Friday, February 22, 2008

Craft/First Lines

A good opening line is an essential part of story telling. It's also something that I don't think I'm particulary good at. Occasionally I get it right but more as often or not I don't think I do. OF course there is the best first line of all time..."It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." from Charles Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Most writers aspire to put down something that great.

I'm going to list some first lines that I think are pretty good and why I think so.

Alyssa Day/Atlantis Awakening
"These are my kind of odds," Ven said, drawing his sword with his right hand and one of seven daggers strapped to various parts of his body with his left.

Right away we know there's a fight going on. And I'm betting Ven is going to come out the winner.

Linnea Sinclair/Games of Command
"You might want to sit down,"....

There's more after that but I'm already hooked.

Liz Maverick/What A Girl Wants
In Hayley Jane Smith's defense, it should be noted that it was a record breaking week during the hottest summer in ten years of San Francisco meteorology history.

I love this line. In Hayly Jane Smith's defense. What did she do? What does the heat have to do with it? Why does she need defending? Must read on to find out.

Another Liz Maverick, This one from Adventures Of An Ice Princess
There are few things more humiliating in a woman's life than having an engagement party thrown in her honor when the man in question has not proposed.

You know that there's nothing but trouble coming up.

Here are a few of mine.

From Obsessing Orlando under the pen name Kassy Tayler
"I can't breathe!"
oh the drama of being a teen girl.

From Windfall
Something was different.

From Star Shadows and my favorite
It was one of those days that hurt to be alive.
When I wrote this line I wanted to show the desperation of youth. That burning, yearning, I got to do something or I'll explode feeling.

and from Twist
Would I make it
Pulls you right in doesn't it?

A good opening line should pull you right into the story and start your mind spinning with the basic questions. Who, what when, where and Why? And then I got to read this.

I'd love to see some other great opening lines. Anybody got any they want to share?


  1. "Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die."

    FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk

    I agree with the draw of a first line. I especially love it when a mystery is set up even from the very first words.

  2. This is my favorite opening line I've ever written (and I'm very very particular with my openings, for the reasons you pointed out!), from Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover:

    "In case you've ever wondered, desperation smells exactly like purple passionfruit warming body oil: fruity and a little rancid."

    And my very favorite opening from one of my kid's books (it's more than one line, but you'll see why):

    "Zack Freeman woke out of a deep sleep to see his butt perched on the ledge of his bedroom window. It was standing on two pudgy little legs, silhouetted against the moon, its little sticklike arms outstretched in front of it, as if it was about to dive.
    Zack sat up in bed.
    . . . "Oh no," Zack said. "Not again."

    from THE DAY MY BUTT WENT PSYCHO, BY Andy Griffiths

    Do you see why that is so amazing?? It's action of the most unbelievable kind, but then he says NOT AGAIN!!! And you know it's happened before!! It's such a strong hook into the story.

  3. The opening paragraph of Stephen King's PET SEMATARY, to me, is a sterling example of foreshadowing the entire plot of the book. I don't have it in front of me. The essence of it is that these few lines introduce Louis Creed (the father who makes the terrible "Monkey's Paw" choice), the old local guy across the street who's destined to introduce him to the dark magic of the Pet Sematary, and the cat Church (whose death sets the whole disastrous chain of events in motion).