Let's face it. There are only so many avid readers out there. (It's a shame!) Even then, many of us have short attention spans when it comes to getting into a book. Too many turns of the page with a subconscious hope of something drawing us in soon, and before long, we give up. So why not start from the very first line and draw us in?
An opening line creates an impression and sets expectations. I’ve made a habit of taking note of the first line of every book I read. Santa was good to me this year…
Yep, I got a Kindle!! So I’ve been reading even more first lines lately as I try book samples. I examine each first line. I think about them. So many first lines fail to excite. That’s too bad. Even in best sellers or books I end up loving.
A solid first line intrigues us and makes us want to read more. What makes a solid first line (please comment!)? Here are a few ideas, with examples of first lines from books I’ve recently read, looked into, or found online:
MAKE US WONDER
• “For Dawson Cole, the hallucinations began after the explosion on the platform, on the day he should have died.” The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
• “Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls
• “Reporters had been circling the event for days now.” Home Again by Kristin Hannah
What explosion? Who should have died? What Event? What old crows?
BEGIN AT A PIVOTAL MOMENT
• “Owen Blackthorne stepped into the Armadillo Bar and found trouble waiting for him.” The Texan by Joan Johnston (This also "makes me wonder")
• "When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news." Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
• “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
• “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
• "Getting punched hard in the face is a singular experience." Godless by Pete Hautman (I sure hope it's singular!)
• "Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home to tea." The Death Collector by Justin Richards (love this)
• “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
If a killer first line is ideal for the first chapter of a novel, why not for every chapter throughout the entire work? I'd love your input on this one. Here are a few of the first lines from several chapters throughout my contemporary YA novel that are up for your assessment:
“I’m suddenly fighting to breathe.”
“When life gives you lemons, buy a Mountain Dew.”
“I shouldn’t do this, but I can’t help myself.”
“Pralines have never led me astray.”
“If my mom knew what I did tonight, she wouldn’t be too disappointed.”
“Let’s just say I’m doing the last thing I want to do on a summer night.”
“It happened on a sunny day in mid-March, eight years ago.”
“I regret the words even before I say them.”
Do they make you wonder what the next sentence will be? Which of the above first lines is your favorite? Least favorite? Are these first lines better than starting with weather, setting, a date, etc…? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.