This is the opening line to my midgrade, due date (hopefully) November 7th, of this year. It's the date of my elder daughter's birthday, and she's been one of my inspirations (don't worry second daughter, you are not secondary, I simply didn't want to wait til April!).
I'm actually proud of my beginnings and think I do them well. I also agree with the entire industry you need to do it well, especially with the competition out there. Grab them quick and try real hard to not let them go until the end of the book, no matter the age, one must be ruthless in your craft!
I agree with Les Edgerton in Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them GO you have to encapsulate your story in the opening, present the question part of the answer, doesn't talk down or gives up on our reader. And I think I did that with this opening line.
I grew up an "Agnes", and not caring for my name at all. I couldn't change it (it was my beloved grandmother's beloved mother's name and I was the one doing the beloving). It took many years to get a little comfortable with it (I am AGY, and that was one of the best things that happened to me, it's fairly unique, is easy to remember, say, and I think friendly). But having the experience of despite my name it had me thinking about it from an early age, and I play a lot with names in my work. Why not, I've been called every rhyme in the book (and some really weren't flattering, lol)
I had conversations with my cousin Susan and she felt she had to stand out because she felt a bit of the generic (and with a marvelous encouraging mother, she certainly did). I know I felt weird growing up, and people said that to me on a regular basis, I don't know if having a rather unique name furthered that along. 'Course if I'd been born a hundred years ago, my name was like the "Susan" of it's day so would have had a totally different experience with it.
Many cultures assign great power to naming, bordering on mystical. Adam named the beasts and the world, Native Americans and other cultures have "secret" names that embody one's true spirit.
I've had this conversation with people a number of times. We QUANTIFY everything. I think we have to, to maintain sanity. What we don't do often is to rexamine at regular intervals our labels. Once we label something most of us tend to really stop looking at it. But when we NAME something, especially individually, it provides connection, a new emotional resonance. It is the personal that creates empathy. Unless it's a perjorative name that we give to groups of something.
The really odd thing is I wrote this book and then decided to make sure, do the research because I didn't want to stop seeing or feeling because I'd done this. Often times I was spot on. And the name issue for people who farm was right on.
This book is about a young grrl during the early seventies who's world is turned upside down. She has a hard time fitting in, with her authoritative grandmother, and is uneasy about her place in the world as well as the world itself.
I think you can tell a lot about her personality and needs just in those lines and it sets up some of the conflicts within. I hope the connections I made through this work seeps into the world, and it finds an audience. I also hope to do somethings I've not seen done in other books for this age group (though it's notorious that other authors and illustrator usurp me all the time, more than likely because it takes me so long to figure some stuff out, or I have to wait for the skill or the equipment to do the job). If you take the time to read the first chapter, I do hope you take the time to leave a comment on what you thought or share with me via Facebook or Twitter. I'm interested in knowing if this piques your interest, if you'd read further and any other thoughts you'd have....