First lines of books: Why do they have to matter?

First lines of books

first lines of books
fiddleoak / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Most writers know that these days of micro-everything it has become increasingly difficult to get a reader’s attention and keep it. They want the punch line as soon as possible or they are going to move right on past your book. That means you gotta have a brain-stomping great opening. So how is that accomplished? Well, let’s start at the bookstore.

What is it about the written word that will make us go into a bookstore, or onto a digital bookstore’s page and open a book just to see the first line? Come on, I know you do it. I do too! We love that look inside feature at Amazon!

And what about that line? Does it have to have a weighty matter for you to keep reading?

Here are a few first lines that grabbed me

–taken down from my bookshelf.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. -Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

There are certain things in life that just suck. -Meant To Be

I heard the mailman approach my office door, half an hour earler than usual. -Storm Front

The army crept like a dark stain across the horizon. -The Well of Ascension

Good huh? And what is it that makes them so good? Tension? Conflict? Mystery? Blood?

Yes, and maybe even more. So when you are preparing to write your book, make sure that first line is a killer. Make them faint and fall into your book like it has them by the throat in a choke-hold.

Maybe later this week, we can examine how to make killer first lines…

About master

Kim Smith is the author of Disk of Death, The Dread Room, Love Inn, and An Unexpected Performance.

Subscribe to the Zanies See the sidebar to sign up!
+