I think a good first line helps but, for me, it’s not a deal-breaker if it’s not fantastic. Some books start slow but become great – other books hook you from the first.
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?
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
Some people might be turned off by a bad first line. As a reader I’ll plod on for a bit to see if there’s anything better after it. If the first line has incorrect spelling or punctuation, however, I’m not going to bother continuing.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
I’ll admit I’m a big fan of George Orwell and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is one of my all-time favourite stories but putting aside the rest of the story, this is a brilliant first line. It’s relatable, yet foreign. I really can’t recall a bad first line, however, but this is probably because it wouldn’t be worth memorising!
What is one of your own best first lines?
Life is completely visceral at the end.
I like the idea of starting with death.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
Quinn walked up the cold-concrete steps at 6:18am.
The only thing I like is the hyphen; the rest is boring.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
A lecturer of mine once told me about starting ‘in media res‘ – in the middle of the action. An action statement can easily hook a reader but beware about shock-value – not every story will benefit from 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?
I don’t like clichés or anything that is obvious. I’ve read ‘Once upon a time …’ and ‘It was a dark and stormy night …’ before.
Emily Dawson is a published author and editor. You can find her work in the Geelong Writers Group’s ‘Azuria’ journal or on the blog she created so she could cite herself in essays: 2 Words Forward 1 Word Back.