This week in Yo Ho a Writer’s Life for Me, we are discussing first-liners. You know, those first lines of a novel that grips you and you want to know more. In The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell says it’s about engaging the readers as soon as possible, giving them something to worry about. As a reader, I can’t really attest to this. I mean, I’ve sat down and studied the first lines of my favorite novels and some best-selling novels, and I can’t really say that I was “hooked” by the first line.
So let’s have a looksee…
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Yes, I know. Harry Potter. I love the author’s voice here, but it’s not really giving me something to worry about, except of course, knowing that these “perfectly normal” folks were about to be surprised with an unwanted bundle of joy. I would have to say it was her style/voice that drew me in at the beginning.
“The darkness of my abyss consumes.”
I am Ocilla by Diane M. Graham. Now, doesn’t that just grab you? Of course this is the beginning of chapter one. There is also a prologue. “Two dark forms glide across the open field.”
“Two children, a brother and a sister, played down by the Old Bridge nearly every day, weather permitting.”
Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I love this book, as some of you already know, but this opening really didn’t hook me, although, at the end of the prologue, that golden cat with no eyes, yeah, I was engaged. As I’m typing this, Heartless is free on Kindle, so check it out!
And some opening lines are so short, you have to read on just to get an idea of what’s going on, such as the case with, The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs.
“In short order, the afternoon sky cooled from blue to marbled gray.” But as we read on it builds to: “The perfect day for magic. Hadyn Barlow would have none of it.”
That intrigued me.
Then there are some openings that stretch on forever like Terry Brooks’ first line in The Sword of Shannara. “The sun was already sinking into the deep green of the hills to the west of the valley, the red and gray-pink of its shadows touching the corners of the land, when Flick Ohmsford began his descent.”
Not sure if that hooked me, but I have to say this book introduced me to fantasy and the rest is history. 🙂
So what say you? Do you agree the opening line needs to hook us? What are some of your favorite books and their first line? What about the book grabs you and makes you want to read more?
Speaking of opening lines and being hooked, there’s a contest over at Reader’s Realm for the best hook. If you’re a writer and would like to test out your opening paragraph, check it out! The contest ends September 20th.