I can't talk about first lines and the first five pages without mentioning Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. It's a book to have in your writer's library so if you don't have it, get it. (Simon & Schuster/Fireside, $13.00 ISBN 0-684-85743-X) Weak openings can doom a writer from the git-go. This book includes exercises at the end of each chapter so you can even work on what he's saying about getting your hook established early on. His book doesn't just focus on fiction, but also nonfiction. He's talking about basic elements in good writing.
So, today I want you to dig out those novels or nonfiction books that just blew you away. What was the first line, the first paragraph? Make a file on your computer of your favorite books and their first lines. What hooks you, may not hook me, but at the very least we can see just what helps to grab us. If you're a book nut like me, you always have a book within reach of your computer. Grab one of those books right now. Open to the first page. What does it say? Ok, writer's dream now--did you keep reading for a few more pages and get distracted? If not, what do you think happened?
All week I want to concentrate on this topic. If you're really brave, give us the first paragraph or first line of your WIP. (Work-in-progress) Think about whether you want to disclose this (you may not want to right here, and that could be wise.) But I'd love to hear what your favorite books of all time are,and what you've read this year that captured you, and what books you just couldn't get into because you couldn't get past the first chapter. Did you ever read a book that you persisted in reading that didn't get you until later?
Ok, while I am not a fan of prologues, one really got me this year. I read The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7642-0707-5) for Church Libraries magazine. (My review is not published yet so I can't share that here.)
Here's her first line from her prologue:
"For years, I could not recall the day without a smoldering coal of remorse burning within me."
Chapter One then starts 12 years later, so I have a frame of reference of how that prologue fits with the story. The prologue enhances the story and in fact grabs me, making me want to hear the rest of the story. The story didn't disappoint me, and I read, read, read. Chapter one starts like this:
"Heart pounding with fear and regret, Olivia Keene ran as though hellhounds were on her heels. As though her very life depended upon her escape."
This is a Regency Historical Romance set in 1815 England. Knowing the setting also helps in finding that reference for the reader to dig further. In some cases I do not have that option unless I've been provided this.The cover, the cover copy also helps to pull me to a story, so it's not always just the words that we have to depend upon with a book, but an editor or an agent have little else, so the words have to stand without all the "dressing."
Ok, today's assignment: Pick up a book on your desk and open to the first chapter. Give us the first sentence. Have you read this book yet? If so, did you like the book? Did the first page get you from the beginning? If you haven't read the book yet are you anxious to read further?
And to sweeten the pot, I'll give away a copy of Noah Lukeman's book on Saturday, chosen from those of you who comment all week. If you already have the book, I'll read your first five pages of your WIP and give you my judgment (which is actually worth more than the book because I charge more than the book is worth.)
Leave your nameATispDOTcom so I can contact you if you're chosen.