Monday, January 22, 2007

First Lines

First lines have always fascinated me and frustrated me. They fascinate me as a reader. I LOVE a great first line. They absolutely frustrate me as a writer. I try really hard to get something quick, succinct, and awesome. You know, that perfect line that will grab a reader. I have bought books based on first lines only.
Here are a couple that I love.

"The only thing worse than dying on the job was living long enough to retire."

All a Man Can Do--Silhouette Intimate Moments---Virginia Kantra

"This Street is Impassable, Not Even Jackassable."

The Measure of a Lady---
Deeanne Gist

Tell me those lines wouldn't make you want to read the rest of the book.

Now I'll throw myself out there.
"Sweat beaded on Frank Kennedy's forehead. He couldn't decide if it had more to do With the leggy blonde in the doorway or the injured cat in his arms."

That's from my first inspirational manuscript, Faith for Frank Kennedy. Okay. I know that's two lines, but I"m learning. I just need more time.

How about you? Do first lines fascinate or frustrate you? Or both.
Have any favorites? If so, let me know.


  1. Lindi,

    I remember what Lenora Worth said in her workshop at last year's FHL mini-conference. "Leave them with a question." She went on to say how the first line, though not always a question, should raise a question in the reader's mind. Something that makes them want to know more.

    I try to do that, though I don't know if I always succeed. And while I don't usually pick up a book and look at the first line, it certainly get me going.

    Frustrated or fascinated? Hmm. How about frustrated to the point of fascination?


  2. My favorite book of all time (which I didn't indicate in my bio section for some reason) is GONE WITH THE WIND. I have one copy my Granny bought me in 1986. The thing is ratted out and falling apart but it's on my bookshelf with all my other cherished books. I wonder, if Ms. Mitchell was trying to publish her book today, if she would've sold it with her first line: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."
    And then, she went into a description of Scarlett... No, you or I could not get away with it, but hopefully Margaret Mitchell could've. Ahhh, the classics... Yes, I love a good first line, but it's frustrating to think of one for my own book.

  3. I love to try to come up with my first lines. But I do get frustrated if an author uses one to manipulate me. I've read books where the first line is so outrageous that you're hooked, but then get into the book and it has nothing to do with the story. The author used it as a device to catch attention, and I felt like I'd been ripped off.

    I love the examples you gave, Lindi! I especially loved Virginia's. And yours. :)


  4. Awww.

    I just dropped in to say "hi" and was so flattered to see the line from AAMCD. I always wanted to be an example of something. Something besides, say, why you should always check your teeth after you've eaten spinach or why you shouldn't open the door in your bathrobe.

    Jenny Crusie calls first lines "an invitation to the party inside." I love that. When I get stuck for a first line, I go to my shelf of Dick Francis books and just read his first lines (well, often his first few pages; he's that enticing) in book after book until I'm in the Zone. Then I sit at my desk and mouth first lines until something feels right.

    Which works until the UPS man comes and finds me in my bathrobe (see note above).

    Love the new blog!


  5. Great comments, ladies...and Hi Virginia!! I"m so glad you came by.
    You are a great example of so many things, I"m sure you'll be used often!! (In a good way, of course!)

    Ladies, if you haven't read Virginia it.

    Christy-GWTW is one of my fav's too.
    Mindy, I like your summarization.
    Frustrated to the point of fascination.
    Missy--I think I try to relate my whole book to the first line! (No wonder I struggle)

  6. Virginia said: "I always wanted to be an example of something. Something besides, say, why you should always check your teeth after you've eaten spinach or why you shouldn't open the door in your bathrobe. >>

    You're too funny!

    Thanks for sharing Jenny Crusie's quote. That's great!

    Good to see you, Virginia! Thanks for stopping by.


  7. Lindi, great topic. I love the challenge of trying to create a witty first liner.

    Hi Virginia! I need to make it to another workshop at HCRW soon. Or maybe you can make to CRW? I love your workshops. Hope you're doing well.


  8. Just found your blog and wanted to say hello! God bless you all!

  9. how about 'in the beginning' that really grabs me! Have to have a little Bible fun you know!
    love you,