Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
Yes and no. First lines can be impacting enough to set the stage for the entire book, or they can simply be a lead-in to the meat of the story. An intriguing first line entices the reader to continue, thus giving the plot a chance to thicken and the characters a chance to shine.
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?
Most often, I find that first lines come easily. The goal is to draw the reader into the story as quickly as possible, but it takes more than a good first line to accomplish this. If my novels have a prelude, the first line is often a lead-in to help set the stage. My favorite technique for stories without a prelude is to begin in the midst of a conversation. A conversation can set the tone for the story as well as give readers insight into the characters and the potential flow of events.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
I’d like to believe that most readers would continue beyond a so-so first line to read at least the first few pages of any written work, but that may not be the case. With the escalation of available electronic reading material, it’s quite possible that readers may base their entire opinion of a work on the first line and choose not to purchase. If this is the case, first lines can have an extreme influence on an author’s success.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
As nothing immediately jumped to mind, I did a bit of research in order to answer your question. Greater minds than mine have selected this as among the top 100 first lines ever written:
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.
—Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche (1921).
I confess to having never read the book, but I love that line. And now that I’ve read the line, I want to read the book. This is a great example of the positive influence a first line can have on a reader. Is the line my favorite? Probably not, but it’s in the top twenty. Asking my favorite is like asking what flavor of ice cream I’d like; it depends on the day and on my mood.
As a firm believer in Karma, I’d rather not call out the worst first line I’ve ever read.
What is one of your own best first lines?
One of my favorite first lines is from my latest novel, The Littles, An SSCD Crime Thriller:
The woman’s eyes shot daggers of pain-filled hatred into the black, soulless eyes of her son.
The line lets the reader know that the story is not one for the squeamish while providing insight into the mind of the serial killer stalking the pages of the book.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
I’m still not crazy about the first line of Spellbound, the second novel in my Timeless Trilogy series:
That’s a wrap, thanks everyone.
The line is not part of a conversation, but more like a transition into the story.
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’m not a fan of first lines that extend into an entire paragraph. If a sentence drags on for five inches on the page, it loses me.
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
I say just jump in. Don’t let creating the ‘perfect’ first line make you stymied; dive headfirst into the story, then edit as needed.
Do you have any final words?
I know that a great first line can create instant interest in both the author and the story, prompting a reader to seek out the book. On the flipside, I don’t believe that any written work should be judged on the basis of the quality/meaning/attraction of the first line.
Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion. I’m currently promoting my new release, The Littles, an FBI thriller, and I’m in the midst of writing the second book of the series. My website, www.tallulahgrace.com, includes snippets and samples of the four novels and one novella that I’ve previously published as well as a short story and bits of flash fiction.
An aficionado of anything paranormal, Tallulah Grace pens romantic suspense novels with a paranormal flair. Tallulah was born and raised in a small southern town located in the foothills of the vibrant Blue Ridge Mountains. When she’s not developing characters and weaving stories, Tallulah enjoys reading and bead-weaving.