This being my first post for this site, I thought there’s no better place to start than with the first sentence of a book.
Charles Dickens had a few good first lines, as did James Joyce. There’s some good websites that list the top 50, 100 and probably thousand best first lines. But are they the best first lines because the books attached to these first lines were brilliant or because the first line was brilliant and made people want to read the book? My brain hurts.
No doubt about it, you need a hook, you need to grab the readers attention, but is the first line the most important or will the first line become great if the story is great?
I should say right now that this blog isn’t about me sharing my wisdom. Not at all. If I had wisdom, skills or any marketable expertise I’d probably be published and have no time to write this gibberish. I’m writing stuff here to get it out of my head, maybe clear out the cobwebs and free up the works so that I can write. And if anyone ever reads this, maybe they can give me some tips 🙂
Anyway…back to the topic at hand.
I struggle with starting (yes that’s a lack of confidence, I don’t need Freud to tell me that) and even when I do get a line, I question it, I doubt it, I make fun of it, I hate and ultimately I change it. Then the whole process starts over.
Someone might say, the reason I struggle is because I’m not meant to be a writer and that’s a fair comment. I’ve had more jobs than I can remember. From cleaner to welder, shoe repairer to employment consultant, security guard to underground miner and for the last 12 years a public servant. But writing is the one constant, the one thing that makes me feel alive. It’s the first thing that pops into my head if anyone asks, “what do you want to do with your life?” (thanks Twisted Sister). So I don’t doubt my passion, just my ability to execute.
Here are some of my most recent first lines, you be the judge if they suck or not.
- The graveyard was particularly nice at this time of the afternoon. Winter was behind us and Spring was happening all around the city.
- I’m sorry, it’s not good news I’m afraid. You’re dying and there is nothing I, or any other doctor can do to change it.
- I’m no ones first choice, no one is sitting by their phone hoping I’ll call or text them.
- The plume of smoke rising up through the trees in the forest behind Jake’s house was concerning.
“I got a million of ’em”, but I won’t bore you with anymore.
There’s probably nothing wrong with any of those and as I look at them now they seem fine. Maybe Stephen King was right when he talked about leaving your work for 6 weeks. When you come back to it and look at it with fresh, objective eyes. This is from his book, On Writing, which I highly recommend, particularly the audio book version because he reads it.
Anyway, I have purged enough. I’m going to take one of those lines and turn it into a paragraph.