First sentences are hard. Agents and editors give all kinds of conflicting advice on panels and in workshops, on their websites or in books. One says a novel should never open with dialogue. Another says she loves a book to jump into dialogue from the get-go. A writing manual tells us the first sentence should be the hook. An agent insists we should never open a book with the weather. In a conference workshop, a well-known editor advises writers that the opening sentence should never be in the form, “Blank did blank.”
What’s an author to do?
Since I have lots and lots of books around my house, I decided to look at the first page of random books and pick five that had killer first sentences (that’s killer first sentences from my point of view, of course). Here are the ones I selected this time around:
“Several miles into his journey, Jack St. Bride decided to give up his former life.” …..Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls (2001)
“When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.” …..Alice Sebold, The Almost Moon (2007)
“Call me Snake.” …..Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory, Death Roll (2007)
“Three days before her death, my mother told me–these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close–that my brother was still alive.” …..Harlan Coben, Gone for Good (2002)
“When this nameless piece a’ shit tore off Linda Lobo’s G-string instead of sticking money in it like he was supposed to, Texas Jack Carmine went crazy-over-the-edge and hit him with a pool cue.” …..Robert James Waller, Border Music (1993)
Killer first sentences will be a blog topic from time to time, which is why I put the date in the title. Let me know if you have an all-time favorite, or one that caught your attention recently. Can a great first sentence convince you to buy a book (or check it out of the library)?