Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, March 7, 2011

The First Line is the Deepest...

Writing Song of the Day: "The First Taste" by Fiona Apple

While traveling the blogiverse lately, we've noticed that a lot of our fellow writers are offering up their blogs as a forum for critiquing and helping out our writing brethren. We would like to join in this fun and open up our blog as yet another place to give and receive feedback.


...And on this lovely Monday (actually kinda cold and dreary Monday here in VA) we want to tackle the first step in the WIP and usually one of the parts that gets the BIGGEST makeover. The first lines. These lines are like your first boyfriend/girlfriend...you want to love him/her because they're your first, but you also want to change them constantly. Okay, maybe that was a bad analogy, but you get the point. The first lines need to pull in your reader, yet they also need to be subtle enough that it doesn't feel like the writer is trying too hard. For examples of really awesome first lines from some of our fave published YA novels, check out this post.

So, how do you write engaging first lines?

There are several theories out there about this. Some think you should shock your readers to make them read more. I hope the shock value works b/c in my WIP, The Blues (working title) this is how the novel starts:

Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death early this morning.

Others think you should write a declarative sentence to start off the pacing of your novel: He was an old and cranky man.

OR you can give some description to let the reader know exactly where they are: It was a dark and stormy night with gray skies and tortured leaves whirling around the red brick two story house. (Yes, this sentence is awful)

One of the other effective methods is to ask a question: How do you get over your first true love?

Check out this article for more on the topic of first lines. Here is another one to help you out. Also, our buddy Erinn at Something Else to Distract Me had a cool first lines contest a while back that offered some good info on this topic. Check it out here. Lindsay N. Currie also offers up some info on the topic of first lines here. There's a pic of Tom Cruise in his undies--just a lil' more inspiration for you to go and read it :D

Which of these does your WIP have if any???

Now for the real reason behind this post...we want to have a critiquing day! We would love for you all (our devoted stalkers, er...followers) to participate by sending us your first lines. We will post the lines (it can be anonymously if you'd like) NEXT MONDAY, March 14th, 2011 and in the comments your fellow writers (who are quite nice and supportive) will leave critiques stating whether the first lines are effective or not and what you can do to revise them.

SOOO...if you want in (and we really hope you do!) send your firt THREE lines (can be less than three but no more than three) to cuzwewrite@gmail.com by Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 12PM ET. In the e-mail put the title of your writing, your genre (YA/MG/Adult--historical, contemp. etc.), your name that you want posted on the blog (if you want anonymous, say so), and the first THREE lines of your piece of writing.

We hope you guys participate--it will be fun and helpful!

WAIT! Before you leave...share some of your own fave first lines OR tell us what you think makes a good first line.

20 comments:

Jamie - I'm a guy, btw said...

I joined in the fun, ladies! Great idea, by the way...and so cool of you to do this (have I told you guys lately that you rock?).

And for me the opening line(s) just needs to grab my attention--the method by which it does that is a moot point in my opinion. Just get me to read on in some way or other and I'm in!

Angela Felsted said...

What a great idea! And I love that you live in VA. I do too. May I ask where?

Lindsay N. Currie said...

I love this post. Excellent work ladies! I actually blogged about this a month or so ago - here's the link:

http://tiptoe-kisses.blogspot.com/2011/01/risky-business.html

The Blue Lipstick Samurai said...

You guys are AWESOME, and I LOVE this idea!

Quita, that is a totally awesome line. I was genuinely hooked, and I want to know more, so um yeah write fast get published. Wink.

I like the first line to at once show me what the world is like, and invite me in at the same time. I love the first line of The Sorcerer's Stone, simply because it is so understated and yet sets up the story for expectations, ironies, and twists. Questions don't do it for me, but I'm sure it could be done effectively.

Leah Miller said...

This is an awesome idea! I can't wait to see everyone's stuff :)

Marquita Hockaday said...

@Lindsay--Thanks for the link :) I will weave that in the post!

Pam Harris said...

Hi Angela! We both stay in Isle of Wight county right now--right next to Newport News. We may be venturing to Suffolk shortly though. What about you? :)

Caroline Tung Richmond said...

Ohhh, cool! I love first lines--I spend an inordinate amount of time honing my own first lines. :) Gotta make it count, right?

One of my favorite openings is from Nabokov's Lolita: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul." So creepy, right? But it pulls you right into the narrative.

Erinn said...

I love love love this idea. Woot I can't wait to join in on the fun!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Can't wait. This is a great idea. Hmmm... now that I'm trying to think of good first lines I can't!

Tracey Neithercott said...

This is a terrific idea! Sometimes the most understated sentence is the perfect first line. I don't need something crazy to be hooked, just something that makes me ask questions and then want to read on. (And my books are all packed for a move, so I can't even look up some good first lines!)

Racquel Henry said...

Oooh cool idea, I hope I remember to send mine...and on time lol. To be honest I like first lines that shock. When you shock a reader, they suddenly become curious. :)

Alicia Gregoire said...

Love this. You ladies have some awesome ideas!

Alex Mullarky said...

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" = classic.

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh, fun, I'm in! I think a good first line should cause you to ask a question. For instance:

Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death early this morning.

Who found him? Why early in the morning? (And, of course, who bludgeoned him?)

Danielle said...

Love this! Thanks.

Favorite types of first line: something that's simple and beautiful. Like the first line of THE NEAR WITCH or all of Courtney Summers novels.

Lisa-Marie Jordan said...

Awesome idea - I'm in! And I love first lines that just suck me right into another world, place and/or time! Cheers!

WordLuster said...

I love this! I'm really excited and definitely participating! :-)

Laura Pauling said...

For me it's not so much the first line but the first paragraph. I want some sort of voice to pull me into the character. Something that's going to make me say - Oo I'm going to like this book.

J.L. Campbell said...

I came over from Amie Kaufman's blog. Cool idea. Think I'm gonna enter. My new favourite first line is somewhat long, but it's laugh-out-loud funny and sets the tone for the novel I'm now reading 'Mad Cows'. Won't post it here though as it might offend those with a sensitive stomach. :D