1. Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
The first line is very important to the reader. It should hook them to your story, perk up their interest, and make them feel like they have to read more of this work. The first line can be used as a compass to show the reader where you might be taking them: in a journey through an intriguing story that will captivate their imaginations and reward them with great entertainment.
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 challenging. I end up changing them many times, before deciding on the final one. Many times I think and rethink the first line in my mind; I say it aloud and write it down, then read it again and change it often, until I am completely satisfied.
3. What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
It may cost the author a reader, because if gives the wrong impression. If the author cannot write a great first line, the reader may think that the rest of the book will not be interesting. If the first line left the reader lukewarm, they may decide not to buy the book and not recommend it to a friend. They may choose to wait for a sale or borrow the book from a library.
4. What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
I can’t really remember a great opening line and quote it word for word as the author wrote it. I would not do the author a favor if I paraphrased it. I have already wiped out of my memory the first worst lines.
5. What is one of your own best first lines?
My debut spy novel, Arctic Wargame, opens with these first lines:
The sand dunes sank into darkness as a curtain of clouds dimmed the glow of the crescent moon. Justin limped closer to the small barred window of his prison cell. His bruised chest pressed against the rough surface of the bloodstained wall.
My short story, Carved in Memory, which is a prequel to Arctic Wargame, begins with:
I opened my water-dripping eyes. My world had turned upside down. It took me a moment to realize I was hanging by my feet. I was tied to a large hook fastened to the dungeon’s ceiling. My hands were cuffed behind my back, and I was stripped of most of my clothes.
6. We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
I don’t have those first lines anymore, because I have rewritten them. But I have had my fair share of worst first lines, and I am glad that only my beta readers had to suffer through reading them.
7. Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
Always aim for a specific and intriguing first line. If your work is a murder mystery, do not tell me what the investigator is having for breakfast or how he just woke up. Start by telling me what just happened or is going to happen, i.e. the murder that will be investigated. If your work is a spy thriller, tell me what is the mission, the purpose of the characters. Give me something about the villain, the threat that must be stopped. Write it so that the reader will want to keep reading the next paragraph and the one after that. These are words of advice I have heard from more than one well-known author.
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?
A first line should not be about unimportant aspects of the story, whatever those may be. It should not be boring, passive, and unnecessary. It is the moment where the writer and the author have their first contact. It should be exciting and impressive.
9. Do you have any final words?
Thanks for this opportunity and all the best to everyone trying to make it as a writer.
Ethan Jones is a lawyer by trade and the author of Arctic Wargame, a spy thriller available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback. He has also published two short stories: Carved in Memory, a prequel to Arctic Wargame, and The Last Confession, both available on Amazon as e-books. His second spy thriller, Tripoli’s Target, will be released in fall 2012. Ethan lives in Canada with his wife and his son.
Ethan is giving way ten free copies of his novel, Arctic Wargame, to some lucky, dedicated first line readers! In order to win yourself a copy leave a note in the comments here, or at Ethan’s site: http://ethanjones.blog.com. The first ten readers to leave a comment get a copy!