Sometimes I walk into a bookstore, I pick up a couple of books and read their first lines. If a line hooks me, I buy the book. If it doesn’t, I put it back on the shelf. That’s how important first lines are to me. More important than the synopsis.
Because a synopsis tells me if the story will be interesting.
But the first sentence tells me if the author will keep me interested.
The Dreaded First Line
Yes, first lines are important. They are so important to some writers (like me) that I’ll start having anxiety attacks at the idea of getting it right. I want it to be perfect, so much that I start dreading the whole thing. It’s important to remember that once I finish a book, chances are I’ll have forgotten about the first line I read.
Remind yourself that a first line’s purpose is to hook the reader, but an author’s talent doesn’t only revolve around those few words.
That being said, today I’m going to analyze what makes a first line great. For that, I visited a writing website I’m really fond of, The Write Practice. Joe Bunting wrote an amazing post called 7 Keys to Write the Perfect First Line, and I strongly recommend it to every writer out there.
As the title of the article implies, Joe discusses 7 keys to write the perfect first line. Here are my three favorite keys:
Example: The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater.
Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.
Example: Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high-school sucks.
Example: The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski
She shouldn’t have been tempted.
First lines don’t need to be full of fancy words to be powerful. They can just be vivid and clear. They can simply aim to make the reader smile. If you struggle getting your first line right, remember that as long as it’s true to your voice, and true to the story you’re telling, it’s already a great line.
The rest of book matters way more.
For the comment section below:
- What’s your favorite first line?
- Have you ever bought a book solely based on its first line?
- What do you like most in a first sentence?
For your personal wordcount:
- Write down twenty different first lines for your WIP. Write bad ones, write silly ones, write surprising ones, scandalous ones. Try all kinds of voices until you find the one that fits.
That’s it for today!
Stay tuned for tomorrow!
On day 5 we’ll be discussion first chapter’s hooks!
Until then, go write!