Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
Yes, the beginning of a story is just as important as the last line in a story. If your opening line is poor you run the risk that the potential reader might drop it back on the shelf like it’s on fire and never find out the rest of the story.
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 them hard, I’m much better at writing end lines of chapters. The kind that make you want to flip to the next chapter. I find ends and middles much easier than beginnings so I tend to write the beginnings last.
Some people like to start with in medias res but I tend to start with something atmospheric. I have a background in theater so I always have a need to set my scene; to place the reader firmly in their surroundings. For chapter openers I start with one of three things. An atmospheric description, a bit of dialog or a character’s inner thoughts or comment on what’s been going on.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
If you don’t have a good first line your book could be dead in the water. I tend to read the entire first page before deciding if I’ll get a book. Some people aren’t so forgiving.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
Rick Riordan always has my favorite openers of all time, hands down. It was this line in The Last Olympian, Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 5, that got me to read the series. Now Riordan is one of my favorite authors.
The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car.
I can’t recall the worst first line I ever read.
What is one of your own best first lines?
Here’s are two chapter openers from Daemons in the Mist:
The truth sat there on the screen, burning a hole into me.
The next day I really did feel like I had been hit by a Buick.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
I opened one eye.
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’d have to say, an info dump. There’s a vast difference between setting the scene and boring your readers to death. I’m really turned off by books that start with pages and pages of exposition or really slow prologues.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
Some people say you should start with dialog, or in the middle of action(in medias res). I suggest you start with one of three things depending on what the chapter is about.
- Scene setting- make sure its atmospheric and sensory. Make your reader feel like they are there.
- Dialog- starting with a question, or in a middle of a scene.
- In Medias Res- By starting in the middle of an action sequence (ie. fight, chase, battle), you heighten the dramatic impact of the scene. Done right, it will get your readers blood pumping and draw them in. Done poorly it will leave them highly confused.
Indie author & illustrator Alicia Kat Dillman is a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. Kat illustrates and designs book covers & computer game art by day and writes teen fiction by night. The owner of two very crazy studio cats and nine overfull bookcases, Kat can usually be found performing, watching anime or hanging out in twitter chats when not playing in the imaginary worlds within her head.
Currently I’m working on the next two books in The Marked Ones Trilogy. You can always find out what I’m working on and how far along each project is by visiting my Works in Progress Page.