Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Lines

Writers understand that very first line of every story they write is absolutely critical. It is the first sentence that will give readers motivation to read sentence number two and maybe (if the second sentence was any good) the rest of the book.

I have nine library books I want to read, but am not sure which one I should choose. I know I will get to at least eight of them eventually, so this is far from a major dilemma.

I wondered though, if I had to choose which book to read based on the first line alone, which would I choose? Which would you choose?

Time for a survey!! Please tell me in the comment section, which book you would choose based on first lines. Also, if you recognize any of these first lines and would like to put a plug in for the rest of the book, that would be super duper.

1. "On the evening of Lucy Scarborough's seventh birthday, after the biggest party the neighborhood had seen since, well, Lucy's sixth birthday, Lucy got one last unexpected gift."

2. "The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.

3. "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."

4. "There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife."

5. "The rain had been coming down for hours, yet every flash of lightning still made Tallulah jump."

6. "There are plenty would call her a slut for it."

7. "You must go back with me to the Autumn of 1827"

8. "In all those lessons for which I was made to memorize chants and prayers I never used, couldn't our temple priestesses have taught one--just one!--lesson on what to do with a boy who is too smart for his own good."

9. "The flashlight pierced the darkness
The flashlight slashed through the darkness
The flashlight beam sliced through the darkness like a sword
The flashlight beam darted - yes! - across the dark hall, illuminating a wondrous collection of antique curiosities."

OK, that's it. What do you think? Please comment. This will not only help me figure out which book to read, but also help me learn what makes a good first line.



Samurai Mom said...

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. If you promise not to steal it I will tell you the first line of the book I have not written.

Erika and Ryan said...

#6-the slut one. I don't know why, maybe it's just the kind of mood I'm in.

Afton said...

Erika! I'm laughing out loud! That first line really surprised me because of the type of book it is. There is a girl hugging a bear on the cover.

But, I have to say, you've made a convincing case. :)

Allyson said...

I have often pondered the importance of the "first line". Do you remember the first line in the book "Uglies"? I thought it was awful, I couldn't see how someone could have settled on it and thought, "Yes, that's it!" Either way, I still read the book and liked it a lot.

I would choose the first book, it sounded cute.

Debbie said...

I liked no. 1 because I am curious what her unexpected gift is...definetly got my attention.

I liked no. 2 because wizards are cool. :)

I liked no. 9 because it's unique. I've never read a book where the writer showed you the "rejects sentences" she apparently couldn't decide what a good first sentence was either so she included all of them!

I do think you cheated on no. 9 however, because you included more than one sentence! ;)

Debbie said...

oh yeah...I forgot. I bet you already know about a lot of these...

Leslie said...

Hi Afton, I love your blog and read it often. Nick and I have had a competition going since he was very young about "the best first line of any book", so this intrigued me, and I must say, first lines are getting good! My vote is for the hand with the knife--oh my gosh, what happens next!? Nick's and my favorite so far is "The small boys came early to the hanging", from Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth", which I have read at least four times. Thanks for the recommended reading- I love young adult fiction.

Emily Laing said...

Number 4...I am reading suspense right now and am in a fighting for my life mood...

Afton said...

Debbie, I must defend myself on the cheating. :)
Those first lines did not have periods, and in actuality, the place where I put the first period was supposed to be a colon! So the sentence would have gone one with a long, paragraph list of antique curiosities.

So really, I think I held back on this one.

Of course I could have made the "author's note" the first line which would have been pretty intriguing.

"Please read the contract on the following page very carefully. If you refuse ot sign, I'm afraid you must close this book immediately."

How's that for reverse psychology?

Betty Grace said...

I vote #1 and #6 for obvious reasons

Betty Grace said...

Oh, and I think she's just referring to being a food slut.

Tara said...

I vote #3 or #5, not sure why. Maybe because I want to know why there's no taking a walk that day. Is it because it's raining? Or maybe 5 because it is raining. Can you tell I miss the Oregon rain?

Marah said...

Your survey is over, but I'm going to respond anyway. I liked quotes 1 & 8, because I liked all the detail and the feeling that I was jumping right into the story and not having to wade through background info to get to the good stuff.