Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Lines

There are some parts of writing that are really hard (ie pain-in-the-ass gargoyle heroes that need to do everything their way) and some things that are just plain fun. First lines are fun for me. Maybe because a book’s first line is one of the first things that comes to me when I have a new story simmering in the back of my mind. Half the time I know the first line before I even have all the character and plot details fleshed out.

From a reader's perspective, I'm always curious to see if the first line of a book sets the tone for the story, if it fits with the vibe I've gotten from the cover and blurb, if it's unexpected or makes me just have to read more to see what comes next.

I love it when a book starts with dialogue, which is probably why a lot of my books tend to start that way. :) I enjoy being pulled right into the conversation and figuring out what they're talking about and what impact it's going to have.

A few examples from my books:

“What are you going to do, fire me?” - Primal Hunger

"Montana is dead.” - Whatever It Takes

“I thought you liked it rough?” - Storm Warning

I'm also a big fan of getting caught up in a character's thoughts right from the start and knowing that no matter how innocent a thought might be, a character's life is probably about to be turned upside down.

Here, kitty, kitty. - Primal Attraction

It all came down to a towel. - Dark Obsession

It was official—she was going to die shackled to a damn gargoyle. - Primal Pleasure

Of course I can't talk about first lines without mentioning some that I’ve read in the past while that pulled me right in.

"I’VE met teenage girls with more testosterone than that man has.” - Erin McCarthy, Flat Out Sexy

I’d die for him. - Karen Marie Moning, Fae Fever

“Live life balls out,” Katie Kramer told herself every night, and even though she didn’t own a pair, she hoped the mantra would keep the nightmares away. - Jill Shalvis, Instant Attraction

I didn’t realize he was a werewolf at first. - Patricia Briggs, Moon Called.

So what about you? Any favorite first lines (read or written)? Have you read any first lines that seemed weird or any that made it impossible to set the book aside?


Meg Benjamin said...

Oh yeah, first lines. They'll drive you nuts (or they drive me nuts anyway). My favorite: "The Baron Alexander Von Reisden went mad after his young wife died, and in five years he had not got himself sane." From Sarah Smith's The Vanished Child.

Virginia C said...

I love this first line from “The Cowboy and the Lady” by Diana Palmer:

“They were at a standstill, the tall man and the willowy young blonde, poised like boxers waiting for an opening.”

Debra St. John said...

Getting that first line right is so important. And I also sometimes have them in my head even before I finishing thinking through major plotslines, etc.

Here's mine from my upcoming release: This Can't Be Love...

'There was a naked man in her grandfather's bathtub.'

Maria said...

As a reader the first lines really do set the tone for the book and all of the examples that you listed are really good ones. I think if an author and publisher both do their jobs right that the three things that attract me to a book will blend in harmony, I always look at the front cover, the descriptive blurb and the first lines of a book before I buy.
Great post by the way!

PG Forte said...

Oooh, fun post! I LOVE writing first lines!! And you're right--sometimes the perfect line just comes to you from nowhere It's so exciting when that happens.

That happened with my first book, Scent of the Roses: "Scout Patterson had been running away from home for twenty years."

I think my favorite (of my own, I mean) is from Sea Change: "Bodies have memories, and hers remembered every touch; even the ones her mind could not recall."

But In the Dark is a close second: "When you live forever you're bound to make a few mistakes."

Then there's this from one of the (too many) books I'm working on called Love Among the Runes: "She was a vision in white lace and fake pearls and shiny, black, stiletto-heeled boots; the kind of boot that caressed her legs from toe to mid-thigh and that any man might be excused for wanting to be pinned under."

Gabby said...

As a reader and an aspiring writer, I don't really give the first line much thougt.

If I'm looking for a new book I usually look at the front cover, the blurb on the back, or in some cases there's a little blurb on the page just before the first ch. or the prologue starts. That's usually what helps me decide if I'm gonna keep reading.

Here's something from the first chapter of a story I'm working on.

"Trapped." On all sides; goon number one was blocking my path his hunched form easily towered over my puny five foot three inch status, "oh yeah I was in trouble really big trouble, and on top of that he had four more equally tall morons to back him up."

When I first start writing the thoughts of my characters are usually what pop into my head first.

Kelly Jamieson said...

I suck at first lines. But you've inspired me to work harder at it after all these great examples!

Here's a fav of mine from Erin McCarthy (who I luv!):
"The man gave a whole new meaning to the words rise and shine."
From A Date With the Other Side.

Sydney Somers said...

Meg - Weird how a lot of my days feel like the Baron's. ;)

Virginia - Haven't read anything by Diana Palmer, but that opening sparks my interest.

Debra - Definitely a memorable opening line. :)

Thanks, Maria.

PG - That last opening was really visual and so easy to picture.

Gabby - Sounds like your heroine is in a really tight spot. :)

Kelly - I haven't read that one by her yet, and I'm really looking to her last Fast Track book.