Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
The first line of a story is absolutely important. It sets the tone for the entire tale and has to act quickly to catch the reader’s attention. I can’t even begin to count how many books I’ve passed on reading because the first line didn’t appeal to me. I think the first line of any story should be the author’s best shot at grabbing my attention.
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 difficult for me to write. Sometimes I lay in bed at night and let words roll around my head when I’m working on a new book. I keep a pad next to me and jot down ideas and notes. Later, I’ll tweak what I have and hopefully come up with a line that’s memorable.
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
The consequences of a poorly written first line are fairly significant. Lost books sales and potential readers top out the list. If an author can’t grab me with his first words, I’m probably going to pass on reading the rest of the book.
What’s your favourite first line that you’ve ever read? And can you recall a worst?
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.
Stephen King’s the Dark Tower Book One: The Gunslinger. I love that line. It’s so simple but so engaging and it sets the tone for not only the entire book but the entire series. I was immediately drawn in.
What is one of your own best first lines?
I have a middle grades reader, Eli Arnold and the Keys to Forever Book One: It’s about Time. I’m very fond of the opening line:
“This is madness,” Tevlok screamed over the ear-splitting wails of the siren.
I hope it conveys that something terrible is happening and grabs the reader’s attention.
We’re all sharing here! What’s one of your worst first lines?
I think that would be,
The world collapsed on a Sunday morning.
I’m still working on it though
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 first lines that are generic. Things like,
My name is Billy and I have brown hair.
I think it’s always a mistake to tell the readers anything – show them through the writing. Sometimes, I’ll go back and read what I’ve written in a day and think, “this sounded so good earlier. What happened?” I think as writers, we sometimes get in a rush to get out what we want to say and end up writing lazy. First lines should never be lazy!
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
I think first lines just have to be played with and rewritten again and again until they are perfect. I always try to picture myself reading my first line in a book store and then I ask myself if I would keep reading this book. Until I can honestly say that I would, I keep working on it.
I’m an independent author and just recently published my first book, Eli Arnold and the Keys to Forever. It’s available on Amazon. I’m married and have one little girl who is about to turn 14. Most of my stories were originally written for her.
I’m an attorney but hate practicing law so I decided to follow the little voice inside my head and start writing. All of the rules and regulations that go along with the practice of law don’t have any place in writing. Anything can happen. The imagination is the only limit. I live in the deep south and write as much as possible. I’m currently finishing up the second Eli Arnold book and also working on several other writing projects.