How to Write a Great First Line

The first line of a story has a major job—to catch the attention of the reader. The right reader. As a writer it is, arguably, the most important line we write. So how do we write a great first line? The Job of the First Line If the job of the first line of a story is to catch a reader’s attention, then all it has to do is shock or be surprising, right? Well, that may work for some stories and some readers. But it’s not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the right way for the story you write today. The most important job of the first line is to hook the reader, but it’s not the only job of the first line. The best first lines also introduce a writing style, a mood, a theme, and hints at conflict to come. Now, not all of us can write the perfect first line. But we can learn techniques that will give us a great first line. No One Right Way I’ve said it repeatedly. Every writer must find what works for them. The biggest shocker is that one way won’t work for every story written by the […]

First Lines for August

August is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So I thought it fitting that I feature novels set in or about World War II in the First Lines for August post. Based on these first lines alone, would you buy the book? At dusk they pour from the sky.  All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr Carla knew her parents were about to have a row. Winter of the World, Ken Follet The man at the end of the long table—he wore a trimmed black beard streaked white at the ends of his mouth—looked up at the wall clock: three minutes past seven. Prologue, From Time to Time, Jack Finney We stood bunched in with the little crowd you can see on the balcony down there at the right—see it?—just over the pillared entrance to the Everett House: Julia and I, her hands in her muff; and our four-year-old son, chin on the balcony rail. Chapter One, From Time to Time, Jack Finney SS-Sturmbannfürer Gunther Dettmer had been dreaming of this day since his childhood.   The Heroes of Sainte-Mère-Église, J.D. Keene Once Harry made a decision, he rarely looked back. Midnight in Broad Daylight: […]

Can You Match the Bestseller to its First Line?

It’s First Lines Friday, but let’s have fun with this one. It’s a mix-and-match game. Get a pencil and paper. Below you’ll find a list of first lines from dystopian ya books on Amazon’s bestseller list. You’ll also find a list of author names and a list of titles. Match the bestseller with its first line and author. No cheating!  Ready? Set. Go! First Lines If you think you know which book the line is from, scroll down and match the bestseller to the first line. Write your answers down in the order of LINE (single letter)-TITLE (double letter)-AUTHOR (number). Titles AA The Gender Game BB Rising: After the Thaw CC Divergent  DD The Selection EE The Princess Trials FF Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes  GG City of the Dead HH Starsight II Shadow Fall JJ Edge of Darkness KK Seeking Safety LL Earthdom MM Dark Days of the After NN Shatter Me Authors Bonus points if you can match the bestseller and first line AND the author. Audrey Grey Brandon Sanderson Veronica Roth Ryan De Bruyn Heidi Catherine Vasily Mahanenko Kyla Stone Ryan Schow Kiera Cass Cordelia Castel T.L. Payne Bella Forest Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Michael Evans All […]