Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Firsts


Matthew drove the boat for the first time the other day! I didn't know until I saw the picture, but it got me to thinking of firsts.

My first kiss. Sensuously gentle, an indicator of what I might expect from my future husband.
First impressions.
Author Amy Clipston posted about the importance of the first line in a manuscript not too long ago. I encourage you to read it as it was enlightening.
The truth is, first impressions are everything. In life and in story, they set the mood. The first sentence can propell someone to shove the book back into its spot on the shelf, or it may hook the reader into reading more and, possibly, buying your book.
It may hook an editor or agent into requesting a full.
An opening sentence I've never forgotten is:
"If there was one thing Josie Miller knew, it was the smell of a rich man."
I absolutely LOVED this first line from Her Unlikely Family by Missy Tippens.
Look at the opening of your story objectively. Is your first sentence intriguing? Posing a question the reader must discover an answer to?

16 comments:

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jessica -

Excellent hook to this post! I'm re-evaluating my first book. This is one of the areas that needs tweaking.

Blessings,
Susan :)

krishna gison said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tina gray said...

Eep. First lines have always been a doozy for me in my writing. I tend to write more literary, and as a result, sometimes my beginnings don't grip the reader by the throat unless they happen to like pretty writing. That can sometimes be a bit of a downfall. However, one first line I've always been proud of is the start to my vampire fantasy:

"Mordecai Dureance smiled … the slow-burning smile of a man about to bed his new bride."

The fun thing is, from there you find that he's out walking in the forest at night, barefoot and shirtless, trying to find his new bride a special flower so he can ease her nerves. Unfortunately, he doesn't make it back to her at the cottage after being taken by a kindredship of vampires. But he does come back to her on another night...

My personal favorite first line in a published book:

"At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew in circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzz that hummed along my skin."

And you probably guessed it. It's from THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd. It captures me not only because of the beauty of the words and the sensory description, but because personally, I have a fear of bees getting too close to me, and am totally captivated by this protagonist that actually seems to crave their company.

Not everyone would be drawn in by this one, I guess. It seems to me, just like everything else, it all comes back to subjectivity. :-)

Missy Tippens said...

Jessica, thanks for mentioning my first line! It came to me while I was planning the story, and I jotted it on a piece of notebook paper. :) And then my critique partner helped me come up with the second sentence. You never know where ideas will come from!

Missy

Jessica said...

Hi Susan,
Glad you liked it! :-) I never thought much about first lines until I read Sol Stein's book. Okay, didn't read it ALLLLL. But the beginning.
Darn. I was going to mention that in my post. Oh well.
I'll be heading your way soon.

Jessica said...

Thanks Krishna!
I don't know who you are though, so I'd like to warn others about clicking on your link.
Thank you for stopping by!

Jessica said...

Hi Anita,
I've heard SO much about that book. I guess I need to get ahold of it. First lines are subjective but I think it's interesting. You have to wonder about this person who watches bees.
LOL
I'm horrible around bees. They freak me out! When I was a teenager I accidentally hit my mom in the face because there was a bee in my hair and I went NUTS!

Jessica said...

Missy,
When I think of first lines yours is the one that always comes to mind. While writing this post I couldn't think of any others stuck in my head. I was going to pick some from favorite books but didn't have time, so yours won out because it was in my head. :-)
I can't wait to see what the first line of your next book is. I guess I'll have to mosey on over and have a look.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm still waiting on the edits for the next book, so it could change. I'll let you know as soon as I know for sure how the editor liked it! :)

Missy

Jessica said...

Oooh, yay! I really enjoyed your first book :-)
Edits must be "fun".
That's one thing I'm not looking forward to when I get published.
LOL

Kristen Painter said...

I'm big on first lines and chapter ending hooks. Keep 'em reading, I always think to myself when I'm crafting those.

Jessica said...

Oh, yeah, I love scene/chapter hooks. Or to stop in the middle of a conversation so the reader had to read the next chapter!
LOL

Genny said...

Cute photo! And I agree with you about those first lines. Great advice.

Jessica said...

Thanks! I think he's a cutie too.
I actually never even thought about first lines until I read Sol Stein's ON WRITING. There were a whole bunch of great examples in there.
Thanks for stopping by!

haleigh said...

Hi Jessica - great topic! A favorite first line for a romance novel is Susan Elizabeth Phillip's "It had to be you": Phoebe Somerville shocked everyone by bringing a French poodle and Hungarian lover to her father's funeral."

I read that and immediately sat down in the middle of the row at the library and kept reading. (and probably looked like an idiot, but that's a whole other post!)

Jessica said...

Haleigh,
You're Alive!!!
:-)
That sounds like a very intriguing first line. LOL about the library. I've done that at Walmart (pre-kids)