by Gina Burgess
Google tells me that I have to have what the post is about in the first line. It is about first lines and how crucial are they? Kinda boring first line isn’t it?
I had the misfortune of getting sick over Thanksgiving. It was the first Thanksgiving that I’ve ever spent alone, and I’ll tell you it was fine with me. I stayed in my warm PJs wrapped in a soft, warm blanket, and watched movies all day. I started feeling better somewhere around 3 am on Saturday morning. Ergo — I’ve almost never used that word, but it is really a fun word, isn’t it? Ergo, I need help with this week’s newsletter and blog post.
The post is just basically a few questions and an example:
- Is the first line absolutely crucial to grab a reader’s interest?
- First paragraph? First page?
- Where is the line between grabbing readers’ attention and boring them?
- What is your favorite story first line?
- Why has it stuck with you as your favorite?
I like a lot of different genres, always have. When I was a pre-teen and teen, suspense became my all-time favorite until they started publishing Star Trek books. However, the earliest first line I remember was from Alistair MacLean’s book, When Eight Bells Toll. It went, as I remember it, something like: “I stood absolutely motionless, not breathing, for the Peacemaker Colt was pointed right at my thigh.”
While hunting this down so I could quote it correctly and directly, I discovered that this is not the first line of the first paragraph, but the last line of the second paragraph. How could I have thought all these years (nope I’m not telling how many, but I will say it has been decades!) that it was the first line?
Most likely because it was so arresting. The first paragraph is all about the Peacemaker Colt and the soft-nosed lead bullet from the Colt would tear muscle and bone to shreds to the point that, if you survived the torn arteries and shock, the doctor would have to cut your leg off if that bullet were to strike your thigh.
However, the bulk of this post, hopefully, will be your answers to the questions above. Mainly, how important are first lines to you as interest creating enough to keep reading? How far will you go into a book before you decide it’s boring?
Dig down now and help us all understand this vital “rule” of writing. You may be helping to create the next Stephen King or Danielle Steel.