Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
At first I was like- no, not really. I would take some time to get into the book, the first paragraph, the first page. If a book is many words long then 1 sentence is not going to win or lose it for me. But then you read a first line like WIlliam GIbson’s – ‘The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.’ Then I go- wow, that is AWESOME. I want to read more just because of THAT ONE LINE.
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 find starting a book challenging. I just plough on through and just START the book and not put too much thought into the first sentence, not on the first draft. If you focus too much on making each sentence perfect to begin with, you will lose the book.
On subsequent re-drafts I certainly re-crafted the first sentence, and it is so much better now.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
It is the first impression someone who doesn’t know you is going to get of you as a writer. If your first sentence is clumsy and error ridden, then they are going to think this is you as a writer and, if they do continue to read the book, it is going to be with an air of- this person is an amateur, or needs an editor.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
That William Gibson line is a fantastic one. I own the books, and it totally puts you in the mood for cyber space. But honestly, I would not have remembered the first line if I had not seen it in your book. And to recall a worst? No, sadly I can’t remember a bad first line. My brain is like that, it takes in concepts and the entirety of a piece but gets fuzzy when it comes to intricate detail like individual sentences.
What is one of your own best first lines?
Heh. One of my best? I am reading through first lines of what I have written, and they dont seem to be on par with what you have found in other books. This is from a short story I wrote back in 2008 –
Dahoza’Ma’Tapetal, or Darren, as he introduced himself to his clients, sat at a window seat in a coffee shop.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
Al snored gently.
It doesn’t say much at all, huh.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
Write the line, regardless of how bad it is. Then write the book, the whole story. Now that you know the story, look at the first sentence and see if somehow you can make it relevant to the entire story. Don’t try and write the best ever first sentence before you’ve written the book because inevitably, it will be crap and need editing anyway.
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 sentence should not be epic in length, separated by commas. It should say just one thing, and say it well.
Matthew is a freelance copy writer and professional writer. He is also a creative writer and is on the verge of releasing his debut novel to the world, a steam punk adventure story- The Girl From Out of Town. He has released Act 1 of this story as a free download which you can find here – http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/matthewfarmer.
He has traveled the world, loves basketball, hats, tarot and the Disney character Stitch. His favourite word in the English language is “stuff” and his least favourite is “should”. His website is here – http://www.matthewfarmer.com.au/ and his blog is here – http://mattfarmer.wordpress.com/