You all know how much I love to talk about first sentences. I’m at it again, mostly because I’ve made the first pass through my WIP to change the point of view in about eight chapters, and now I’m doing the fine tuning on the first chapter. This is the deep, deep revision where I have to make final, final decisions about how to write the narrative. My first sentence will lead the way. I need to get it right.
This is the stage of writing when the books piled on the table by my reading chair come in very handy. I start through the stack, reading first sentences, first paragraphs, first pages, and even first chapters. Today the focus is on killer first sentences:
“A library could be a dangerous place.”
——————–The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds
I’m about half way through The Book of Spies. I like this sentence because I love libraries so much and think of them as safe havens. Dangerous? In what way?
“How weird that you could push open your front door and know in an instant that something was wrong.”
——————–Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell
This one sounds like a great first sentence for a mystery, but the book is actually chick lit. Most likely the “something wrong” is not a dead body, but a romantic or family problem. Still, I’m curious. I’ll read on to find out what the “something wrong” is.
“My name is Stephanie Plum and I was born and raised in the Chambersburg section of Trenton, where the top male activities are scarfing pastries and pork rinds and growing love handles.”
——————–To The Nines by Janet Evanovich
I already know how much I enjoy the Stephanie Plum series, so I’d be reading the book even if the first sentence was boring. This is a good one because it sets the location and gives us a hint about Stephanie’s attitude.
“Miranda didn’t hear the sound he made when his face hit the sidewalk.”
——————–City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley
This is a great beginning for a mystery because it immediately raises questions. Who was the guy who hit the sidewalk face first? Was he drunk and just passed out? Did he jump from a window on the tenth floor? Does Miranda know this guy?
First sentences can do a lot of different things, but it helps if they’re interesting enough to make the reader want to hurry on to the second sentence, and the third. I’m still working on that part.
This post was first published on this blog on August 6, 2010.