1. Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
Absolutely. There are SO many books out there to choose from, so many awesome sounding books, too. There’s a lot of competition for readers, and the best way for a reader to tell if your book is worth spending their money, their time and their emotions on, is to read a sample. Some readers sample from the last page (I could never do that, no matter how much I want to know that everything turns out okay), but 99% of readers will sample – or simply start reading – from the start. If the first lines are not interesting, well-written, or contain some sort of hook straight away, that might be as far as your reader gets before putting it down for good.
So yeah, what I’m saying is: No pressure, authors. No pressure at ALL.
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 don’t tend to write the first lines – or any lines – until I have a clear picture of what the scene looks like, what the protagonist’s point of view is, and what some form of opening conflict is. First lines can be easy and they can be hard for me. It depends on how complicated the opening scene is as to how hard it is to work out the exact moment when the reader should come in.
3. What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
The worst consequence of all: Readers putting the book down. Not reading it, deciding that your writing – therefore your future writing as well – isn’t for them.
5. What is one of your own best first lines?
I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the first line of my newest book, The Kiss Off, which is
What rhymes with douchebag?
I think it sets the tone pretty well.
6. We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
I think this one’s a bit of a clunker:
The wizard walked slowly around the crowded tower room.
Fascinating, don’t you think? *snore*
7. Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
Drop your readers into the middle of a scene. Hit the ground running. This doesn’t work for ALL books, more literary books can need a slower build, but for most genre fiction I think this is a pretty solid rule.
8. 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?
First lines shouldn’t start at the start. They should start when something has, or is going wrong. They shouldn’t start when your protagonist wakes up, and they shouldn’t take you through mundane universal experiences, like getting out of bed and brushing your teeth and getting dressed. We don’t read for that. We LIVE that.
Sarah Billington is an Australian writer and editor who likes to write stories with love, laughs, suspense and zombies. Sometimes all in the same story. Her favouritest thing to write about are those horrendously awkward moments that come with being a teenager. Or a human being. Sarah was extremely accident-prone and klutzy as a kid and teen, so her cup runneth over with experiences of horrendously awkward moments to draw from in her writing. Thankfully, she has grown out of her klutziness. Mostly. She is, however, still an embarrassment.
She loves a variety of random things, which include doggies (hers as well as yours), Swing Dancing, Ice Hockey, Roller Derby and she is a bit obsessive about paranormal investigation shows and channel E!. She writes light-hearted works under Sarah Billington, and darker, scarier and more torturous stories under her pen name, Edwina Ray.
She also runs an editing, cover design and author website design business Billington Media.
Sarah’s new young adult novel, The Kiss Off, about a sixteen-year-old, Poppy who uploads a song to Youtube chronicling her heartbreak due to a cheating ex and finds her emotional dirty laundry in the spotlight as the song goes global comes to ebook May 15, and paperback June 2012.