I think the first line is less about being part of the story and more about acting as a hook to draw the reader in. Done well it should hopefully make the reader wonder – what the hell was that about? What’s going on? And with luck make him want to read on to find out.
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?
No technique. No ritual. But then I write in an organic fasion, so my stories could begin anywhere in the book, and each day I could write on any or several chapters. It really depends on what I was thinking about before I sat down at the computer. So often I don’t even know what the first line is until I’ve finished the book.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
I’m certain the most important one would be that the reader might lose interest. However, hopefully most readers will read at least read the first few pages before they decide a book isn’t for them.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
Sorry, really can’t recall first lines from a book – but then I suspect that that’s a sign of a good book. I’d remember it if it was so terrible that it took my breath away etc. But if it’s good, it should just leave me moving on to the next line and the next and so forth.
What is one of your own best first lines?
I liked the opening line to Maverick. It’s long and wordy, (so am I), and people have complained that my writing is too long and the sentences meander. They do – I like them like that. But still I think it works well.
There are some days it doesn’t pay to get up in the morning, days when you know nothing good can come from them.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
Undoubtedly from The End.
The courtroom was already packed by the time Garrett and his lawyer arrived, and he was briefly tempted to ask if perhaps they should be excluded from it due to a lack of room, but only briefly.
It felt good when I wrote it, but now I keep thinking it’s awkward and it should be two lines.
Also my opening line from Of Dark Elves and Dragons is a mess. It’s simply:
It wasn’t quite the line that I originally wrote or the one I wanted, though there’s only two letters difference and it means exactly the same thing. But I convinced myself after I wrote the original that it would turn many readers off having profanity in the first line, so I changed it as little as I could. Of course then I had the problem that most people don’t know what ‘scat’ is.
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?
Other then profane or badly written, or worse still, containing an obvious typo, I’m not sure. I can’t remember any truly terrible first lines, which hopefully means that if there were some poor ones they weren’t complete stinkers.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
Not sure that I have any advice about how to write one, or what it should be about. But the one thing I would say is don’t stress about it. It is quite likely one of the things that can be left until the very end of the book.
Do you have any final words?
While I can’t really remember first lines that were good or bad, there are a couple of last lines that I will never forget. Most people will remember tomorrow’s another day from Gone With The Wind. For me I’m not sure whether I like or hate that line, but I do remember it. But the one last line that I truly hated at the time was from Charles Logans – Shipwreck. –
And there, on that rock by the edge of the sea, he died.
Talk about a complete bummer! After racing through the book, it was really very good, and constantly wondering how he was going to survive on the alien planet, really rooting for the hero, it was a massive let down. It made sense, it worked, but I stillwanted him to be rescued.
Greg Curtis was born in New Zealand, land of the long white cloud and small flightless birds, in the city of Wellington, renown for its high winds and the almost magical ability of rain and sleet to be lifted off the street and blasted into one’s face. After eighteen years of suffering the cold and wet, he was finally blown away in a particularly bad storm to settle far away as a student, for more years then most would ever admit to, and then more latterly, an overqualified and underpaid worker in the health sector, (aren’t we all).
He has lived in the city of Rotorua, one of the very few places in the world where people have actually chosen to reside beside active geysers and breath air that reeks of sulphur, for the past fifteen years, working by day for his daily bread, and toiling away by night on his books. When not engaged in his great passions of reading and writing science fiction and fantasy, drinking strong black coffee (some call it tar), and consuming copious amounts of chocolate (dark naturally), he lives a quiet life of contemplation as the high priest to his two cats, worshipping them with regular gifts of food, occasional grooming and by providing them with a warm dry place to sleep. They in turn look down upon him with typical feline disdain, but occasionally deign to bring him gifts of headless vermin, – as a warning.
In a desperate bid to understand the meaning of his life, he has recently started studying philosophy, particularly metaphysics, and finally concluded that God is a cat!
Cheers and be good or don’t get caught.