Monday, April 30, 2012

First lines

So I was glancing over The Warlord, The Blind Slave, And The Dog Called Brutus*, and it occurred to me I'm quite pleased with my first line. First lines are important: something drummed into me during my authorly apprenticeship. First lines should intrigue and interest the reader, should make them want to know more, wonder why and how this situation or thought or conversation has arisen.

I'll give you my most recent three. From The Untied Kingdom:

Eve Carpenter was having a bad enough day even before she fell through the hole in the ground.

From Run Rabbit Run:

Four in the morning and I was painting over the number plate of my boyfriend's car with black nail varnish while I hid in a camera blindspot in a car park in Dover for the early crossing to Calais.

From The Warlord*:

She lay motionless on the bed, a skeleton in a red silk dress.

What do you think? Do you find first lines important, or do you not notice them? Do you find them hard to write, or like me do you find it hard to go on if you haven't got it right? What's the best one you've ever read?

*Not the actual title. More a working title (except it doesn't work at all).

**Also not the actual title, but the response of my publisher when I told her my working title. "We'll just call it The Warlord for now, shall we?"


  1. Anonymous6:25 pm

    What if you have a first line you love and have to change it though?

    For a long time the 1st line of the WIP I'm submitting places at the mo was
    "What colour are no tomatoes?"
    which is a tad bonkers but I liked it. Didn't work out because it turned out that scene didn't happen until about 4 chapters of other stuff had happened first. Never mind.

    From a reader's point of view a good first sentence can be engaging and fun, but I don't think I've ever abandoned or not bought a book because of the first line alone - I'd give it at least a couple of paragraphs. Once I've bought a book my rule is 100 pages and then I give up if I'm still not engaged.

    I like the skeleton in the red silk dress though...

  2. Ah yes, the "I love that line but there's no reason to keep it" dilemma. I feel your pain. It is a great line, though, I do hope you get to use it somewhere!

  3. Hi Kate: Just finished A is for Apple and loved, loved, loved it! However, the ending broke my heart. Please pass on to Sophie that it is possible to have both Luke and SO17 in her life at the sametime. They are both intellegent (!) adults (?) who can make it work. Please Sophie, reconsider your breakup. Okay, I feel better now. Kate, thanks for outstanding, brilliant stories and characters that I have grown to love. cant' wait to start the next book.