Opening: The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

I’m a couple of weeks away from finishing my first draft. I should focus on those last 20k words, but I keep returning to the opening. Tweaking, mulling, editing, changing, and then changing back. Then changing again.

Openings are important. If a reader has been intrigued by your cover and blurb… and cracked open the book, you don’t have much time to give your hook a good yank (or subtly slide a barb through the reader’s lip).

There are a lot of suggestions for crafting openings that grab your reader:

  • Showcase your protagonist in his or her POV. This way your reader knows who to root for.
  • Reveal something about your protagonist’s emotional landscape. Help the reader care.
  • Start in the middle of a tense situation with your character in the thick of it.
  • Arouse curiosity or create intrigue. Pull the reader in so he asks, “What will happen next?”
  • Share a glimpse of the setting (world or place or time period).
  • Establish a unique voice for the character.
  • Hint at the theme and what your story is about.
  • Structure the opening like a plot. Tell a story.
  • Convey your writing style.


This opening isn’t finished, but I think it’s getting closer.

The hemp net hung from the boom over the waves. Within its lattice of pinched knots, the slender merrow drowned in the heated air. She had ceased her struggle as the sun tilted up, when shadows pooled beneath hard-heeled boots. Her graceful tail with its angelfish fins dangled from the end of her confinement. Beyond the reach of her fingers, swells rose and fell. Taunting, seductive. Rhythmic as they sloshed against the hull.

Like a storm-torn sail, the tip of her tangled hair dipped into the sea with each crest, shed droplets with each trough. The creature wept for her kind, for the sea breathing beneath her. The mournful plea filled young Callum’s head, overwhelming the clamor of merriment arising from the Brid Clarion officers who’d captured her in their mesh.

“We should free her,” Callum murmured. He drew his fish-knife. “She’s dying. They’re killing her.”

 “I spoke my mind, boy.” The captain placed a firm hold on Callum’s scrawny shoulder. “Put away the blade. It’s not our place to chart the course of another man’s conscience.”

169 thoughts on “Opening: The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

  1. I’m facing a similar dilemma. I’m only around 20k away from finishing the first draft, but the pull of that beginning and a red pen keep yanking me away from finishing. Hopefully, somewhere between NaPoWriMo poems I can crack out the ending of my draft and then I can edit away with abandon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. markbierman says:

    You’ve got my attention and interest. Nicely done. I can see the advice you gave in the tips, at work here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah says:

    Consider my lip hooked, Diana! 😉
    I never knew all this stuff about what an opening should be like – fascinating! Happy writing! 💕


  4. So happy you are almost done with your book Diana! this is so awesome and it looks amazing! ❤️🤗🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brilliant Diana…you pulled me right in with the visual and the writing. Your words painted the picture of pain, sorrow and frustration. I felt the pain of the mermaid and the pain and sorrow of Callum right away! You got me…can’t wait to read the story!! Really well done!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the wonderful comment, Kirt. I’m so glad I hooked you. Lol. I finished the first draft yesterday which is always the hardest part for me. This will be a stand alone book, so perhaps it will be done in May. 🙂 Have a beautiful day.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. WOW. That opening certainly grabbed my attention, Diana, and I want more!!! Like, today. Whenever I read your stories, it’s as though I am there, right in the thick of it. You are a masterful writer and storyteller, and I can’t wait to read your book – it’s going to be an unforgettable adventure. I can’t wait to read your book if I haven’t made that clear!! Thanks for the inspiration, as well. You always drive me to strive for more. Well done, my friend. Keep going!!


    • Thanks, Tanya. Ha. Your comment made me laugh. I finished the first draft yesterday. So much work ahead but the hardest part is now done. This will be a stand-alone, so a quick easy read when it happens. 🙂 Have a lovely Sunday and week ahead, my friend. Hugs!


  7. Great teaser Diana..looking forward to…hugsx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tiffany Mendonca says:

    So well written! I am a visual person and your words definitely drew a picture for me, I felt like I was right there. Also I could feel the emotions from each character through your words!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww. Thank you, Tiffany. I’ve been trying to get my first draft done, but it’s fun to dip into other parts of the book when my brain needs a rest. I so appreciate the visit and the kind comment. Have a lovely weekend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tiffany Mendonca says:

        You’re welcome! Congrats on your book, that’s so awesome. Always a great idea to give our brains some breaks and have them focus on other things, good writing tip. Have a great rest of your weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Louise Brady, Author says:

    Definitely intrigued by Callum, his sympathy, but being told not to free the mermaid 🙂
    Some useful tips for crafting openings too!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Erica/Erika says:

    Hi Diana, I was advised some of my comments ended up in Spam folders or disappeared yesterday, so I will try again and see if it sticks. Or you may get duplicates.🙂 It is interesting learning about the inner workings of a wonderful writer, Diana. I bookmarked this post, since many gems. I looked up the definition of a “merrow.” I am in the middle of a tense situation and I am immediately hooked. “Yikes!” Good stuff! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh thanks for letting me know about spam, Erica. I haven’t checked in a week! I better head over. I’m so glad you were hooked. I loved finding the “merrow” as a gender neutral mermaid/merman. So much easier and I love the feeling/magic of the word. The cover will probably clarify what the creature is for most people. And I’m glad the post was interesting too. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

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