First Lines – Love ’em or Leave ’em?

Since we never judge a book by its cover (romance novel readers may be an exception?) how do we form our initial opinion of a book? Some people read the back cover material, others the forward. Most of us give every book at least a page or two before we decide if it is worth our time more than going out for ice cream. But still, there is one thing that can make or break a book.

No, it’s not the author being interviewed by Oprah, although that couldn’t hurt.

I’m talking about the first line.

I have completed the outline for Blood Lust, all seven versions, and have gone through at least two sets of character development exercises. I think I am to the point where I know my characters and what they want out of life. Now to start the story, hence – the issue of the first line. I have several options. Here is the current one:

“For the record, the only reason I have written this much so far is the chow in lock-up is worse than last week’s field rats on a cold day.”

What does this tell us? Well, the story seems to be writing itself in first person, a form I am unaccustomed to using. So far so good on that one. What else? Someone has been in jail. For what? You don’t know – yet. It is also implied that the person is no longer in jail and perhaps writing is a requirement to stay that way? Finally, the use of the terms “chow” and “field rats” tells you the person is of a military background. The tone tells me this person isn’t thrilled about writing their story, either. Hmmm.

Lot of info, but really, does it want you to move on? Hopefully so. The next few sentences will establish more of the hook and by the end of the first paragraph you will know the person’s basic background (their torment) and the issue (tension) with the newly introduced antagonist.

That’s the goal, at least.

What are some of your favorite first lines? I think Harlan Coben’s introductory statement used in Six Years is a great one. John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold has a classic. I’d be interested in what you have read. Let’s hear from everyone!

And as always, thanks for stopping by!


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