With the recent opening paragraph contests over at Nathan Bransford's and Lori Brighton's blogs, along with reading Hooked, I'm getting seriously paranoid about the gravity of sentence one of page one in chapter one.
In Hooked, Les Edgerton says:
Your first sentence or paragraph may be the most important writing in your story. They may well be what sells your manuscript to an agent or editor.
It also can be the difference maker on a sale to a reader later on. I have to admit that I am one of those people that opens to the first page and reads the first line when I'm browsing in a bookstore. Even Amazon posts the opening line underneath the titles of many of their books. I read the blurb for the book too, but a great opening line can win me over. So we may only have seconds to impress that agent/publisher/reader.
No pressure, right?
So what the heck makes a great opening sentence? Les suggests that the first sentence is "part of the whole" and should contain at least a hint of the end.
When I first read that, I was like, oh hell, that seems impossible. But then I thought through some great opening lines I've read and he's right. Many opening sentences hint at the theme or foreshadow future events if only in a subtle way.
I grabbed a few random books off my shelves for some examples:
The whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hasn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader.--Dairy Queen, Catherine Murdock
Just when I though my day couldn't get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.--Marked, PC Cast and Kristen Cast
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.--It, Stephen King
Years later Amy would remember the day she saw inside the spider house.--Nazareth Hill, Ramsey Campbell
Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.--Forever, Judy Blume
As an interactive horror experience, with beasts from Hell, mayhem, gore, and dismemberment, it was an impressive event. As a high school prom, however, the evening was marginally less successful.--Prom Dates From Hell, Rosemary Clement-Moore
Great lines, right? Made me want to read more for sure. And having read these books, each one of these hints at the overall theme or the ending.
When I'm writing a rough draft, I try not to think about this heavily weighted line, but at the same time, I think if you can get that first line in decent shape early on, it can help guide you through the rest of the book.
Here are the openings from both my romance (which I've posted once before) and my newest WIP. (The new WIP is just started, so this line will probably change because although it hints at theme, it doesn't hint at end.) You can let me know if these hook you or not.
Southern gentility be damned. Nice was getting her nowhere. Aubrey Bordelon put her hands on her hips and attempted an I-mean-business face. “Look, I’m not here to get laid.”
From Exposure Therapy:
Brynn LaBreck’s date was spiraling toward DEFCON 1—imminent disaster. Her sexy banker had jumped from possible fantasy fulfiller to potential therapy client in a span of twenty minutes.
So what do you think about the whole first line emphasis? Do you believe it's well-founded or do you think we shouldn't stress so much about one simple sentence/paragraph? What are your first lines or what's your favorite first line from a book?
**Today's Theme Song**
"Ten Seconds to Love" - Motley Crue
(player in sidebar, go ahead and take a listen)