The All Important First Line

First lines are like first impressions. A good opening should hook the reader in. There are many ways in which this may be done. Take the novel: you might wish to make the reader laugh, gasp or grimace, or prefer to write a line as memorable as it is surprising.

When it is all said and done, killing my mother came easily.

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Your first sentence should raise questions, without using a question mark. Take the line below: What was feared? And why is it worse? I want to know.

It was worse than I feared.

Gang Petition by Peter St. John

Conflict can be introduced straight away or at least hinted at. Usually something has gone wrong or is about to.

Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

Introducing two characters works well when the relationship between them creates mystery and captures the imagination.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Showing characters in unusual settings or situations can be another attention keeper.

They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

By starting at an important, pivotal moment in the story, the reader is more likely to want to continue so that he or she can discover what will happen next.

It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

There is no formula for the first line but it should set the tone of the book and reflect its genre. Every author has a unique voice and this is the first chance they have to establish it.

Slowly and painfully, I breathe in, appreciating the life it restores in me.

Hues of Blackness by Rosey Thomas Palmer

My last point is that you shouldn’t get bogged down with perfecting the opening. The best first lines are often written after a novel is completed.

Book Festival for writers and book lovers! Nottingham, Oct 7th/8th.

 Free talks and workshops from some great guest speakers. Click HERE for the details.

Full Programme


Writers unite for Queensland

I have had a short story selected for inclusion in the new anthology 100 Stories for Queensland. All of the profits from sales will go to help the Queenslanders affected by the unprecedented flooding and Cyclone Yasi. As you are no doubt aware, much of the large state has been declared a disaster zone and many communities have been devastated. Some families have lost everything.

The driving forces behind the book seem to be Jodi Cleghorn (in Brisbane) and New Writers UK member, Trevor Belshaw. I thank them and all of the editors, proofreaders, designers and authors from around the globe who have committed time to this project.

From March the 8th the anthology will be available in digital and print form as well as an audio book. Please consider buying a copy.

Chasing Shadows. The eBook has landed.