Friday, May 21, 2010

First line Friday: Round 1

The Blood-Red Pencil did a post recently about infusing first lines with conflict, and it really made me think. Not only about my own WIPs, but also about books that I pick up off the shelf.

Fair or not, I typically make my decision on what I'm going to buy based on the following: (1) word-of-mouth and/or recommendations from people I trust, (2) book covers that catch my eye, (3) an exciting book jacket synopsis, and (4) the writing in the first few sentences.

So I went on a field trip to my library (a.k.a. the little hearth room at the front of my house), pulled down book after book, and wrote down the first line of most of them. I ended up with quite a few, so I think I'll split them up over a few posts.

Here's the first round:

When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it. -- Ingrid Law, Savvy.

Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. -- P.C. Cast and Kristin Case, Marked (a House of Night novel).

Everyone’s seen my mother naked. -- Elizabeth Scott, Something, Maybe.

Mother spent $700 on a treadmill “from Santa” that I will never use. -- Suzanne Supplee, Artichoke’s Heart.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. -- Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go.

A piece of advice from me to me: better brace yourself, loser. -- Sonya Sones, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know.

On a Saturday morning in November, Alex finds himself alone for the weekend, so he decides to break a few rules. -- Martin Wilson, What They Always Tell Us.

So what do you think? How do these first lines make you feel? Did you laugh, squint your nose, roll your eyes? Did you want to read on, or were you so bored you nodded off? What's your take on how important (or not) adding conflict in first lines really is?

2 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'd never thought about it before, but it's true, you do need to have some sort of conflict in the first line. It just better not involve blood or dying (so I've heard), though the dead guy by the locker was why I bought MARKED.

I would have read on with some of your examples. Others just didn't appeal to me. Like the talking dog one. I don't like books about talking animals.

Tere Kirkland said...

These are great examples!

One of my faves is the first line of Perfume, The Story of a Murderer.

"In 18th century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages."

A bit of an old-fashioned delivery, but it lets the reader know exactly what kind of a ride they're in for.