After hearing multiple comments on Project Fun's first line, from love, to a suggestion to tighten it, to a suggestion to delete it all together, I decided to do some research about what makes a great first line.
- A hint of place
- A hint of mystery
- A hint of the end
- An interesting character
All in one line? Now you're getting why writers get a little uptight about crafting that perfect first sentence.
A few other tips I learned about what a first line shouldn't include:
- Dialogue. Without knowing the speaker, dialogue can be confusing, and once the reader does know the speaker, they'll probably have to go backwards--rather than forward in your novel--to re-read the dialogue in context.
- Adjectives, adverbs, cliches--anything that can cloud the writing.
I also checked out my nearby bookshelf for some good examples:
"It's one thing watching someone get killed."
When I Was Joe by Keren David
I love how this is an incomplete sentence, forcibly pulling me to finish the thought and read the second sentence. It also manages to effortlessly (in 7 words!) convey voice and genre.
"You saw me before I saw you."
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Spooky! Definitely a hint of mystery.
"The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World."
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
To me, this line has it all: hints of mystery and place, an interesting character, a hint of the end (hope I can say that without giving anything away!), voice and humor. Actually, at this very moment, I'm thinking I haven't ever re-read Going Bovine, even though I've wanted to for a while, and I'm tempted to scrap this whole blog post and keep reading.
But one last thing! After all that research and brainstorming, what first line did I end up with? Well... I stuck with the one I had.
I know. It's still a work in progress. But I couldn't craft anything I liked better and remain true to the story I wanted to tell (though I did tighten the second and third lines). So maybe it's a keeper after all.
"My first day of school, way back in kindergarten, ended with me cowering under the reading station table, my hands clamped over my ears."
Okay, I showed you mine! What's your current first line?