Absolutely. When I’m considering purchasing a book, I always read the first page. If I like what I see, I skip over to a few random pages to see if the style matches the first page (it often doesn’t). I think the reason for the mismatch is that many authors get hung up on making the first few chapters hook the reader and the rest of the book suffers a bit of neglect.
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?
Sometimes a story idea will develop from a good first line. That’s when it’s easy. When the story idea develops before the first line, that’s when I tend to hit a wall. It’s so much pressure to have to hook a reader in one sentence. I don’t necessarily have a technique or ritual for developing first lines. I usually just write whatever comes to mind to get the writing started then I go back and revise when a more catchy line comes to me.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
I’ve closed the cover on many books at the bookstore due to lackluster first lines. I’ve seen much more bad first lines than good ones, but I guess that’s good news for my wallet.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
It’s probably a bit of a cliche, but I’m a bit partial to,
When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
The grammar isn’t stellar, but the impact of that first line is perfect.
I’ve read many bad first lines. I am glad I don’t remember them.
What is one of your own best first lines?
This isn’t the official first line yet, just a draft, but the first line for my upcoming short story No Shelter is,
I didn’t know just how sharp my blade was until Isaac used it to stab me in the back.
The first line of my first novel The Fifth Specter is a nod to one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain.
The rumors that parents who adopt their children love them more has been greatly exaggerated.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
In the beginning stages of writing The Fifth Specter, I initially had the following first line,
Parker Chance crept down the stairs as quietly as possible.
Bleh! I cringe when I think of 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 hate when I see a first line like this: Rebecca hated high school almost as much as high school hated her. (Or something to that affect.) Please tell me something I’ve never heard before.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
I don’t have any tips or tricks. My only advice would be to start with your character in action, if possible. If that’s not possible, or desirable, then start with a strong image or emotionally charged statement.
Do you have any final words?
I didn’t realize I had so much to say about first lines. Just don’t ask me for my thoughts on cliches.
T.S. Welti is a single mother who divides her time between California and Europe. She writes books for kids and teens for a living and bakes in her spare time. You can find out more about T.S. Welti and the Parker Chance series on her website at http://tswelti.com.