by Jackie King
Are first sentences really that important? This topic is often discussed in a group called Smart Women Writers. One very successful author suggested that writers shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the first line, since all lines were important. Good point. But I still sweat over those first few words.
One writer posed this question to members: “What’s the all-time favorite first line that you’ve written?”
That writer’s name is Susan Shay, author of BLIND SIGHT, MAKE ME HOWL and TO SCHOOL A COWBOY. The line she picked came from a current work-in-progress:
|Blind Sight by Susan Shay|
“Lucy Lu’s dad was driving her crazy; since his death he just wouldn’t shut up.”
Is that great or what?
Most of us have a favorite opening line. Mine was written by Deborah Camp in her book, BLAZING EMBERS. (Awful title, she hated it too, but you know editors.):
|Blazing Embers by Deborah Camp|
“Burying a body is grave business.”
Below I’ve added the first line from my first Grace Cassidy mystery, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE:
“Grace Cassidy stared at the stranger’s body; he was about sixty, pot-bellied, naked, and very dead.”
THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR, the second in that series, had to be revised. Here’s the result:
“The knife dripped blood with each step that Grace Cassidy ran.”
Book three, THE CORPSE AND THE GEEZER BRIGADE, starts like this:
“The last thing Grace Cassidy expected to see when she accepted a job as inn sitter in Tulsa, was a gathering of steely-eyed old men seated in the library of the B&B.”
First lines from some of my published novellas:
“It was madness. One didn’t buy a husband in the same way one bought a lumberyard.”
(Okay, that’s two sentences.) The Spinster, the Pig and the Orphan: from the anthology THE FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL. Deadly Niche Press.
“I went on two first dates with my ex-husband.”
Flirting at Fifty; from the anthology CHIK~LIT FOR FOXY HENS. Diva Publishing.
My current WIP, (working title switches between GOOSE OVER MY GRAVE and THE EDGE OF NOWHERE):
“Liz O’Brien’s day started with a feeling of wrongness.”
This is a suspense novel and will have a change of pace from my usual cozy mystery. If anyone out there has a preference for either of these titles, please let me know.
In conclusion let me quote a statement from Stephen King in a 2013 interview:
"An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story... it should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."
No one can say it better than the master-writer himself.
Does anyone out in cyberland have a favorite first line? If so, I’d love to hear it.