How to start with a BANG!


The word cliffhanger came from somewhere you know

I’ve been known to have someone actually hang off a cliff in my books. Not lately though. I may do that again soon.

But in the meantime I like to catch a reader’s attention and HOLD IT!

And I like to do it from the jump. Start the book off with a bang. Hopefully write something that is RIVETING. Something that makes the reader pay attention and keep turning the pages.

So this time, in The Reluctant Warrior, I have my characters wake up choking to death as their cabin fills with smoke. They have been buried (the cabin) by a monster snowstorm…well, there’s more. There’s a killer. There’s fire. There’s freezing. There’s screaming and running and digging and climbing and exploding.

You know, the usual.

But to write a book a story needs to grab hold…and it needs to do it not GRATUITOUSLY but in a way that tells the story, begins it, advances it. You can’t just have a random action scene.

Well you can, and I have, but it was by way of revealing a character and introducing two main characters. But still…well, anyway, the book is in print and it was a good book so let’s just move on.

This book, The Reluctant Warrior does not open with gratuitous violence and action. It is completely relevant violence and action! I’m sure you’ll agree.

But I just mention it because as a writer………..and all of us at Petticoats and Pistols know this….it is tricky to start a book. Oddly enough, it’s not uncommon to start a book at the wrong place and have to go back and move the story farther in the future or back into the past. A weird but true fact about writing. Authors get used to that kind of editorial study of their work. Mulling over details to make the story pick up and go at the right pace at the right time and place.

It’s part of the fun of writing, and I can’t help but be glad my book starts right where it does, although I gloss over a couple of months of what must’ve been real trouble in that cabin before the smothering smoke billows into the room while my characters sleep.

Today, let’s talk about stories that start with a bang. Can you think of a book you’ve read (or maybe one you’ve written) that have a beginning you love. Not necessarily first lines, but more general, a beginning that grabbed you and held on and wouldn’t let you go.

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a copy of The Reluctant Warrior.


Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children.

When danger descends on the cabin where they’re huddled, Cam is hurt trying to protect everyone and now finds Gwen caring for him too. He soon realizes why the kids love her so much and wonders if it might be best for him to move on without them. When she sees his broken heart, Gwen decides to help him win back their affection–and in the process he might just win her heart as well.

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

47 thoughts on “How to start with a BANG!”

  1. For the life of me I can’t remember the title but it started with a women waking up in bed to unfamiliar surroundings , as she stretches in bed she turns to see this huge man sleeping next to her in bed and just before she screams he opens his eyes asking , who are you lass.

  2. Good morning- I love nooks that grab my attention.
    Linda Broday’s To Love A Texas Ranger starts out with a huge bang at the beginning. I say bang but it’s not with guns, it’s a hanging. Talk about getting your attention.
    Another book was Joan Johnston’s The Next Mrs. Blackthorne. This book I always think about when someone asks me what book started out as a huge attention grabber.
    What a great blog.
    Have an amazing day.

    • Debra, I’ve never read them. And the series is so long now. I’m afraid I’d kill myself tackling so many books. The Jack Reacher books almost killed me from lack of sleep as I powered through them.

  3. There are so many great books with great beginnings. Lisa Wingate usually pulls you in pretty quickly.

  4. I refer books that start out with a big bang, a cliffhanger or just anything that shocks or keeps you having to know more. Once upon a time if an author didn’t reel me in in the first few paragraphs I’d put the book down and never pick it up again. Linda Broday is my favorite P & P author that grabs me in those first few paragraphs or pages. Knight on the Texas Plains by Broday is an excellent example of her work. Duel winning baby Marley Rose in a card game and deciding he was keeping her drew me in and I couldn’t put the book down!

  5. Mary, this is so true, so important, and something I’m working on in my own stuff. We have to grab today’s reader right off, they don’t have time for slow Dickensian openings or people Going Somewhere On A Train. Unless the train is held up in the first page.
    In my debut novel with Pelican, I had to ratchet up the opening two or three times. I started with Caroline on her hardscrabble farm after Daniel’s death and Michael coming to invite her to go on the wagon train. Then I moved it to the present (their time) and had Michael in St. Joseph nervously waiting for her arrival. Then I dialed THAT up and had them at their first horrified meeting in the hotel parlor, with neither aware that the other was on the wagon train. And I changed my opening line to, “Why him? Why here? Why now?” Not a gun going off, but plenty of that later. Anyway, this is something I’m working on and we all should work on.
    Kathy Bailey
    Can I be “Kaybee” here too?

  6. I truly enjoy a book that grabs my attention from the beginning. J D Robb is one of the authors that does this.

  7. I’m not really a fan of the big bang opening although I do of course like something that grabs me. My first thought was Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Winter where a common woman beards a broke, disreputable aristocrat in his library with the promise of her inheritance of a gambling hell. What really grabbed me, though, was the two characters themselves and how their dialogue revealed them. What I loved about that book was the development of the relationship over the whole book and the characters themselves. Good solid writing skills always grab me more than action.

    • I forgot to add that maybe having been an English major and having a career in editing leads me more toward writing skills—although I still enjoy a good story of course. It’s just writing skills that hit me first.

  8. A book would certainly grab my attention if it started out funny. I like humor in books. You are great in adding humor in your books.

  9. I love books that start with a bang and keep me there through out the book. I have read several books like this and love getting my hands on them. I think sometimes that why a person will have a few favorite authors to get this same feeling from their books. I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for the chance.

  10. One of the best books that I’ve read in the last few months begins with “Libby Sheffield had never stopped to wonder what she would take soecific note of if she ever stumbled upon a dead body. Still, she hadn’t expected to pause in consideration of the black, patent leather shoes, the finely cut wool trousers or the shirtsleeves cuffed at the man’s wrists with cuff links boasting a scrolled G for Greenwood, his last name.” I immediately wanted to know just what had happened to this apparently wealthy man and Jaime Jo Wright didn’t dissapoint me in her book The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond.
    Thanks for sharing your opening of The Reluctant Warrior. It sounds great also!

  11. I love all your books! I have the Audible for the new one, but I’m saving it for an trip next week. I hope this is a good one for the airplane. I plan to get lost in the story!!

  12. I got hooked by reading a new to me author in a two in one book some time ago. Kari Lynn Dell’s Reckless in Texas. I could not get enough. Rodeo and cowboys gripping my interest from the get go. Linda Broday is a master at grabbing the reader right into the first chapter to the end. To Catch a Texas Star starts off with action and high emotions.

  13. “You know, the usual” Bahaha. Oh Mary. 🙂 I don”t remember specific names of novels, but yes, there have been those that started out with a bang and I just kept flipping those pages as fast as I could! I love those kinds of beginnings.

  14. To Love a Texas Ranger by Linda Broday really reaches out and grabs the reader the first page and refuses to turn loose the whole book thru.
    I want to read this book of yours Mary Connealy just because of the cover it is totally calling my name to read the Reluctant Warrior

  15. The first book that came to my mind was Petticoat Ranch and Clay’s horse galloping past really fast in the rain torwards the slope of the creek bank. That definitely got my attention. ?. I love all your books and can’t wait to read your new ones.

    • I’ve always really loved the opening of that book. Also the opening of Over the Edge with the stagecoach hold-up…and Doctor in Petticoats with the runaway stagecoach.
      And wait! No Way Up with the avalanche…I keep thinking of more. 🙂

  16. Recently I’ve gotten hooked with Terri Blackstock’s If I Live! Annnd Connilyn Cossette’s Shelter of the Most High. I love it when a book grabs me from the first chapter!

    Thanks Mary!!

  17. In one of the Tox files books by Ronie Kendig it starts out with the time it takes a bullet to travel. That got my attention.
    I love all of your stories.

  18. Lynn Austin’s Wonderland Creek comes to mind, as it basically begins with the main character’s boyfriend breaking up with her for reading during a funeral at his father’s funeral parlor (she had to see what happens next! Is it her fault the funeral began before she finished?). This is memorable primarily because I’m pretty sure that I HAVE read through a funeral before . . . and weddings, church business meetings, 11th grade geography, and pretty much any other event that hasn’t required my participation (though more so in my youth than recent years–I try to appear respectful now that I qualify as an adult).

    I have enjoyed every one of your books I’ve read! But I came upon them after I started affecting responsibility, so I don’t think I’ve read any of them during inappropriate times.

  19. So many books mentioned here, some of which I have read. A number of authors I need to look for. Sometimes the “bang”, for me is humor that draws me into the story.

  20. I would enjoy reading this book, sounds like it grabs your attention like the other books of yours I have read.

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