Your First Line

Your First Line

A Lesson by MJ Durston

Every Story, even a poem needs that gripping beginning. I'll give you some examples of favourites that I've had, and give you tips on developing your own.


       I personally look at the first line of a novel before i even consider reading it, if that first line isn't grabbing my attention - I'm going to first: not buy the book, and second: do better. Who wants to spend money on a story that isn't going to immediately drag you into it's spell? You're not. Even if you consider the fact that it may get better, that is still a great problem in the world of writing - the reader shouldn't have to hope that the writing, characters and technique will improve. It shouldn't need tweeking in the first place. Especially if you're getting paid for it.


       Here's some of my favourite First Lines:


       #1: Dean R. Koontz: The Voice of the Night
       "Have you ever killed anything?" Roy asked


       #2: Lois Lowry: The Giver

       "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened."


       #3: Don Aker: The Space Between
       "I'm going to Mexico to get laid"


       See how they're all so attention grabbing, you have your typical horror story, a fantasy and than a young adult novel. All of them with one thing in common - a great first line. You want to read more don't you? You want to know why Jonas is frightened, why one boy is going to have sex and Roy is asking about killing things. It's all so fascinating - so you read more. That's the key! You want to read MORE.


        And so here are some tips that I picked up in my writing career, different ways to begin a story. You can begin with dialogue like in Dean Koontz's example, someone asking a question or saying something interesting, for example : "That wasn't supposed to happen, she isn't supposed to be laying like that." Jenny told her brother.


       Another good way to consider first lines, is with description like in the second example. The reader wants to read to discover some more on why this particular character is scared. Use your imagination, save only the good things for the beginning, of course have some better things to follow up with later - but we're talking only about the beginning here. An example of my own of a captive line using description is: Agatha was terrified to follow Willow up the hill, she knew what was at the top; and even though her friend showed no fright. Haunted houses had never been Agatha's forté. You want your reader to be curious, suspense is the greatest element you can use when writing First Lines, have them questioning, have your reading thirsting for something more. You need them to WANT, and so you give them something to want.


       Lastly, the final example is a character thinking - That's what Don Aker used, his character was reciting a thought he had written down in his journal on a plane. It caught your attention didn't it? For instance: "I didn't mean to hurt him" she wrote.


There's not much more to explain here, you only need few tools to get started in writing. Your first line is the absolute most critical element.


Use it wisely.

Remember: Suspense is your key - always.

Next Lesson


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Posted 6 Years Ago

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Posted 8 Years Ago

I finaly know what I'm doing wrong with my introductions, till now they all sounded boring and didn't provoke ones imagination - thanks!
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Added on October 21, 2010
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MJ Durston
MJ Durston

Hamilton, Canada

~ Hello, Welcome to My Profile ~ My Names Melissa, and I'm just working my way on up. I'll get there eventually, but momentarily I'm just going to focus on keeping writing alive. As Stephen King sa..

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