It was the best of lines, it was the worst of lines.

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1001 First Lines by Scarlett Archer

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“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”- Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

“Call me Ishmael.” -Moby Dick by Herman Melville

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” -1984 by George Orwell

Have you ever wondered which novels contain the most famous opening lines? Or how the writers of Science Fiction compare to those of Romance? Now you can compare for yourself, with 1001 of the best and worst First Lines from fifteen
genres.

1001 First Lines is for the writers and the readers of the world, providing inspiration and instruction, with a checklist of titles to tick off as you go.


First Lines interview with author Sheryn MacMunn


sheryn-macmunn-199x300Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

Yes, the first line is an important part of the story because it sets the tone of the book. It has to convey emotion while giving the readers just enough information to hook them into wanting to know more. It’s tricky because you can’t give too much information or the reader may form a negative opinion about a main character or event.

Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?

Finding a good first line is definitely a challenge. With FINDING OUT, I had to go back and re-write the first line a few times before I got it right. My technique is to figure out what is going to make the readers sit up and take notice of the character as she starts her journey. Then I pass it by my husband who is an avid reader. If he is intrigued, then I know I’ve hit the mark.

What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?

I read a story about a famous writer from the 1920s who was sailing to Europe from the United States. A woman arrived on deck one afternoon with a copy of his newest novel. The woman was excited to read it and sat in a chaise lounge. The proud author waited in the background to see her reaction. After reading for about three minutes, she rose from the chaise lounge, walked to the railing and threw the book overboard. He was crushed but then realized that if you don’t have a great ‘hook’ then you don’t have an audience. The story is supposedly true. I wish I could remember the author.

What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read?

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

And can you recall a worst?

I can’t recall a worst.

What is one of your own best first lines?

My best first line is:

“I can’t believe my friends were right,” was all Sheila Davenport could think as she stared at Joe.

We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

Since FINDING OUT is my first novel, I don’t have a worse first line yet. However, I am working on a second novel so let’s hope the first line doesn’t end up as the answer to this question. ;-)

What are some things a first line shouldn’t be?

A first line shouldn’t be preachy. Trying to sway a reader to think a certain way is a massive turn off.

What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

Reading about the end of the story always annoys me. It takes away the feeling of discovery because I ultimately know what is going to happen.

Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line?

One suggestion is to write the line on a piece of paper and read it over the course of a few days and at different times of the day. When you read it on day three, is it still fresh? Are you still hooked? Also, when you read it in the morning, does it make you want to stop what you’re doing and think? Last, when you read it at night, does it wake you up a little or do you just want to go sleep? A great first line should hook you every time.  Once it does, be sure to pass it by someone you trust.

Have you heard any great advice yourself?

The best advice I heard is that writing it work. Novels do not come from a magical place. They are the result of actual writing, re-writing, and editing. If you put in the work, then great results can follow.

 

Finding-OutSheryn MacMunn self-published her debut novel, Finding Out, in April 2012. It became an Amazon best-seller in two months, hitting the Contemporary Women and Contemporary Fiction list. FINDING OUT then hit best-seller status in the Single Women, Friendship, Romance, and Love & Romance categories as well. In addition to being a self-published author, Sheryn works full-time in Mobile ad sales. Sheryn attended University of Massachusetts, Lowell and received her MBA from Simmons College School of Management. She now lives in Connecticut with her family. Visitwww.sherynmacmunn.com for more information.
 
Buy the Book!
 
Amazon link: http://goo.gl/VfX27

First Lines interview with author Ryan Casey


f3fc70c966e60ad8976f4c.L._V400204052_SY470_1. Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

Of course. The first line has to hook the reader right away. If not the first line, then the second or the third. It/they need to create a sense of intrigue; something to convince a reader to explore further. In a particularly throwaway age of digital reading, where readers can simply delete and move onto the next one if they don’t like what they read right away, a ‘hook’ is even more important that ever.

2. Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?

In all honesty, and without trying to sound big-headed, I don’t find first lines all that difficult to come up with because I don’t allow myself to stress out about them. I find any form of stressing over certain words in the drafting process can be really counterproductive. It’s better to get a not-so-great opening written down first without worrying about where to put which word, etc. Story first, writing quality later. Stress about the first line in the rewrite.

3. What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line? 

Well, it can alienate a reader, and as mentioned, force them to give up on a book. One of the worst criticisms in writing is being told that the reader ‘got bored’. Every line should be written with one goal: to develop. Whether it be character development or plot development, development is crucial. Getting bogged down in description is okay as long as it serves the story/character. If not, cut it. There’s nothing worse than five lines describing the anatomy of a plant, or whatever.

4. What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst? 

My favourite first line is in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club.

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. For a long time though, Tyler and I were best friends. People are always asking, did I know about Tyler Durden.

What a fantastic, gripping opening. I want to know more about the narrator. I want to know more about who Tyler is. I want to know about the hold Tyler has over the narrator that is immediately established. But most of all, I want to know why Tyler’s pushing a gun in his mouth, and why they aren’t best friends. Amazing.

As for a worst line, any which describe the f*cking weather without intending to be ironic.

5. What is one of your own best first lines?

I actually think one of my own best first lines is in my short story, Something in the Cellar. It goes something like,

Sandra Bates hadn’t felt as apprehensive as usual the last few times she’d walked into her house, which was strange considering it’d been the place that she’d killed her husband.

It’s intentionally a bit ‘telly’ because I wanted to put something quite blunt across, lulling readers in with a pretty standard, ‘Sandra felt…’ opening.

6. We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines? 

Probably from the very first draft of my novel, What We Saw. I think it was something like,

There were always mysteries out there to be solved.

Pretty poor.

7. What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

We’ve already covered the weather, which is my biggest personal issue in first lines. Otherwise, I don’t think first lines should be misrepresentative of the rest of the novel. If it’s a slow-paced drama, don’t open with a bang or you’ll set the wrong expectations within readers. Make the first line a part of your novel, not just something that’s tacked on. It has to be consistent.

8. Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?

Be natural to the story. Write whatever you want to write. If it doesn’t seem engaging enough, rewrite it later. Get a second opinion. Most importantly, read other books you enjoy in your genre and see what they do well.

What-We-Saw-Cover-e1343055229958“Casey’s keen ear and eye for description make for a clean and leisurely read.” - Katherine, Writing Reconsidered

“Powerful… an impressive first novel for Casey – a writer to keep an eye on.” – James, Speaking to the Eyes

If you stumbled upon a shocking mystery as a child, how would you react?

What We Saw tells the story of a young boy, Liam O’Donnell, his cousin, Adam, and their experiences at their grandparents’ caravan site one summer. When the disappearance of their dog leads to a terrifying discovery deep in the nearby woods, Liam and Adam are plunged into a very adult world of morals and decisions, and find themselves trapped in the dark clutches of secrecy and suspicion, far transcending mere mystery.

What We Saw is a touching and thrilling British mystery novel that will have you hooked as the plot hurtles towards a shocking conclusion.

“The writing is clean, the imagery vibrantly descriptive, and the story, though fictional, carries realistic emotion that hits the core of the reader.” 
- Leanne

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Mystery / Coming of Age

Rating – PG15

Connect with Ryan Casey on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://ryancaseybooks.com/

 

 

First lines interview with author Trisha Leigh

Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
Of course! I think first lines both draw the reader into the story AND set a tone for what’s to come as far as both story and narrator are concerned. I don’t think anyone would STOP reading because of a bad first line, but a good one can certainly make someone want to read on!

Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?
I don’t necessarily find them challenging – for me, the beginning of a novel is so much better than the end. I find last lines infinitely harder to write than first ones.

What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
Hmm. Like I said above, I doubt anyone would stop reading a book over a first line that was bad or didn’t grab them. But it might make your book easier to put down, and that’s never a good thing.

What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
I really love

I’m standing at the edge of existence.

(Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts) and

My mother used to tell me about the ocean.

(The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan)

What is one of your own best first lines?

I knew from a young age that I should never have been born.

We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

Mari. Marisol. Wake up.

(Yep, the dreaded waking up scene).

What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

Obviously the cliché of the character waking up is way overdone. Personally I’m not a fan of jumping in with dialogue, either, between characters we don’t know.

Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?

I think in general, if you’re having a hard time with your first line, I’d say take a good, hard look at whether or not the story is starting in the right place. Fixing it may be as simple as that.

Raised by a family of ex-farmers and/or almost rock stars from Northeastern Iowa, I’ve always loved to tell stories. After graduating from Texas Christian University with a degree in Film, I began to search for a way to release the voices in my head. IWhen I attempted my first YA novel, which would become Whispers in Autumn, I was hooked. I knew then my heart lay with telling stories about and for young adults, and for anyone who loves to read and recapture those fleeting “first” moments.

My spare time is spent reviewing television and movies, spending time with my large, loud, loving family, reading any book that falls into my hands, and being dragged into the fresh air by my dogs Yoda and Jilly.

http://www.trishaleigh.com | @trishaleighkc | trishaleighkc.tumblr.com |  http://pinterest.com/trishaleighkc/ | Facebook | The Last Year – Facebook

WHISPERS IN AUTUMN, my post-apocalyptic YA novel, is available for KindleNookiBooks,Kobo, and in paperback

First Lines interview with author Vanna Smythe

Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

Like most writers, I was also told by my English and Creative Writing teachers that the first line is a very (perhaps most) important part of the story. I think that’s true. The first line has to be something that draws the reader into the story, and entices them to keep reading. Though I also think that the entire first paragraph, or even first chapter, is equally important. As is the rest of the story, of course.

Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?

I usually leave the perfecting of the first line, or first paragraph, until the end of my revisions. I’m more of a seat of the pants writer, and like to concentrate on getting the entire story polished, before worrying about the finesses of language.

What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?

Frankly, I think that if someone has started reading your book, they will give it a shot beyond the first line. But I also think that a well-written first line is almost like the first impression. The better it is, the more likely for the reader to enjoy the rest of the book.

What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?

Call me Ishameal

from Moby Dick is still the only first line I can remember off hand. I think it’s perfect. It sets the tone of the entire novel and introduces the point of view character very well. As for the worst first line, I really can’t think of any.

What is one of your own best first lines?

Here’s one from an old short story that I kind of like:

The faces of his companions are shrouded in shadow, but that does not matter for they will not talk to him anyway.

We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

Must I ;) Ok, here is the first line of an early draft of Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1) that didn’t make it into the final draft:

Issiyanna had picked two white winter roses from the entrance to the castle Gardens to lay on her mother’s grave and she placed them now on the ground next to the headstone.

It’s too long, and should really be broken up into two sentences, but like I said, it never made it into the final draft.

What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

I don’t like first lines that are an obvious attempt at being interesting and striking, just because the writer heard they must be such. Especially when the rest of the chapter doesn’t live up to it.

Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?

Beyond hearing how important the first line is, I haven’t actually heard much advice on how to make it such. I try to make mine raise a question in the readers mind, while setting the general scene and introducing the character. But I’m still working on perfecting my first line skills.

 

Vanna Smythe: ProtectorDuty versus love is the one battle warrior Kae doesn’t know how to fight.

Kae has trained his entire life to become an elite Protector of the Realm. But when he earns that honor he finds himself protecting something far greater: the Veil separating two worlds. On one side of the Veil lie untold stores of magic. On the Realm’s side, magic is all but obliterated, and Kae is one of the few who can use it. The priests who secretly rule the Realm will do everything they can to control his growing magical abilities. He’s willing to pay the price, even though it comes between him and Issa, the princess he loves.

But the Veil has weakened over a thousand years and powers on both sides will stop at nothing to keep it intact. Strangers from the other side have kidnapped Issa to take her across the Veil and sacrifice her to strengthen it. Kae is the only one who can find her. If he goes after Issa, he loses everything he’s worked so hard for. But if he chooses duty over love, Issa will die.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Fantasy

Rating – PG13

Connect with Vanna Smythe on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://vannasmythe.com/

First Lines interview with author Rashelle Workman

Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
The first line is important. It should be leading, perhaps even foreshadow what’s to come, interesting, catchy, but not over the top.

Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?
It’s like anything else, I think. Sometimes they are easy, and just come to me, other times I struggle and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. In “Beguiled,” I changed it more than once and ended up with: The dream was venom to my sleeping soul.

What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
I’ve heard some readers won’t go past the first line in a book if they don’t like it. I’ve read books with fantastic first lines, and those with deceptively casual lines. I think it boils down to taste.

What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
One of my favorite first lines is from Andrew Davidson’s novel, “The Gargoyle.”

Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.

What is one of your own best first lines?
I don’t know about favorite, but I do like this line from “Prey and Magic”:

When you lose everything, there’s only one option.

 

We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
Here it is:

Dad.

LOL. Yep, I had a moment. =)

What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?
I don’t think there’s a “shouldn’t be” kind of first line. As for a line that rubs me wrong? It isn’t about that for me, it’s about the line doing nothing to gain my interest.

Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
Here’s my first sentence advice: Write it, and move on. You’ll be rewriting, editing, and rewriting the story again anyway, so don’t stress too much. Once you’re in final edits, really think about that line. Change as necessary.

 

Beguiled by Rashelle WorkmanVenus has become immortal, just as she always wanted. In the process she hurt Zaren, lost Michael, and destroyed her family.

At least that’s what she believed.

Turns out Ramien, the god of her planets’ underworld, has her parents, and Michael.

To save them, Venus makes a deal. She must complete three trials. They seem impossible. They certainly won’t be easy. Worst of all, someone she loves won’t make it out alive.

More praise for the Immortal Essence series:

  • “I… felt like I was literally out of this world for a while.” Melissa Lemon, author of Cinder and Ella
  • “I love a book where the details fit together like pieces in a puzzle…” Rachel Morgan
  • “It’s superb!!! I loved the multiple points of view. I loved Venus. Michael was tough to like at first, but by the end – man, oh man, did I fall hard for him. Zaren is yummy! I want a guardian like him. Heck, I want a man like him! AND THOSE BOOTS. PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE CAN I HAVE A PAIR?” Jenna Heartsong

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – YA / SciFi / Romance

Rating – PG13

More details about the author

Connect with RaShelle Workman on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.rashelleworkman.com/

First Lines interview with author Laura Lee

Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
Every line is an important part of the story. Generally you want the first line and paragraph to set the tone. The best opening line may be one that blends in not one that stands out.

Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?
I don’t write in order. So I write the beginning when it comes to me, which could be well into the process.

What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
Someone might not read further.

What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
Darin Strauss’ “Half a Life” begins

Half my life ago, I killed a girl.

That was an intriguing start.

What is one of your own best first lines?
The first line of Angel is

The mountain is nothing but itself.

It is a reference to the mythology we project onto the mountain. This is a metaphor in its own way for the roles we project onto people who are also nothing but themselves and defy neat narratives.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
Mine? If I thought it was bad I wouldn’t use it.

What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?
It doesn’t need to be showy. You just need to start. I often cut original opening paragraphs from drafts as unnecessary.

Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
When I was working as a reporter for the Times Union newspaper in Albany, NY my editor used to have reporters just tell him what happened. Where you start talking is your opening line.

 

Angel by Laura LeeSince the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his religious duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so moved by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray. Even after he regains his focus and realizes he simply met a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction for the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through this vision, and Paul must determine what God is calling him to do.Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul’s ministry but put him at odds with his church as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs and assumptions about himself, his community, and the nature of love.

 Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Contemporary Fiction / LGBT

Rating – PG13

Connect with Laura Lee on GoodReads & Twitter

Website http://angelthenovel.carbonmade.com/

First Lines interview with author Christine Nolfi

Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

The first line is of critical importance. I can spend weeks—no, months—creating then revising a novel’s first line. Like all of us, readers lead busy lives. If a story’s opening doesn’t usher her into a world promising adventures far better than real world enjoyments, why should she continue?

Treasure Me begins with the dialogue

“Where are you? Give me back my wallet!”

for a variety of reasons. For starters, dialogue is the true action in a work of fiction, a kick-start of adrenaline to draw your eyes down the page. Then there’s the dialogue’s content. In this case, I wanted to clue the reader in to the protagonist’s chosen career, but I wanted to do so in a light and humorous way. Birdie Kaminsky is no reprobate. She’s sassy and rude and damn amusing at times. But her impudent behavior hides the battered heart of a young woman hungry for meaning in her life, and for family.

Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you employ to make it easy?

I spent years writing ad copy in my PR firm, and nearly as many years writing fiction. Long ago I learned not to second-guess choices in art or direction; far better to let ideas germinate. I rarely settle on the final version of a novel’s first line until the book has been written, revised, torn apart and revised again. Treasure Me was a rarity in that much of the first scene—including the opening line—arrived one morning in a mad flurry of typing. When I read the scene to my critique group, my voice was barely audible above the wild cackles and bursts of laughter.

What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?

The reader will think, “Why should I bother?” If we possess the temerity to assume anyone should read our words, we’d damn well better make the story enjoyable from the get-go.

What’s the favorite first line you’ve read? Can you recall the worst?

Please don’t ask me to choose a favorite among the literary greats. Here are a few:

Call me Ishmael.

—Moby Dick

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

—David Copperfield

In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh’s wife and Dee’s mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk.

—The Mermaid Chair

The worst first lines? I can’t recall. Those novels are dismissed from my consciousness like stale news.

What is one of your own best first lines?

I’m particularly fond of this opening, from a novel I’ll release in 2013:

It pains me to admit that my self-imposed exile was broken by the lure of Istanbul.

We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

I haven’t a clue. Prior to moving to Charleston, South Carolina last year, I tossed all the detritus from a failed marriage, years of childrearing, countless tries at novels attempted in my youth—I cleared a 5,000 square foot house of all but the essentials needed to begin a new phase of life. It was a freeing experience, like a signal to the Universe that I’d matured as a career novelist and would now travel lightly but with much more impact.

What are some things a first line shouldn’t be? What are some things you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

Passive voice. Needless backstory. Awkward phrasing. Here’s a good rule for beginning novelists: Write the entire first draft with your internal editor turned off. After, read through and make a first pass at editing. Then print out the second draft and study the first paragraphs of Chapter Three.

That’s right—skip Chapters One and Two, and study Three. Ask yourself, “Is this the true beginning of my novel? Is the perfect opening line hidden in the text like a gem waiting to be unearthed?” On a surprisingly number of occasions, our faithful scribe will answer with a resounding, “Yes!”

Treasure Me by Christine NolfiSome writers are gifted with an unusual life and I’m certainly one of those. I’ve lived in Ohio, Virginia, California, Utah and now South Carolina. In college I was featured on the front page of the Houston Post for a lark that erased all my debt. I met my four adopted children for the first time in the sweltering heat of the tropics. I helped build several companies and was lucky enough to earn a living doing what I love best—writing—in a PR firm I owned.

If you’re wondering about beginnings, here they are: I’m the middle child in a litter of six kids raised in Cleveland, Ohio during the psychedelic 60s. My late mother swore I taught myself to read at the age of two. While this claim stands unsubstantiated, I can tell you that rare were the times during childhood when I didn’t tote a book in one hand, and pen and paper in the other. I’ve been writing ever since.

In 2004, I made the wisest and most irrational decision of my life—I began writing fiction full-time. All those years of hard work pay off daily in sweet notes and comments by readers. Please continue the mail, tweets and comments on FaceBook, GoodReads and other sites. I cherish your support and love chatting with readers.

www.christinenolfi.com

@christinenolfi on Twitter

GoodReads Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/7e2xgjq

FaceBook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/c3sf4yv

Amazon link: http://tinyurl.com/72mvu8m

 

First Lines with author Elizabeth Nelson

1. Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

The first line is extremely important. It sets the scene and gets the reader into the story. Take the first line for Curiosity Killed the Kat, “They say revenge is a dish best served cold; but, I know better.” Immediately it grabs the readers curiosity asking why this person would want revenge and how on earth do they know better? Often, first lines don’t come to me right away. I may get that line in there half way through the story or in some cases after the story is completely finished. First lines are like first impressions; they are everything.

2. Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?

First lines are not always so easy to come by. Rarely will I have the exact first line nailed in one shot. Often times I will continue writing the story and analyze how the story is developing and go back and rework the first line. I read other stories in all sorts of genres and see if I can emulate great first lines. Basically, I spend a lot of time analyzing first sentences and having it really capture the curiosity of what the overall plot is about.

3. What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?

I would like to give as much credit to the second line and even the first paragraph as to whether a reader will want to continue on with the story or not. Though I agree the first line whets the appetite and sets the mood, but I think the first paragraph holds greater importance overall.
4. What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?

All this happened, more or less.

—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five. Can’t recall a worst.

5. What is one of your own best first lines?

I really like the first line for Curiosity Killed the Kat,

They say revenge is a dish best served cold; but, I know better.

I’ve had thousands of horrible first lines. They have since all been deleted.

6. We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

I’ve had thousands of horrible first lines. They have since all been deleted. Haha.

7. What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

I don’t prefer first lines that reveal too much. I want to guess, have my curiosity sparked and want me to read more.

8. Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?

Don’t think too hard and let it come from the heart of the story.

Curiosity Killed the Kat by Elizabeth NelsonBuy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – R

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First Lines interview with author Joe Hefferon

1. Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

No. First lines can be an important to set the tone and engage the reader, but not always. They also can help the author get started. I used to think they were critical, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove, begins,

When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake – not a very big one.

It’s hardly a memorable line, but within a few pages you’re hooked for the next 900. Sometimes I think first lines gain importance retrospectively if the book attains a level of literary acclaim.

 

2. Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?

I think first lines can be challenging, but sometimes they just flow. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but it’s the early, exciting stage of a new project, so it’s a fun challenge. It definitely helps to propel me forward. When I’m writing a profile of someone I just interviewed, the opening line is like kick-starting the engine.
I have no technique. I just have feelings that come out as words.

 

3. What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?

If by badly written, you mean poorly constructed, cumbersome, convoluted or otherwise confusing – it’s sudden death. Your book goes back on the shelf or the reader flips to the next article in the magazine. This pertains mostly to unknown and amateur authors. But a first line is like a first impression. It’s why supermarkets put fresh produce in the entrance. A badly written opening line tells the reader that either you have no talent or you don’t care, either way, it won’t be read.

 

4. What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?

Tough question. Some of my favorite books have uneventful first lines, but they introduce some powerful first paragraphs. I recently read “Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach. Her opening line is funny and sets the tenor of the book,

The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship.

 

5. What is one of your own best first lines?

It’s the one I wrote for an upcoming novel, but I can’t reveal it just yet.

 

6. We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

Did the sun just come out or did you just smile at me?

(hey I’m a writer and an ex-cop; I’ve spent a lot of time in bars)

 

7. What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

I think it’s obvious when a first line is trying too hard to be a first line. It’s as if you can tell the writer placed too much importance on it and consequently over-wrote it. They shouldn’t be distinct from the initial experience. It really doesn’t matter how good it is, as long as it isn’t bad.
One of my pet peeves in magazine articles or blogs is when a writer opens with a definition. “Websters defines success as…” Shoot me.

 

8. Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?

I’m a fan of longer, cumulative sentences, but I think there is a danger if your first line is too long. If it’s going to be long, it better be brilliant. It should be good enough to hold the reader’s interest through the next line, then the opening sequence. If you can grab the reader there, within that opening scene, you’re well on your way. My advice is to make it very good, make it a perfect sentence, not necessarily a memorable one. “Call me Ishmael,” by itself, doesn’t do it for me. If that line were followed by a dreadful book, no one would have ever said, “Too bad the book was lousy; it had a great opening line.”

For an unknown author or an amateur, it’s better for the first line to be polished than remarkable.

A book is an experience. It begins with a great cover, an intriguing title, then a well-crafted opening line that leads the reader thru a portal into the world of the story. It should be a part of the experience, like a professional butler who leads you into a magnificent home; you’re there for the home not the butler, but it helps. That being said, rarely do first lines remain a part of our literary memory if the rest of the book was mediocre.

 

The Seventh Level by Joe Hefferon “Do you feel a rage to achieve? Are you unsure how to begin? What are the secrets to building an extraordinary life? What are the best methods for generating ideas, formulating a plan and constructing your vision?

In The Seventh Level, Joe Hefferon guides you through a seven-step process distilled from an exploration of the world’s most ingenious minds—the architects of the great cathedrals and skyscrapers, the visionary galleries and awe-inspiring residences. Nearly every important moment of our lives is in some way connected to a built place, and now that place can be you.

Join forces with the architects to design the life you’ve always dreamed of. This is your pocket renaissance, the new era of you, the quest for that elusive seventh level.”

Buy Now @ Amazon

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Blog http://joehefferon.blogspot.com/

First Lines with author Jackson Burnett

1. Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?

The first line of a novel reveals the skill of the writer and signals the type of story ahead. Epics often begin with the presentation of something big. Writers who want their readers involved in the narrative often start with action. It’s not unusual for an author who wants to challenge the reader to present a puzzle.

2. Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?

A story always begins at an arbitrary place and time. I often find my first line after I’ve already written hundreds of words. I just throw those out or find another place else to put them. Sometimes a first line comes like a dream. It’s just there.

3. What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?

A poorly written first line won’t doom a big concept novel, but it’s like baseball; it’s a first strike against the book. A foul first sentence in a book read for fun ends up in my unread pile unless it’s a wonderfully bad line. “The Rocky Horror Show,” for example, is resplendent with terrible lines and it continues to be popular decades after its release.

4. What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?

This is my favorite:

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice.

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

This is one of the worst:

Swenson waits for his students to complete their private rituals, adjusting zippers and caps, arranging pens and notebooks so painstakingly chosen to express their tender young selves, the fidgety ballets that signal their weekly submission and reaffirm the social compact to be stuck in this room for an hour without real food or TV.

Francine Prose, Blue Angel

This first line is terrible because it uses so many words to say so little. Prose’s first line actually begins with the last sentence of her first paragraph:

Is it my imagination, or have we been seeing an awful lot of stories about humans having sex with animals?

(the middle aged professor asks his students)
Francine Prose, Blue Angel

Prose should have cut that first line, eliminated the rest of her first paragraph, and started the novel with this question. The point she makes with her beginning could have been worked into the rest of the story.

5. What is one of your own best first lines?

The image shimmered, then burned.

Jackson Burnett, The Past Never Ends

6. We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?

As emotion washed over her, Wanda gingerly looked at her left boob on her chest right above the bottom rib bone on her left side and wondered where it came from.

Jackson Burnett

This first sentence was never published, but it is similar to some, I’m sure, that have been discarded into the ether. The only thing that saves this line from being complete dog food is the question of what “it” is: Does Wanda wonder where her boob came from or is “it” something else?

7. What are some things a first line *shouldn’t* be? What are some things that you’ve read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?

The Wanda sentence from my last answer demonstrates everything wrong a writer can do to start a story. The line includes a cliche, an unnecessary and inappropriate adverb, and unimportant details. For some readers, it would be offensive as well.

8. Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?

Don’t wait for a great first line to begin writing a story. You’ll find it or it will find you.

Jackson Burnett is the author of The Past Never Ends, a newly published legal mystery from Deadly Niche Press. A sometimes teacher of creative writing, Burnett enjoys Italian opera, the roller derby, and reading trashy novels. He also writes short literary fiction and essays. His prose has been compared to that of Raymond Chandler, Sarah Vowell, and Garrison Keillor among others.

Visit with Burnett at the Facebook page for The Past Never Ends: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Past-Never-Ends-by-Jackson-Burnett/302973386467969