Absolutely! The first line is the hook that will either draw the reader into the story or leave them cold. If that happens, the book goes back on the bookstore shelf, or the reader clicks out of the digital sample.
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 very difficult. I took a wonderful workshop with Mary Buckham last year that dealt with this exact topic. She showed us how to include power hooks in our openings. She has identified nine techniques which can all be used in combination. Mary has a two-week version of this workshop called Power Openings (http://www.marybuckham.com/Onlineclasses.html).
When I begin to write a book, I try not to think too much about the first line since that’s a great way to get blank page paralysis. Instead, I work on perfecting the first line during final revisions.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
A reader’s time is limited and most don’t want to waste it on something that is middle-of-the-road. If the reader’s reaction to the first line is “meh,” she’ll assume the rest of the book is also “meh” and move on to something else.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
The best first line I ever read was from Cherry Adair’s Hush. [warning: explicit sexual themes]
Three things happened simultaneously: the soft, warm curve of a woman’s bare ass tucked enticingly against Zarkary Stark’s good-morning-happy-to-feel-you erection, the familiar gut-wrenching realization that she was the wrong woman, and the cold hard metal of a gun barrel pressed to his temple.
What is one of your own best first lines?
Originally, the second scene in Deadly Obsession was the first. The first line was then:
Where was the best place to shoot Nic “The Lover” Lamoureux? The king-size bed or the beige club chair?
I think that raises quite a few story questions!
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
I try my best to make all my first lines count. So, in my opinion, there is no worst.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
A great first line has to raise questions in the reader’s mind. If the reader has no questions, she has no reason to keep reading.
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 wouldn’t say there is anything that rubs me the wrong way other than some of the “advice” I hear floating around. Things like, “never start a book with dialogue.” Why not? Dialogue is action and action moves the story forward. The key is that the dialogue has to be meaningful and open up a story question without being “on the nose.” If the opening line is “Hello!” well that wouldn’t be good, not because it’s dialogue, but rather because it’s boring.
Joe Konrath, bestselling horror and thriller author says he starts many of his stories with dialogue. To check this out, I went to Amazon and picked one to look at, The List. Here’s the first line: “I found the head.” Okay, that got my attention, LOL.
The only first line rule I follow is: the first line shouldn’t be boring.
Kristine Cayne is fascinated by the mysteries of human psychology–twisted secrets, deep-seated beliefs, out-of-control desires. Add in high-stakes scenarios and real-world villains, and you have a story worth writing, and reading.
The heroes and heroines of her Deadly Vices series, beginning with Deadly Obsession, are pitted against each other by their radically opposing life experiences. By overcoming their differences and finding common ground, they triumph over their enemies and find true happiness in each other’s arms.
Today she lives in the Pacific Northwest, thriving on the mix of cultures, languages, religions and ideologies. When she’s not writing, she’s people-watching, imagining entire life stories, and inventing all sorts of danger for the unsuspecting heroes and heroines who cross her path.