Apr 19, 2010

First Sentence Frenzy

I've been reading a lot of book reviews. One reviewer always includes the first line of the book. I think it's a great idea, and might even start doing that myself.

It got me thinking about the importance of the first sentence. As a writer, you only have a few pages to grab your readers attention. If you can hook them with the first paragraph, or better yet, the first line, it's even better.

Some ideas:
- Show a character in trouble, pulling the reader in for more.
- Use a bold statement that has some shock value to make your reader laugh or worry.
- Start at the moment a story becomes inevitable.
- Start in the last moments of a peaceful world, just before everything falls apart.

If you're having trouble getting started, start with the second paragraph. Just because you have to write the first sentence sometime, doesn't mean you have to write it first. It may even be a good idea to leave the opening line for when the story is done. Then, when you know where the story ends up, you'll know where to start.

Here's a sample of first sentences from the books in my reading pile. After reading them, leave me a comment with the first sentence from your book, or another book that you love.

"Ida Mae Babbitt didn't know what cookie to serve with bad news." Secret Sisters by Tristi Pinkston

"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold." The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"It was time to say goodbye.  She could feel it--the inevitable separation had begun." I'll Know You by Heart by Kimberly Job (Yep!  That's me, and I cheated and put the first two sentences.)

"A cool February breeze blew over the desert and swirled around me as my assailant slashed by scarf into strips with his knife."  The Sharp Edge of a Knife by D.N. Giles

"Muffled voices outside my door that October morning woke me and took me from a peaceful place to one I'd come to hate."  Far from You by Lisa Schroeder

"My breath came faster as I stared ito the shoebox sitting on the counter at my antiques box."  Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes

"Today it finally hit me:  I have worn nothing but jammies for an entire year." Gravity vs. the Girl by Riley Noehren

Aren't those great?  They all make me want to know more.  Now, leave me a comment with your first sentences.  I really want to read them.  I'll pick my favorites and post them here on my blog.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to play along.

1. Anticipation pumped through Claire’s chest when she first glimpsed the temple, and she quickened her pace. (total first draft, but it's what I've got for now.)

2. Katelyn winced as another bobby pin was pushed into her hair. The elaborate hairstyle seemed to take more pins than hair. (ok, I know I cheated, just like you. ;) )

historian40 said...

"Humans often leave this world the same way they come into it, with a scream." Charity Can't Die.

ps: I love your page background!

Keith Fisher said...

There was no question about it. The plane was going down.

Good advice and great post. I might add the writer needs to continue with the theme. A hook will get them to read but in the case of my first line, I have to deleiver a plane crash. Yes I was paying attention in critique group.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post! I love the idea of including the first line of the book in the review. I'm going to try that, too.

I'm linking this to my Cool Links Friday post this week. It's goes perfectly with another link I have planned. Thanks!

MT said...

Excellent examples, Kim. There's no way I'm posting my first sentence until I tweek them up. You've got me thinking. :)

Shari said...

I have two. (Hope you don't mind.)

I rushed into Hall E of the Portland Expo Center and tripped on the corner of a rug, pushing the person in front of me into a fountain. Free Bread Girl (my current WIP)

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Great post. It's definitely something to put some thought into.

Anonymous said...

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Tracy said...

I like the idea of not writing your first sentence first. Personally, I think it's just waaay too much pressure. Especially since you usually end up cutting it anyway.

Here's the first line from my MG novel.

Dearest Mother;
I know you’ve been wanting to know the latest gossip on this end of the underworld, but the truth is that there hasn’t been much going on since his Evil Lordship succumbed to death by piano (may he rest in peace).

Kate said...

“You bought china without me?” I stared up at my fiancĂ©. (from my almost polished WIP)

The paper fell from my fingers and tumbled to the floor just as Dean had tumbled from my arms and into death a year ago. (from my new WIP)

Susan Fields said...

I love this post! I was actually thinking about doing something similar, and then I read about your post on Stina's Cool Links Friday so I had to come check it out. I'll wait a while if I end up actually doing mine.

"The mouse squeaked when Adam put it in the machine." (from my time travel wip)

Robin said...

I didn't get to introduce myself at the conference, but kept seeing your book! (Pretty sure I even saw you with your book....) I'll have to read it--great cover!

Love this post, too--another reason I failed miserably at the first chapter contest! :) I'm rewriting my whole first chapter, including the boring first line, and don't have a good one to share just yet. Thought I did, but I re-read my new attempt and it was almost incomprehensible. Back to the drawing board! (I'm probably going to have to settle for a horrible first line until after I finish the book. :))

Margo Berendsen said...

Those were great first-liners. Alas, I need something to spice mine up:

Disasters always happened on Selty's birthday.

L.T. Elliot said...

My first line sucks so I won't put it in but I think this is a great post, Kim!

Cami Checketts said...

Those are great lines! Did you review Imprints? I loved that book. I'm supposed to post a review on the 30th, but I'm heading to BYU's Women's Conference, guess I'd better figure out the delay post feature!
Beautiful blog you have.

elizabeth said...

Shame on me! I thought I left a comment here already AND I was a follower of your cutie bloggie. *Sigh*
What kinda friend am I???

Oooh! Great post, let me see:

"Everything was set, her appointment first on their schedule." From my Rock Star. I agree with L.T. about my first sentence. *sigh*

Braden said...

What a fun post. That was very entertaining and educational. I want to post my first sentence from my current project, but it was intentionally designed to be a paragraph and that seems like cheating.

makayla graden said...

is it to boring to start a book with a journal entry?

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