Hooking your reader in the first sentence. I am doing a lot of reading about writing these days. And as you might expect one of the golden rules of writing is to grab your reader with the first line. Sometimes that is the only chance you get.
Lillie is walking through the bookstore (yes a few real brick and mortar stores do still exist) skimming first lines of stories to find the one that resonates with her and makes her want to read more. As a writer you want to make sure that the one she chooses is yours.
So with that in mind I decided to go to my bookshelf, randomly grab a few books and read the first line. To find out if that was my only insight into the book would I choose to read it? Actually I am ready for a new book to read so this is how I will decide.
Ok so I have 4 paperbacks that I pulled from my shelf:
• Tess Gerritsen: The Bone Garden – Ok on this one I am skipping the first 2 pages because it is a letter. So chapter one begins. “So this is how a marriage ends, thought Julia Hamill as she rammed the shovel into the soil.” Pretty good, especially since the name of the book is The Bone Garden. It makes you wonder if she is burying her husband right off the bat.
• Gregg Olsen: Closer than Blood – The first line in this book is part of the Prologue. “If Kitsap County’s road engineers had wanted to seek careers as Disney Imagineers, they might have served up Banner Road as proof positive that their designs could deliver the requisite thrill.” Ok so I will read this book one day but for today’s exercise the first line does nothing to capture me here.
• Russell Andrews: Gideon – Again the first line is a part of a Prologue. “Once again he woke up screaming.” Now see, I want to know why.
• L. Christian Balling: Revelation – No prologue at least here. “John Reese sat astride his black BMW motorcycle in the midst of Baxter Academy’s pitch-dark playing fields.” Its ok it makes you wonder what he is doing out here in the dark. But it is enough for this exercise?
Going through this process the choice to me is clear. I want to know what the character in Russell Andrews novel Gideon is waking up screaming about.
So keeping all that in mind I thought does the first line of my story want to make people want to keep reading? Does it need tweaked?
The name of my book is The Oyster King and it has a Prologue too. The first line of that Prologue is:
“I was born blind and deaf to a mother who wasn’t ready to have children in the first place.”
What do you think? Would this sentence make you want to know more about the character?
Go ahead and give me the real truth! I can handle it.