It’s Sunday and time for another blog! I thought we might talk a little about writing this morning. There are many aspects of storytelling, but one that stands out is always the perfect first line.
Your first line should grab the readers’ interest and also tell the story. You should know everything about the story from the first line. Or at least the first paragraph—or first page. Your readers will lose interest quickly and it is your job to keep them interested.
Here are seven keys to a great first line:
First lines are vivid. They invite us into an image and lead us into a scene.
First lines establish a unique voice. It introduces characters who are interesting and make you want more.
First lines are surprising. What is this character doing?
First lines are funny. Even the most serious of stories could use a little humor.
First lines are true. An example is A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
First lines are clear. From the first line we immediately know who the narrator is and what the story is about.
First lines contain the entirety of the novel. The writer should compact the entire story line into one sentence.
This takes practice and like a lot of story tellers you don’t always know where your story is going—even with an outline. I often change my first line many times throughout the writing process. That’s okay. Once you know your ending, you know where your story begins.
Here are some good ideas for reading great first lines.
House of Night – P. C. Cast – “Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.”
The Dark Tower Series – Stephen King – “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”
Percy Jackson – Rick Riordan – “Look I didn’t want to be a half-blood.”
Twilight – Stephanie Meyer – “I’d never given much thought to how I would die.”
American Gods – Neil Gaiman – “Shadow had done three years in prison.”
Flatiron Death Grip – Peggy Chambers – “All Teasy wanted was to save her neighborhood. She never guessed, she might also save the world.”
After telling your story, then use that same visual at the end to pull the story together. You have told the story and brought it full circle. This rule should apply to all fiction.
Tell me what you’re writing and how it begins. Grab a book off the shelf and see how the writer started it. Did it grab your attention? See if this exercise helps your writing to become more vivid. Let me know how it went.
There are no expert writers, only students of the craft. There is always something new to learn to make you a better writer.
What are you reading/writing today?