I have four self-published books. Take a look at these first lines:
My perfectly restored ‘67 Chevy Chevelle careened around the corner at Walsh and Park, the tires squealing in an effort to get my attention. ~Sunshine Hunter
“Susan, Mrs. Colter peed on the floor again.” ~Big Apple Hunter
“Hey, beautiful, do you have any blue underwear?” ~Sin City Hunter
“Stop it!” I whispered.” ~Big Easy Hunter
Detective Bentley’s blood pressure was on the rise as he paced the hallway of the unfamiliar police station. ~Windy City Hunter (not yet published, still messing around with the first line)
I think I swerved into a fairly decent first line for the first book, and now that I’m learning more about writing, I think the last one is pretty good, too. First lines good or bad, I think all of my books are entertaining.
While reading about first lines, I came across this site which lists 100 Best First Lines from Novels. I enjoyed reading it, and I was surprised so many were quite lengthy.
It was a dark and stormy night continues for another 51 words.
It was love at first sight. Joseph Heller started Catch-22 with a cliché.
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. Dodie Smith wrote this first line to I Capture the Castle. I thought it was funny. I wonder if she sat in the bathtub when she wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
Only three of the 100 started with a sentence of dialogue. A few weeks back, I learned this is something taught in classes – do not start your book with dialogue. I did it anyway.
I did shrink the information I gleaned down to a few tips for the first line of a story:
– You want to grab your reader’s attention.
– Your first line should be interesting by asking a spoken or unspoken question, promising something, or offering an unproven idea.
– Show your main character in your first line.
– Show your setting or give a sense of your setting.
– Your style of writing should shine through. Your voice should be identified.
Well, no wonder writing is so hard. That’s a lot to lay on one sentence.
I also read that first sentences are rarely memorable. You are more likely to remember a last line or a last scene. Yet, it is, of course, the first that is used to hook a reader.
As I read the articles, I also read the comments. There were some interesting comments about so much weight being applied to one sentence. Many people responded:
– The first few lines are important, not the first sentence.
– The first few paragraphs will set the tone and writing style.
– The first chapter is the beginning, but it’s not necessarily the beginning of the entire story.
You take over. What do aspiring writers really need to know about first lines? Does the first line truly do the heavy lifting ascribed to it?