Do You Know Why These First Lines Work?

Last week I posted a list of first lines and asked if you’d buy the books based on those first sentences. The first words and paragraphs of a story can bring the story to life or let bring it down. Do you know why these first lines work? Or don’t? Whether you’re a reader or a writer, it’s helpful to know when the first sentences are successful. Rapture in Death-does it work?  The alley was dark and stank of piss and vomit. It was home for quick-footed rats and the bony, hungry-eyed felines who hunted them. J.D. Robb, Rapture in Death Oh, boy, does it work! It engages your senses and makes you feel something. Maybe you recoil a bit. Or you feel a little squeamish about the smell or those quick-footed rats. The bony, hungry-eyed felines evokes a specific picture. Your imagination puts you in that alley because of those words. The words give you a feel for who the narrator is. The word piss and vomit. Not pee or urine, but piss. Not emesis or throw up, but vomit.  Each word works on at least two levels. And it sets up a question in the reader’s mind. Who […]

Why Did You Buy That Book?

Why did you buy that book? Because of the first page? . . . They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy any more. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book. — Mickey Spillane    Do you agree with Mr. Spillane? Do you read the first page before you buy a book? Have you ever bought a book because of the last page of a book?   Image: Victoria Park Silhouette courtesy of Russell Street via Flickr Creative Commons