So if you've been poking around the internet for any length of timet some point or another you've probably stumbled upon a contest of worst opening lines for novels or some variation. There are annual contests that are easily Google-able if you want more. They're always good for a yuk or two.
Writing good first sentences is an art form. Um...I mean writing is an art form, so I guess good first sentences are an art form within an art form. It is the flourish and the core in one little collection of words.
A first sentence has to grab your reader. It has to tease them. I has to hook them. They have to wonder more than anything what's going to happen in the second sentence.
A good first sentence will be remembered forever, will instantly set the tone of your story, and will leave the reader with an important question that they must keep reading to answer.
Look at some of these great first sentences:
- “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” The Stranger - Albert Camus
- “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Jeffery Eugenides Middlesex
- "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." Gabriel García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
- "It was a pleasure to burn." Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
- “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Stephen King
- "You better not never tell nobody but God." Alice Walker: The Color Purple
- "In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since." F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
Prompt- Write ten first sentences. For now don't worry about the rest of the story. Just write the first sentences. Take your time. Do they hook? Do they raise questions? Do they leave you wanting more?
It's not a bad exercise when you're looking for a new project to simply try writing first sentences until one of them intrigues even you so much that it demands you write a second.
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