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.

Yikes!

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.”