First Lines

25 Apr

As an aspiring author there always seemed to be a lot of emphasis placed on the beginning of a book, particularly the first line to immediately grab the reader’s attention. And when you’re ‘aspiring’, that was an editor or an agent. I can’t recall the number of times I either saw this stated and emphasized online or at workshops during writing conferences. When I thought about this post, I tried to think of books whose first lines had been riveting, had grabbed at me right off the bat. Know what? I couldn’t think of a single one LOL. Nothing that stuck with me enough to be in the recall banks, anyway.

As a published author I spend a great deal of time on the opening of a book. It’s important to set the tone and I want to engage the reader as quickly as possible. I tend to start a book in the middle of something. No long, descriptive narrative for me! It’s not the way I write and not the way I like to read. As such, that first line to me as a writer is key.

First lines from my own books:

“Christ, he was a sick fuck.” – PICTURE THIS (and he really is, but Jillian sorts him out)

“Yes, yes, Rio, yes…oh…God, yes…” – PAY UP (Yes, that’s really what you think it sounds like)

Crap.” – PLAY ME (LOL. Yeah, that’s the kind of day Lily was having)

Don’t worry about making a fool of yourself.” – POINT BLANK (It’s Lanie’s mantra. And it works!)

“This was the life. Or it would be if this kind of crap was anything he cared about.” – RISE OF HOPE, coming August 2012

It was fun to go back and take a look at these because it’s important for me to set the tone of the book with that first line and to build a relationship with the reader immediately. Even if no one ever remembers a single one :).

So…what’s some of your favorite first lines or book openings? Or do you even notice them?

BTW, the pic? Completely unrelated to the topic, but OMG, right? Enjoy :).

5 Responses to “First Lines”

  1. Vicki Batman April 25, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I love first lines and like you, use dialogue. Fun stuff!

  2. charchaffin2011 April 25, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    First of all, OMG on the photo! You always know where to find them. 🙂

    I also spend a ridiculous amount of time on that first line, for exactly the reasons you state: agents and editors do place importance on them. As a writer, I define the danged thing until I’m cross-eyed, and as an editor I zero in on a manuscript’s first line. I get to see both sides.

    My own first lines? I like them, and I think they worked for me. Examples:

    ‘Hidden was good. She could work with hidden.’ UNSAFE HAVEN (latest book, in my editor’s hands as we speak)

    ‘Annie Turner fell in love with Travis Quincy on a hot summer day, over a tangled fishing line and a bucket of night-crawlers.’ PROMISES TO KEEP (my first novel, published five months ago)

    I wouldn’t advise anyone to make themselves a neurotic wreck over a first line, to the point they’d need therapy 🙂 but definitely think about how you want to punch a reader between the eyes with that line, and what tone you want to set, too.

    Great blog!

    Char Chaffin

  3. Marilyn Campbell April 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Great post Kaily! My favorite first line of another author’s book would have to be Virginia Henley’s “What a beautiful cock!” from The Pirate & the Pagan. My favorite first line of my own – “Mizz Wallace, did you or did you not, on more than one occasion, willingly take Senator Ziegler’s penis into your mouth?” from Pretty Maids in a Row. I do love a good hook & yours have all been great!

  4. Kaily Hart April 26, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Vicki, I love to just dive right in and dialgoue is a great way to do that. Why wait?

    Char, love them!! Great to hear the ‘other side’s’ perspective.

    Marilyn, actually now that you mention it, I remember that one. How could I have forgotten? Classic!

  5. shannonemmel April 26, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    “Oh what a beautiful cock!”. (The Pirate and the Pagan, bt Virginia Henley

    “Miz Wallace, did you or did you not, take senator Ziegler’s penis into your mouth on more than one occasion?”
    (Pretty Maids in a Row” by our own, Marilyn Campbell!

    …and the picture? Holy mother of GOD! Don’t know about putting out fires but he certainly can light MINE!


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