Friday, March 27, 2009

First Lines

How important is the first line of a book? What does it take to craft a must-read-the-rest-of-this excellent opening in a novel? I want to learn.

I am currently reading Long Gone Daddy by Helen Hemphill which opens with “The first time I met my grandfather, he was laid up on a porcelain prep table at the Hamilton-Johnson Funeral Home.” There’s no way I can stop reading after that first line!

My all-time favorite first line in a novel is from The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck: “If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of the year for it.”

I want to know: Do some writers naturally have the first line talent or can this skill be taught? Does it come easily or does it take weeks of tweaking to refine a novel’s opening line into a fantastic first line?

Do you have any tips on creating first lines? Any favorite first lines to share?

6 comments:

Kit Wilkinson said...

I think first lines are very important. They need to evoke mood and mystery. I really love the ones that plop you right in the middle of the action.

Rae Ann Parker said...

I agree, KIT!

Monica McCabe said...

MCRW had a session on writing first lines a couple years ago. But I still remember what author Beth Pattillo came up with out of the blue...

On a normal day, Ginger Jones would never fling her underwear at a man's head.

I made up the name cause I couldn't remember what Beth used, but I sure recall the line. It creates instant intrigue! Don't you just want to know what happened to make Ginger fling her underwear? :~)

Rae Ann Parker said...

MONICA, I think MCRW may need to do that workshop again. I love Beth's first line. I would definitely keep reading.

Shauna Roberts said...

I suspect some people are born with the knack. At one magazine I worked at, one writer came up with such great titles consistently that she ended up writing titles for almost everyone's stories.

Have you read Hooking the Reader: Opening Lines that SELL by Sharon Rendell-Smock? It's full of examples of good opening lines with some discussion of why they work.

Rae Ann Parker said...

Being the Title Guru sounds like a fun. Thank you for the book recommendation. I will check into it.