Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top Ten Characters I'd switch places with for 24 hours

I'm addicted to top tens.  I was only going to this a couple times a month, but this Top Ten Tuesday was another irresistible one! This meme comes from The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).  

10. Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House series by herself

Because I'm re-reading these books again with my daughters, and falling in love with them all over again. 24 hours isn't nearly long enough because I'd want to visit every hand-built home Laura ever lived in. Though I might skip the Long Winter.

9. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Because I'd love to wave my wand and proclaim "wingardia leviosa!" and  pack an entire library and a tent into a small backpack.

8. Princess Sylvi in Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Because she has a winged horse for a best friend. Duh.

7. Princess Leia in Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

Because I have not yet found a book about a girl flying around in space ships that is even a fraction as memorable as Leia in these movies. Has anyone else????

6. Lessa in the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey

Because she has a winged dragon for a best friend. Duh.

5. Alec Ramsey in the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley

Because he has the coolest and fastest horse in the world, ever.

4. Carey Marsh, in the Green Grass of Wyoming by Mary O'Hara

Oh wait, was that just "24 hours"?? Because I've been living her life for years now ever since I moved to Wyoming and fell in love with a cowboy and have horses in my backyard and a great open range to ride across. I'm living my childhood dreams inspired by My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and this book especially.

3. Harry Crewe, in the Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

I know, I know. This book ends up on every top ten list of mine. But Harry has the coolest magic, ever. She went from a corsetted spinster-in-the-making to a wild, sword-wielding warrior who can take on an army of demons, a pseudo-British Empire, and her own proud, fire-eyed king.

2. Lucy Pevensie, in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Because she has a lion as a best friend. Duh.
And a faun. And a Prince. And a talking horse.

1. Eowyn or Legolas, in Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. 

This book always ends up in my top ten lists too. Proudly. Defiantly. Game of Thrones, hah!
So tough to choose a character though to switch places with. Definitely not Frodo; I prefer my Mordor from a safe distance, thank you very much. I wanted to pick the character that gave me the most exposure to the amazing places in Middle Earth, and that was a toss up between Gandalf and Legolas, both very long-lived. But Gandalf (I love him dearly!) had a bit too much baggage, so Legolas it is. Then again, Eowyn! Maybe she misses out on the adventures in the first book, but oh, she gets to be the very best hero of the three books, at least in my opinion.

What character from a book or movie would you most want to switch places with?

Enter my giveaway for a chance to win either Cinder or For Darkness Shows the Stars, open until midnight August 1st.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway

Your chance to win either:  For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund 
or Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (both with main male characters named Kai - one a prince, and one a pauper-turned-self-made-millionaire).  

CONTEST CLOSED - congrats to Devan @ Book Strings and and Suz Reads!

Just follow my blog and leave a comment telling me which one you'd like to win  - there will be two winners. Open until midnight August 1st. 

This giveaway is hosted by Colorimety & I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, with over 150 other participants and lots of chances to win good books!

I've seen a lot of buzz about Cinder (and with good reason, it's a great book), but I haven't seen anyone talk about For Darkness Shows the Stars yet. So here's my take on it:

5 out 5 stars!

A beautiful, haunting retelling of  Persuasion, by Jane Austen. It made me want to go back and re-read the classic Jane Austen version, but I loved this version because of its setting: an un-named island that isolated from the rest of the world after a genetic apocalypse.

Previous generations had played around too much with genetic manipulation, and their offspring were born "reduced" - a kinder word for retarded, still functional but barely able to speak.

The Luddites, in this story, were those that refused genetic manipulation and therefore became the ruling class over the reduced.

The story begins at the point where a new generation has been born from the reduced that has normal intelligence again, the Posts. The Luddites aren't quite sure what to do with them. They still treat them as second-class citizens.

So the parallels to Persuasion begin with Elliot who is Luddite, and has grown up friends with Kai, a Post. Her father, like the father in Persuasion, is a lord and a terrible snob. So is her older sister, and they forbid Elliot's friendship with Kai. So they resort to secretly exchanging letters.

The bulk of the story is set 4 years after Elliot and Kai had a falling out and stopped exchanging letters. He went off to find his fortune, hurt that Elliot wouldn't leave her family's land to join him. Elliot was heartbroken, but she couldn't leave her land because her father and sister, Tatiana, were irresponsible and if left to their own devices would bankrupt the estate, which would result in starvation for all their Reduced farm workers.

Elliot rents out part of the estate to the Cloud Fleet so they can build a new ship. Enter some more familiar Persuasion characters: the Admiral and his wife, and Kai - now Captain Wentforth, who is cool and almost scornful of Elliot.

The book continues in present day painful interactions between Elliot and Wentforth, interspersed with letters from their childhood and adolescence, which I loved because that's one major thing missing from Persuasion: any sense of what Anne and Wentworth's relationship was like prior to their falling out. Here's an example of one letter that caught my breath:

Dear Kai,
I don't need to see the trail to know you're at the end of it. My grandfather's compass may not work, but mine is still true.
Yours, Elliot

The two other captains in Persuasion also play a role in this version - but one is a lady, which is an interesting twist. I also delighted to recognize several other Persuasion characters... one of which I had forgotten his role, so that lent some mystery to the story. There are also a couple new, non-Persuasion characters that add some extra tension and complications to the story, such as Elliot's grandfather (the Boatwright- I loved his title!) and Ro, Elliot's Reduced friend.

The mystery and tension of the story is grounded in the falling out between Elliot and Kai, but the genetic manipulation - is it truly as destructive as the Luddites believe? I loved the plot elements and questions it raises, and it blended so well with the love story and family elements.

Captain Wentworth writes a letter to Anne at the end of Persuasion - it's perhaps one of the most famous love letters ever composed.  Through the whole book I was curious to see if Wentforth would write a similar letter to Elliot, and how it would match up. Of course, they wrote each other many secret letters, but as for the final one - well, I can't say, that would be too much of a spoiler. But I will say that the end was very, very satisfying - both similar to Persuasion and also quite different.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).  

10. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
A circus that is a world in itself, coming alive only at night and only in black and white, where you can lose your way among the tents.

Regular circuses don't intrigue me, but I could become a devoted follower of this one: with Thiessen's marvelous moving clock, the ice garden, the labyrinth, the pool of tears, the cloud maze, the stargazer, the tent of bedtime stories/anthologies of memories, the wishing tree, the ship of books in an ocean of ink.  

9. Dune, by Frank Herbert
Stillsuits, sandworms, spice, weather-control, space-folding, the voice, thumpers...

8. Leviathan and its sequels, by Scott Westerfeld. 
The most bizarre and wonderful steampunk yet contrived. All the fantastic creatures and machines, and sometimes you can't tell which is a creature or machine!

7. Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis
A vividly imagined habitable planet Venus, with floating islands, serpents and marvelous sea creatures.

Just try to picture this!!!! "...an exquisite haze like vaporized amethyst and emerald and gold... the edge of this haze rose as he rose, and became at last the horizon of the sea, high lifted above the hills. And the sea grew ever larger and the mountains less, and the horizon of the sea rose and rose till all the lower mountains behind him seemed to be lying at the bottom of a great bowl of sea."

6. Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel
Our own primeval world during the Ice Age, with mammoths and giant cave lions and glaciers and neanderthals. I've re-read this book and some of its sequels at least 10 times. It was really hard to find an image that did justice to the setting, so I had to settle for this striking movie poster.

5. Fablehaven, series by Brandon Mull
The setting starts out as an ordinary farm, with an unusual number of butterflies. But those who have drunk a magical milk can see it as it truly is: a secret haven for all things magic and mythical. This brief description doesn't do it justice! This may be cheating since it's the creatures that inhabit Fablehaven that make it memorable, but they are such a part of the setting, I had to include this one!

4. The Iron Fey, series by Julie Kagawa
A creepy and beautiful blend of steampunk and dark faery world. 

3. Earthsea, series by Ursula Le Guin.
Just the name itself is evocative, isn't it? The second book, Tombs of Atuan, and the third, The Farthest Shore, are the best of the series with the most creepy and haunting settings. Bonus: here there be dragons.

2. The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
The Riders of Rohan meets Dune meets Victorian-era British Empire, Damar is a country caught between two warring realms, protected by a strange capricious magic. And it has wonderful creatures like Narknon.

1. Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien
Still the reigning king of all worlds because it encompasses so many different settings and such a vast breadth and depth of history and mythology. 

What's your most favorite vivid setting? 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hook with humor and 6 other first chapter hooks

A first chapter has to hook you, and there's lots of different ways to do it.  A Spy Like Me, by Laura Pauling, hooks with humor - it's the funniest first chapter I think I've ever read.

The first two pages hook with the setting and character. Saavy is an American teenager in Paris, on a date with a cute French waiter. He asks her to close her eyes as he sets her up for a surprise. 

There's no humor yet, but this a great set-up. 

1) Saavy's thinking to herself, I'm not a surprise-me kind of girl, so we get a taste for her character. 

2) With her eyes closed she has to rely on her other senses: smell, sound, feel - which really draws you into the setting.  Malcolm surprises her with a gourmet picnic, all set up ready and waiting in a park by the Seine river. 

3) Then there's a twist. This isn't the romantic date she was tricked into thinking. Malcolm is actually just interested in getting a job with her father's business, Spy Games. 

In my fantasies, this date was about me. Not about a cute boy using me to supplement his income. 

Ouch! This is another great way to hook your reader. Set them up to expect one thing, then hit them with something else entirely

Saavy's a little hurt, but she disguises it well. And here's where it gets humorous:

4) the main character puts on a familiar act - in this case, a lawyer cross-examining at a mock trial - with some hyperbole, which is the foundation for humor. 

“Well, I don’t know. Espionage is a serious crime.” I paced in front of the quilt.  
Malcolm lifted his hands, palms out, in an act of surrender. “Guilty as charged.” 
I spoke in my sternest most lawyer-like voice. “I want to believe you liked me for me. That you waited on our table because you thought I was cute and you liked the way I laughed.” 
“Why do you think—” 
“Whoops.” I put a finger to my lips. “The defense is not allowed to speak.  You’ll get your turn later. Maybe.” 
Malcolm sipped his sparkling cider, which I promptly whipped away from him. Some of is splashed out on his jeans. “No cider while on trial.” 
He snorted, trying to hold back his laugh. 
I stifled a grin and continued my interrogation.

5) The character is putting on a show, but she's using it to cover up some real emotion: 

“I’d hoped for days you’d been building up the courage to ask me out with sweaty palms and an out-of-control heartbeat. The whole shebang.” 
It’s how I felt waiting for him to ask me out. Once I’d admitted it, I couldn’t look him in the face. He reached for a strawberry tart, but I slapped his hand.  
“No, no, no. No indulging until proven innocent.” I spied the cloth napkins. Perfect. “Hands behind your back.” 
He complied with a silly grin. “Do I get my one phone call and a lawyer?” 
My heart fluttered, but I stayed on task. Using my famous Spy Games knots, I tied the napkins around his wrists, tightly. My hostages could never escape. I grabbed a strawberry torte, because prosecuting a spy makes one hungry, and continued my attack. [another humorous technique: contrast. Serious =  handcuffing a criminal. Total opposite = craving sweets] 
“When asking a girl out on a date, especially in Paris, certain expectations are involved. The boy should spend hours planning the date and picking out the perfect desserts and the right clothes to wear to impress her.”  [spend hours planning = more hyperbole] 
“I object!” Malcolm blurted out. “Hours? That’s ridiculous.” 
I stomped my foot and shouted. “Order in the court room!” 

6)  Add something that'll make the reader gasp. Something that, secretly, most people wish they had the nerve to do. 

I cleared my throat in a judicial sort of way. “You are hereby sentenced to fifteen minutes of intense embarrassment by sitting in your underwear in public.” 
His face turned a bit pale as he realized I meant what I said. I felt only slightly bad.

Can you believe it??? After tying Malcolm's hands behind his back as a mock punishment, Saavy pulls his shirt over head and pulls off his pants - in public! Seriously gutsy!

7) End the scene with a surprise or a question that you have the find the answer to:  

About two steps away and one bite into the tart, I heard a groan. Was he okay? Would his circulation get cut off? Maybe I should loosen the ties. 
I turned. Malcolm lay in the grass. Just like I left him. Except for the blood running in rivulets down his arm.

What happened??? How did he get hurt? Ha! You'll have to read the next chapter to find out. 


I highly recommend A Spy Like Me, because there's more masterful scenes like this, great combinations of Saavy's impulsive attitude mixed with insecurity, the fun idea of Spy Games mixed with serious intrigue, and Malcolm who always keeps you guessing. And the ending - is - wow. Comes full circle in a truly brilliant way!

Any recommendations for other laugh-out-loud and gasp kind of books? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The books you buy say a lot about you

My latest book-buying spree:

Losing Control and Liking It: How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free, by Tim Sanford.
Not going to lie, having a 17 year old in the house has been a challenge. This book has some good advice, but it's HARD to do.  Control issue... who, me?? Nah, never...

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund.   A science fiction retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Instant sell for me. And it was just as good as I'd hoped, familiar characters with their own unique twist and provoking new events and issues. This is sophisticated YA.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. A science fiction retelling of Cinderella. Anyone see a trend here? Take a classic story and put a futuristic twist on it and I'm hooked. Imagine a cyborg at a ball.  This is entertaining YA.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. My all-time favorite writing book. The one I always go to when I'm in a writing slump, to get motivated again. Except, I'd given my copy away to another writer friend a couple years ago. How did I last TWO years without this book? Writing slump, BE GONE!

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. If there is anything that can a trump of SF retelling of a classic, it's an original story about dragons. And oh my is this one original! The blurb just doesn't do it justice. DON'T READ THE BLURB. I read the blurb and rolled my eyes - uggh, this doesn't sound original at all. Dragons who can transform into humans? Didn't Sophie Jordan write that idea first?  (Firelight).  But dragons - I have hard time resisting dragons! So I read the first two chapters. Oh my. Oh MY! What a voice these dragons have! Someone really took some time to actually THINK like a dragon, and the results are amazing.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I bought this book last year, and gave it away because it's so good, I felt compelled to pass it on so others might discover the great sassy Southern voice of Minny and the bitter/wise voice of Abileen. Just recently I discovered I missed their voices, so I just bought another copy for myself.

So from my list of purchases, you can see I'm a writer in a slump with control issues who wishes I could transform into a dragon and blast all my problems away with a little science fiction twist and a Southern accent, just to keep everyone guessing.

Or something like that.

What book(s) have bought/borrowed lately? What made you pick it up?

Friday, July 13, 2012

What makes the most memorable characters

On Tuesday I shared my list of top ten most memorable characters and asked what you thought made characters most memorable.  

Memorable characters aren't afraid to break the rules, either

"make you want to laugh with them at times, yell at them at times, but all the while cheer them on and hope things turn out for the best for them" (Janna)

"they have one flaw that makes them more real than any of the other characters in a book" (Priya)

"what makes a character memorable is how they break the mold"  (Melissa Marsh)

"seem like real people... like you could finish reading the book and look up, and there they'd be, normal and full of life and easy to talk to." (Julio Dao)

 Thanks to everyone who provided input - I always learn something from comments!

I also said I thought there was something all 10 characters had in common, though they were wildly diverse, from civil-war era Scarlett O'Hara, to early 1900's Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, to 1960's  southern black maid Minny, to current-day punk-style Swedish Lisbeth Salander of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, not to mention a bunch of fantasy characters....

Your suggestions: 

eclectic (Old Kitty)

headstrong, misunderstood (Laurel Garver)

have gumption (Leslie Rose)

intelligent (Sophia Richardson)

"why is a raven like a writing desk?" (smile) (FairBetty)

All excellent answers, got me thinking of additional characteristics of memorable characters.  These are  characters that just get stuck in your mind; that are so vivid you can't forget them, even if they aren't the main character or even necessarily your favorite (Scarlett annoyed me for years. Still does, though in an endearing sort of way). 

What I found in common with all ten of them was a character that didn't fit the mold. Also they are all outspoken, not afraid to speak their mind even if it's going to make them unpopular.  And, stubborn

Anne Shirley - if you've read the first book or seen the movie, who can forget the scene where she tells off nosey Mrs Lynde and shocked everyone with her boldness? (Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery) 
Minny's outspokenness gets her in trouble with her employers. She doesn't fit the mold of what white women wanted for their maids: meek and quiet.  (The Help, by Kathryn Stockett) 
Gandalf - of the nine wizards mentioned, he's the one with a sort of "rebel" reputation, going his own way, outspoken, one of his favorite words, "Fool!"  (The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien) 
Elizabeth Bennett - "There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me." Some of the sarcastic remarks she made to the rich snobs in Pride and Prejudice make me wonder how she got away with it! (by Jane Austen)
Hermione - I can't help but picture with her hand raised in class, begging to get a chance to answer, while her teachers look around in despair for anyone else to answer their question.  (Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
Lisbeth Salander - love that scene in the beginning where she shows up to a meeting at a security firm with a hotshot lawyer decked out in the most outrageous punk outfit possible.  (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson).  
Corlath the Hill-King is so stubborn that he's not afraid to piss off an entire Empire. (The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley). 

Kudos to FairBetty who matched up all 10 quotes correctly: 1.Alexia, 2.Minny, 3.Anne Shirley, 4.Puck, 5.Lisbeth, 6.Hermione, 7.Gandalf, 8.Elizabeth Bennett, 9.Corlath, 10. Scarlet. 

So tell who YOUR most memorable characters are!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top Ten Memorable Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here). 

We get to pick our own top ten topic this week, so I picked my top ten most memorable characters. See if you can match the quotes to the character!

The first five:

Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery)

Alexia Tarabotti (Soulless and its sequels, by Gail Carriger)

Lisbeth Salander (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson)

Puck (The Iron Fey series, Julie Kagawa)
Just so you know, I'm team Ash, but still... you gotta love this guy!

Minny (The Help, Kathryn Stockett)

Now, find the matching quote: 

1.  Many a gentleman had likened his first meeting with her to downing a very strong cognac when one was expecting to imbibe fruit juice--that is to say, startling and apt to leave one with a distinct burning sensation.

2. "She ever say that to me, she  gone get  apiece a _____ for lunch."

3. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all things about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn't talk? If you say so I'll stop. I can stop when I make up my mind to it, although it's difficult."

4.  "Well that was fun, though a bit on the cliched side. Way too Temple of Doom for me. So, where are we now?"

5. Normally seven minutes of another person's company was enough to give her a headache so she set things up to live as a recluse. She was perfectly content as long as people left her in peace. Unfortunately society was not very smart or understanding. 


Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

Hermione (Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling)

Corlath, the Hill King (The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley)

Eldanis on Deviant Art has a rendition of Corlath

Scarlett O'Hara (Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell)

Gandalf (The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)

6..  "hope you're pleased with yourselves. We could have been all killed -- or worse, expelled."

7. "A _____ is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

8. "There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me."

9.  "If it is only within arm's length you find ______ overwhelming, I have no sympathy for you."

10. "Now isn't this better than sitting at a table? A girl hasn't got but two sides to her at the table."

Now, bonus if you can guess what all 10 of these characters have in common. 

I've been mulling it over, what makes a character really memorable... I'll share my theories on Friday. But what are your thoughts? What do your most memorable characters have in common?

Monday, July 2, 2012

17 tips for starting a story

We all know that if we don't catch a reader's attention in the first few pages (in some cases, only the first page!), we've lost them - they'll move on to another book. And a great first chapter won't keep them reading if the second chapter gets boring. 

Here's a checklist I've compiled to help make the start of the story interesting enough to keep readers hooked (hopefully). This is the third of five checklists, starting with 38 ways to check for character life signs and 21 ways to make your plot more compelling.

Only one of the 17 items of my checklist refers to a specific location in the beginning of a novel: the first page. The rest of the items might refer to the first page, the first scene, the first chapter, or several first chapters (since chapter length and number of pages used to set everything up can be extremely arbitrary). 
Some genres have more defined "rules" for starting a story. For this reason, I am prefacing this checklist with this excellent advice from Larry Brooks @ StoryFix: 
Go to a bookstore.  Pick up novels that are by known authors in your chosen genre. Read the opening chapter of as many of them as you can.  Just the opening scene. Notice how and why it works.  Or if it doesn't work for you – if you aren’t hooked – try to determine why. [My method is download free chapters to my Kindle app]. 
1. Is your opening scene/chapter about what the story as a whole is about -  a microcosm of the story? (without  telling us too much about it) (source: Larry Brooks @ Storyfix)
2. Does your first page include a compelling or striking opening image that raises a question? Make your reader ask "why is she doing that?" or "what's going to happen next?"  The teenage protagonist in Across the Universe (by Beth Revis)  has to watch her mother and father strip down and submit to being cryogenicly frozen, and then decide whether she'll  go through the same process. Why are they being frozen? Why does her father insist that her mother goes first?
3. Does your opening show your character doing something  particular or specific to him/her, that defines what she wants, or defines her character or need? The more compelling or striking the character's actions, the better. She/he should not just  be thinking or reacting to others.  In The Golden Compass (by Philip Pullman), on the first page Lyra is shown sneaking into a room forbidden to anyone except Scholars, making keen observations about the room and giving snappy responses to her nervous daemon's concerns which give us an immediate sense of her headstrong character.
4. Does your opening include an inciting incident, the event that sets in motion the central conflict of the story? (It should also at least hint at the stakes involved, though these may not come into play in the opening). Sometimes the inciting incident happens right away, sometimes it doesn't happen until the end of the first chapter or several chapters in. In The Help (by Kathryn Stockett) the inciting incident is when the antagonist, Miss Hilly, insists that her friend put in a separate bathroom for "the help" - it's not acceptable for a black maid to share a white family's toilet. Overhearing this plan makes the protagonist, Skeeter, realize that something should be done about this prejudiced attitude.
5. Does your opening immerse the reader in one or more of the three cornerstones of story – concept, character, and theme?  Concept is a what if scenario: what if teenagers were forced to kill each other off in front of a televised audience? The first scene in The Hunger Games shows the set up for the picking  of teenagers. Character: the first scene in Gone With the Wind shows Scarlett O'Hara as the center of attention. Theme: in Lord of the Rings, the first chapter shows how the Ring, with its great power, has a pernicious influence on its bearer at his birthday party. (source: Larry Brooks @ Storyfix)
6. Does your opening include your protagonist  with other characters - showing how he interacts with the world? Two or three is ideal: not too many other characters or the reader will be overwhelmed.  (source: Anne R. Allen)
7. Did you give your protagonist strong emotions in the opening scene, emotions the reader can identify with? The reader doesn't have to identify with the situation, but must identify with the emotion (source: Anne R. Allen). One caveat: don't start with your protagonist whining. In general, starting with your character in a negative mood is less likely to win the reader over (source: Elena Solodow). 
8. Does your story start in the process of something: taking a risk, something going wrong, a secret being revealed, a desire being denied?  There is a sense that something is about to happen and usually that it won't be good for somebody. (source: Janice Hardy). 
9. Does your opening include voice and some unique phrasing and avoid cliches at all cost? Example of a cliche: "His hands were like ice."  Example of unique phrasing: "His hands felt cold as the dead goldfish Mom kept in our freezer."  This works because it asks questions and its unique (Elena Solodow)
10. Does your story start with something non-typical? Waking up in the morning in your bedroom is typical (source: Elena Solodow). Waking up on the deck of a ship: better, because it asks the question - why is he/she sleeping on the deck of a ship?  But even better, find a more unique thing for them to be doing than just waking up. Solodow's post also includes a helpful list of other things NOT to include in your opening, and over-used openings.
11. Did you start at the moment closest to the beginning of the main conflict of your story as possible? (Valerie Kemp)
12. Does your opening reflect the tone of your novel? e.g. lighthearted, humorous, sarcastic, dark, suspenseful, adventuresome, etc? Identify the sensation and experience you want to evoke in your reader and then make sure you evoke it. (source: Alexandra Sokoloff)
13. Does your opening include all the senses?  Get the reader to smell the coffee as if they are actually there. (Source: The Blood Red Pencil blog). 
14. Does your opening include the main character(s) with their personal stakes, hopes and fears, immediate wants and as yet undiscovered needs? These are are included in much more detail in my checklist for characters, but this bears repeating: do you state what your main character wants within the first few pages and what's standing in their way?
15. Does your story's first act (not necessarily the opening, but definitely the first third of the novel) introduce the antagonist and other important characters which can include the mentor, the sidekick, the mirror, the foil, the love interest? 
16. Does each bit of information you reveal in your opening relate to the other parts, rather than dishing out disparate facts, emotions or actions? No matter how interesting and relevant the information you are giving the reader, if it doesn't flow, or connect, if won't hold the reader's attention (source: Moody Writing). 
17. Is it interesting? (The three word question that sums up all the rest!). 

And a late addition, thank you Laura Marcella for reminding me:

18. Does opening include foreshadowing? 
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