We’ve talked so much about the reader, but you can’t forget that the opening line is important to the writer, too. To the person who’s actually boots-on-the-ground. Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both. I think that’s why my books tend to begin as first sentences — I’ll write that opening sentence first, and when I get it right I’ll start to think I really have something.
Something popular genre fiction does very well is series. Essentially it’s a number of books featuring a cast of regular characters. It’s for those characters that we keeping coming back for more and more and more…
My second installation of “Fun with First Lines” is all about “Serial Love”
One of my first bouts of “serial sickness” was with Nancy Drew books when I was about 8. They were terribly written really, but they were completely addictive. Maybe it was something about the familiar and the new all wrapped into one. It’s comforting and challenging at the same time…
For some writers their most famous characters can become a burden. Take Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of one of the most enduring sleuths of all time – Sherlock Holmes. He got so tired of writing the mystery stories that he actually killed of Sherlock and attempted to move onto other projects. But the fans outrage was so extreme…that eventually he brought the character back to life.
The following first lines are from the debut book of three different series that I’ve recently read and enjoyed. They’re not perfect…but I’m not here to provide a review – but rather to ask you to take a look at the writing, the entry point into each author’s fictional world and try writing something yourself!
I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar. Ever since vampires came out of the coffin (as they laughingly put it) two years ago, I’d hoped one would come to Bon Temps. We had all the other minorities in our little town – why not the newest, the legally recognized undead?
Dead Until Dark (Book #1 Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series) by Charlaine Harris
Prologue: Ricky Ramirez’s parents stood on the other side of the door, speaking in hushed tones with the doctors. His grandmother’s hand felt like wishbones in his small one. Her eyes were still closed and she breathed shallowly. The hospital room smelled of tobacco and anise, mixed with sweat. He was surprised more than frightened when she suddenly sat up and grabbed his head towards her by the ears. She tugged so hard it brought fresh tears to his nine-year-old eyes . “The dead will come,” she rasped, “My gift to you, as the eldest child.”
The Beggar’s Opera (Book #1, An Inspector Ramirez Novel), by Peggy Blair
The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.
Tossing the screwdriver onto the table, Cinder gripped her heel and yanked the foot from its socket. A spark singed her fingertips and she jerked away, leaving the foot to dangle from a tangle of red and yellow wires.
Cinder (Book #1 Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
So now that you’ve soaked in the first lines of these books…it’s time to write! Stephen King says his books begin with a first sentence – so why can’t we?
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
If you have a novel idea kicking around, give yourself 15 minutes, take a deep breath and write the opening lines. Don’t pause, don’t edit – simply write without stopping. Then take a look at what you’ve done…and I’m sure you’ll be surprised.
If you don’t have a novel idea at this time – read the opening lines of a favoured book. Pick a minor character, make them major and write the opening lines for a novel featuring them.
Share what you’ve written. Post in the comments section and comment on others. Happy writing!