Yeah, but you have two."

Them: "I'm having a hard time getting the hang of nursing. When it's going to start being fun like other moms talk about it being?"
Me: "I really didn't enjoy nursing, and I never experienced the 'bonding' that other moms talk about. I just did it because it was more healthy for the twins and cheaper for us."
Them: "Yeah, but you nursed two."

Them: "It is so hard to get things done with my baby around! She always wants my attention."
Me: "I know what you mean, I feel like I can't get anything accomplished except when the kids are asleep."
Them: "Yeah, but you have two. So it's probably easier for you, because they entertain each other. I have to entertain my baby by myself all day long."

Sometimes it almost feels like other moms are trying to compete with me. Like they want to prove that having one baby is just as hard as having two. I'm not disagreeing with them. The twins are pretty good natured, and I definitely think it could be more challenging to have one very difficult toddler versus two pretty good ones. But I don't think "motherhood" is a competition. It's just something we're all struggling to do our best at. All I want on the other side of this is happy, healthy, well adjusted kids and my sanity. 

Sometimes I'm the one rolling my eyes too. I definitely am guilty of sometimes thinking, "You only have one toddler, what are you complaining about?" When women talk about how hard it is to keep their toddler quiet in church or how quickly their toddler gets into trouble, I can't help thinking, "Try having two toddlers." It's no secret that my twins are quite rambunctious, curious, and destructive. They can battle with the most mischievous of toddlers any day of the week.

All I'm saying is it's really hard to relate to mothers of singletons. Because I don't understand what it's like to just have one, and they certainly don't understand what it's like to have two. Each position comes with a unique set of challenges and complications that the other doesn't necessarily have.

It's just that most people are in the singleton boat, not the multiples one. So I'm always kind of on the outside looking in. Again. No one consciously tries to make it that way, and I'm fully aware that I'm probably doing some of this to myself. But that's how it feels. Like I can't relate.

I'm not saying I wish I only had one child instead of two. I love being a twin mom, and would willingly take on the task again if given the option. I'm grateful for my sons, and wouldn't change them for the world.

But sometimes I really wish I had a few twin mom friends my age to talk to. Women who were in the same stage of life as me, struggling to figure out this mom thing and keep two crazy kids in line.

TWIN MOM TIP: Try to find other mothers of twins that you can talk to. There are two ladies in my neighborhood who have twins, and even though they are at a very different stage of life than me (they both have teenagers, one has a married daughter) it is still so nice to be able to sympathize with them sometimes. It's even better if you can find twin moms with twins near the same age as yours.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Characters, Setting, But No Plot?

Ideas almost always come to me in the form of a story question or basic story concept that becomes the basis for the plot. The Hostage Heart started out when I wondered, "What would happen if two countries were at war and their prince and princess fell in love?" Wishing on Baby Dust started with the concept of three couples simultaneously struggling with different types of infertility. The characters, setting, etc are always chosen after the story concept is somewhat developed.

Not so this time. I have some characters. I have a rough outline of the setting. I have zero idea for plot. I'm not even sure what genre this new idea is going to fall into. I'm thinking urban fantasy, but who knows?

The characters are from a novel I originally wrote in junior high. The concept for that novel is totally unbelievable and not really a workable idea. But I still absolutely love the characters, and parts of the setting. I'm hoping this develops into a book I can really love.

It's scary. Intimidating. Kind of exciting. I am plugging along, further developing the characters and setting, and praying that the plot comes to me. I am spending hours on pinterest in the name of "working," trying to find the perfect photos to represent the characters and locations. It's so fun!

There is nothing quite like falling in love with a new story.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesdays in Twinland: That Time I Had a Pink Nursery

Once upon a time, I had a pink nursery. I'm not making this up. Husband and I had been told we were unable to conceive, and had decided to go the adoption route. We had specified we wanted a little girl. I was convinced, due to various spiritual experiences, that we would have a little girl join our family first.

So convinced, in fact, that I did the entire nursery. In pink. See for yourself.

We picked out her name. We painted the walls in the nursery a beautiful pink.

Hubby did the scalloping and shelf, as well as hung the beadboard.

I had custom vinyl lettering made to go over the dresser.

We bought the high chair, stroller, car seat, and pack n play. All in pink.

My mother and I spent countless hours sewing the bumper pads, canopy, crib skirt, changing table cover, the crib quilt, and the list goes on.

My mom made receiving blankets and burp rags and gave them to us for Christmas. We made a car seat canopy. We had a pink infant bath tub. I bought TONS of really cute clothes. And took the tags off all of those clothes. And washed all of those clothes. I had heard horror stories from couples who found out they'd been placed with a baby and had less than 24 hours to prepare. I was not going to be that mom. I would be prepared. Everything would be ready for my angel.

And it was. Everything was perfect, exactly how I imagined it would be for my first baby. We even bought a packet of diapers and small can of formula so we would have enough to get us through a day or two. We started the adoption process in July, were approved in August, and decorated the nursery in September. In December our Christmas was full of gifts for a precious little girl.

In February, I found out I was pregnant. Complete and total shock. That's the only words I can use to describe that fantastic, wonderful, amazing day. In March, we found out we were having twins. Over-the-moon-thrilled doesn't even begin to explain our level of happiness. We were beyond excited.

I was convinced it was twin girls. We knew they were identical, so it had to go one way or the other. It had to be twin girls. I was so sick and so uncomfortable, and the thought of redoing the nursery was more than I could handle.

We picked out another girl name. I bought block letters for that name and scrapbook paper to modge podge on it, and started trying to hunt down a second, matching car seat and high chair. I hunted for a crib similar to the one we already had. It was going to be twin girls. It had to be twin girls.

I was so totally wrong.

In April, we went for our monthly growth scan. I was about 17 weeks, and we'd been told we'd most likely be able to tell the genders that day. "You want to know the genders, right?" the doctor asked. We nodded. He put the ultrasound wand on my stomach and wiggled it around. "Boy," he said immediately. He moved the wand over, and said, "He isn't turned right...oh, there he goes. Boy."

I nearly fell off the exam table. "Both boys?" I asked. "Are you sure?"

"No doubt about it," he said. It had taken him less than 5 seconds to declare we were having sons.

We left the doctor's office in shock and got in the car, where I promptly started to cry. My husband and mom took me to Sonic for a watermelon cream slush in an attempt to make me feel better.

"Little boys will be fun!" my mom said.

What she didn't understand for a couple of days was that I really wasn't disappointed to be having sons. I was thrilled to be pregnant with twin boys. The genders of the babies really didn't matter to me.

But I really didn't want to redo the nursery. I had put so much effort and energy into Emma's nursery. And I was so sick and so tired and really didn't want to do it again. Plus, I love pink. It's my favorite color after all.

My husband, Neil, wasn't keen on having his sons reside in a pink paradise. Every day after that ultrasound, he asked me, "Have you decided what you want for the new nursery? When can we change it?"

In May, I finally agreed we could start switching things over. We sold the high chair, pack n play, stroller, and car seat. I'd washed everything and thrown away the boxes so they couldn't be returned to the store. I returned the few baby clothes I hadn't taken the tags off of. We exchanged the pink bathtub for a blue one at Target.

We took down the crib. We took down the changing table. We put the white dresser back in our bedroom. And all that's left of Emma's nursery is this:

And then I fully committed myself to twin boys and all that would entail. We picked out new fabric. My mom and I re-sewed bumper pads, curtains, crib quilts, and changing table covers.

We covered up the girly scallops. (Don't worry. They're still there, just hidden.) We bought new cribs, since the while was a little girly for me, and besides, it had been my crib and so we couldn't find an identical one anymore.

We picked out new names and painted the pink walls green.

Neil built a changing table/dresser combo, since with two cribs there wasn't room for both separately.

We bought gender-neutral car seats, got a double stroller, and sewed boyish car seat canopies.

And our friends, family, and neighbors came together for us. Between the two baby showers I had, we had more adorable boy clothing than we knew what to do with. The twins were extremely well dressed their first year.

I can't imagine life with twin girls (although I'd certainly like a set of twin girls, along with my twin boys). Thing 1 and Thing 2 fit into our family so perfectly, so completely. I can't help but laugh every time I think about this story now. Because seriously, how much more hilarious could the situation have been?

Heavenly Father always knows best. Looking back, I'm glad I had to redo the nursery. I made this nursery with my twin boys specifically in mind, and it is entirely theirs. I got to do all the typical "preparing for baby" things pregnant women get to do, and I had worried I'd never be able to do. If I had had to add another crib to the pink nursery, it wouldn't have matched. It had been so long since we bought the fabric that the prints were no longer available. It worked out for the best. My little boys have made me the happiest mommy ever, and I wouldn't change anything about them.

As for the pink...well, all that stuff is in storage. I know Emma will join our family one day--hopefully soon--and all her stuff is just waiting for when she arrives. It's not going to waste. I often joke it's a good thing I already have a pink nursery, because with twin boys there's no way I'd have the energy to do a pink nursery when we have a girl. I took lots of pictures so that when the time comes, I can replicate the pink nursery. It'll happen. I just have to be patient.

In the mean time, I'm really enjoying life in Twinland with my sons.

Has anyone else thought their child was one gender, then found out he/she was the other? Anyone had an ultrasound that was wrong? Anyone else gone as far as me down the path of pink, only to have to revert to blue? 

TWIN MOM TIP: Wait until after your baby showers to start buying stuff, because you might end up not really needing to buy much like me! And don't wash anything until the last possible second. You want the ability to return items for different sizes and such if necessary. I really wish I would've kept tags on things. At one point the twins each had 20 shirts and 17 pants that they fit in at the same time. That's 40 shirts and 34 pants if I ever have just one boy again! The tags all said they were different sizes, but they all fit the boys simultaneously.

Monday, February 4, 2013

When the Ideas Are Gone

I've finished two first drafts in the last nine months, and edited zero. I'm working on edits of Wishing on Baby Dust right now, and with every page I'm reminded how much easier it is to write a first draft than make that first draft into something good.

But I keep editing. In my mind, it makes sense to edit one book while simultaneously working on a first draft of another one. Lots of successful writers do this. It gives you options when you're bored with one project (and I am definitely bored with Baby Dust at the moment). I know I should be working on another idea. And I am. Sort of. I mean I have this main character from a completely unworkable story I wrote in junior high, and I'd love to put her in something that is actually believable as a plot. But the truth is...my ideas are gone. 

And it's kind of terrifying.

Hostage Heart is an idea I've been playing with since junior high. Wishing on Baby Dust is basically my life on a daily basis, so that didn't so much feel like a new idea either. The truth is, it's been years--years--since I've worked on something that's truly new. And some days, I feel like I just don't have it in me. I'm not creative enough. I'm not imaginative enough. I'm plain just not smart enough. College sapped it out of me, and kids are working hard on taking the rest of my mental abilities.

Some days I wonder why I even bother with the stress of this writing gig. I'm so busy, and there are so many other things calling my attention. But I can't not write. It's in my blood, something I have to do.

But what if the ideas are gone?!?!?!

Then I have to remind myself that it's okay. The ideas will come. They are everywhere. I just have to find a story that speaks to me, and work on writing that. I've never been very patient, or very good at waiting. But I just need to believe that the ideas will come, the well is not dry, and all is well.

In the meantime, back to editing.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Guest Post by Kami McArthur

Today I am lucky enough to have the fabulous Kami McArthur do a guest post for me! She's a fellow writer, and I'm so pleased to have her visit my blog today. I know you're going to love Kami and want to check out more of her stuff. You can visit her at http://kamimcarthur.blogspot.com. Enjoy!

Five Ways to Start a Scene
by Kami McArthur

Every time we write a scene, we have to consider how to open it. “Should I start in the middle of an argument or build up to it?” “Should I establish the setting before I delve into my character’s thoughts?” “How can I grab my reader’s attention?”—these might be some of the questions we ask ourselves. However you open your scenes, make sure you have variety.

I’m working on a first draft of a novel, and I’ve realized that I tend to want to open scenes with dialogue. Nothing is wrong with that in general, but if I did that for every scene, it would get redundant (and annoying), and most importantly, start to draw too much attention to itself.

To help me break this habit, I wrote down several different ways to start a scene. When I’m stumped on a scene’s first sentence or find myself relying too much on the same technique, I can look at my options. They are. . .


“Who was that?” Jake Blount asked.
—The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers

Dialogue is a great way to start a scene because it tells the reader the scene (most likely) has multiple characters in it, and they’re interacting. Additionally, many editors and readers state that character voice draws them into a story. If you open with dialogue, you can lead with voice. When readers skim books, they rarely skip dialogue; they’re drawn to it. Dialogue creates white space on a page, which is pleasing to the eye. And white space implies easy reading. The reader says, “I’ll just read a little more,” and then hopefully she can’t stop.

The above example also has a bit of a hook because it’s a question. We are waiting for the answer, and we’ll have to read to discover it.


Phulan and I step gingerly over the prickly gray camel thorn, each of us balancing a red clay pot half filled with water on our heads.
—Shabanu, Suzanne Fisher Staples

Action conveys movement and immediacy—two things every reader wants in a story. In this opening, something is happening. By starting with action, you let your reader know your scene isn’t a static one. In the above example, Staples establishes what her characters are doing, and she even includes a touch of tension: the narrator is balancing water on her head while navigating through thorns.


Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. . . .He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.
—The Maltese Falcon, Dashell Hammett

When you open with description, try to keep it from being mundane. Exercise some of your writing talents to create an image that stands out. A striking image can be used as a hook. Notice how Hammett finishes his description with “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.” That’s striking, interesting. As a reader, I want to keep reading to discover what other ways Samuel Spade is like satan, and yet, pleasantly so. In your opening, you can describe a character like Hammett does, a setting, or an object.


I am Dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it. I’m sorry I can’t properly introduce myself, but I don’t have a name anymore.
—Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion

It’s true that as writers we want to “show” more than we “tell,” but telling isn’t that bad. Some of the greatest books open with the author telling us something. This example is the opening of Warm Bodies, a novel told from the perspective of a zombie. The author, Marion, just tells us something interesting. There’s no action. There’s no description. There’s no exchange of dialogue. But it’s still an effective opening, and I want to read more. To ramp up the opening of your scene, tell readers something interesting or witty or play with your words. Here is another telling example, the opening lines of Harry Potter: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” We don’t see anything, but it’s still interesting.


The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.
So thought Eragon.
—Eldest, Christopher Paolini

Opening a scene with thought immediately puts the reader inside the character’s head. It’s intimate and personal, as we may be privy to information about him or her that others in the story aren’t. It also reveals character and can set the mood for the scene, since we will be experiencing it through this character’s perspective. In the example, we see that Eragon’s thoughts set a mood by alerting readers that this scene has death, and people mourning the dead, and it also reveals some of Eragon’s wisdom.

None of these techniques are inherently bad, but consider which would be best for the scene you are writing. Are your characters in a striking setting? Consider opening with description. Is your scene going to have a huge argument at the start? Consider opening with dialogue.

Make sure not to rely on the same technique too much, use variety.

Do you know of any other ways to open a scene? How do you decide how to start your scenes?