Friday, January 14, 2011

Great Author Meme...What Do You Say With the First Line of Your Book?

I saw this over at Val's, and she got it from Angelia, who mentions getting it from another LJ user. The gist of it is to list the first lines of your last ten fics/books and draw some conclusions.

I think most writers really try to draw the reader in with the first line, and in my case, many times the first line has come to me and I then go write a story around it. :) With most of mine, I seem to try to give you a sense of the character right off the bat and what they're doing/feeling. I couldn't decide which ten, so I did all my backlist, plus my next release and my work in progress. Here they are (in a couple instances I added the second line if the first was a thought or dialogue that didn't let you know who the speaker was):

There must be an easier way. Valerian grimaced as he retracted his fangs, sealed the punctures with a flick of his tongue, and let his inebriated, middle-aged snack slide down the wall to rest in a heap at his feet. ~A Pint Light

“What?” Luke shouted incredulously, grabbing Mario by the upper arms with no little force. ~Rough Riders

“This is going to be so cool!” Cameron exclaimed, his jaw slack with shock, eyes sparkling with surprise and growing excitement as he regarded his best friend’s smug face. ~A Detour Home

“This one really has nice kerb appeal. Beautiful landscaping, and it looks like the owner really enjoys gardening. Let’s see here.” The garish, loud real estate agent consulted the sheet on her clipboard as she minced her way up the front walkway. ~Through The Red Door

“Ohhh.” Tori couldn’t stifle a moan as the almost-pain of exerting muscles that seldom got use kicked in. ~Sex On Summer Sabbatical

A cool waft of air on her shower-warm skin was the only warning Erica received before large hands cupped her bare shoulders. ~Falling For the Other Brother

Loving the crisp, autumn smell of a distant leaf pile burning, Vance inhaled deeply, relishing the cool air carrying the scents of fall. ~Pride and Joey

Rhea leaned her forehead against the inner hatch door after she secured it against the coming MetaWave storm. ~Wet Your Whistle

God, I hate Muzak. Maggie switched her cell phone to the other ear and pushed her fingers through her dark, irritatingly frizzed-out hair, automatically loosening yet another snag. ~Winter's Thaw

GEOFFREY Radcliffe stared intently into the mirror, grimacing at the reflection, then wincing as the grimace accentuated his laugh lines. ~Silver and Gold

"I don’t know how you talked me into this,” Rory grumbled as Benny made wide, innocent eyes at him from the passenger’s seat of the SUV. ~One Wild Wish

“I threw up.” The quavering voice brought Corbin jackknifing up out of a sound sleep, struggling to get his bearings. ~Making His List

JASON surfaced from sleep gradually as usual, barely slitting his eyes open to ascertain that it was still just after dawn in the lengthening days of spring. ~Neighbors By Day, Naughty By Night

IT was after midnight, and Chaz Warren groaned with frustration as he removed his hand from his cock and gave up his fruitless quest for orgasm… yet again. ~Remarkable Restraint

Jim stopped short at the threshold of his boss’s office, his heart seizing with dread at the sight before him. ~The Swap

“Heads up, it’s a bunt! He’s putting it down!” Teri screamed, cupping her hands around her mouth. ~Spring Training (March 7th release)

This is probably the worst idea I've ever had.
"You know, I think this is the worst idea you've ever had." ~Current WIP

So what do you think? I see a trend. I've heard you aren't supposed to open with monologue/dialogue, but I do tend to do that, don't I? I think it gives a sense of immediacy and is intend to pull you in right away. But do you guys agree? Any thoughts on mine? Authors out there, I'd love to see yours as well, either in the comments or in your own blog post. Meme, anyone? :D


  1. I think your opening lines are just fine. I especially like the beginning from Remarkable Restraint. I definitely need to read that now.

    I know Snoopy began his novel with "It was a dark and stormy night," but someone told me/I read somewhere that authors should try to stay away from beginning with weather descriptions.

  2. LOL at Eyre's comment about Snoopy!

    The sentence from Remarkable Restraint was my favorite, too.

    And I haven't thought very much about openers. I know a few of the famous ones (for books I haven't read!): "Call me Ishmael." "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Etc.

  3. Devon, wow, these are all very vivid. I'm with Eyre on probably liking the Remarkable Restraint one best of all. There's so much subtext in that opening line. I mean, this poor guy has problems. He's going to have an interesting story.

    I also like the one for Making His List. I'm guessing that this is probably a young child who is waking up our hero – but what if it's not? What if it's a gnome or a talking animal or something? I mean, I don't know that this isn't a paranormal. It's intriguing!

    I definitely notice a pattern of opening on immediate action – either a line of dialog, or some physical event in mid-progress. It could be a mild physical event like Vance pausing while raking leaves to enjoy his surroundings in Pride and Joey.

    Or it could be a shocking physical event like Erica getting grabbed in the shower in Falling for the Other Brother (and I immediately assumed a life-threatening scene like from Hitchcock's Psycho movie, but I just now realized that this could be an erotic encounter with the other brother!).

    You said, I've heard you aren't supposed to open with monologue/dialogue, but I do tend to do that, don't I? I think it gives a sense of immediacy and is intend to pull you in right away. But do you guys agree?

    I'm no expert. Just speaking for myself, I'm a little uncomfortable with first lines that open with dialog. It's a very subtle thing and it's not anything that's going to make me stop reading.

    But, weird as it is, I tend to feel excluded by the characters, or at least unable to sink into the scene as fast and as thoroughly as I could with a beginning that puts me into a non-talking viewpoint (good examples of that: A Pint Light, and Remarkable Restraint, both of which draw me right in).

    If something opens with dialog, the faster I get some context as to what's going on, the better I do. So, I’m more comfortable with the first lines from Through the Red Door, Making His List, and Spring Training, where it's obvious what's going on from what's being said.

    I'm less comfortable with the opening dialog from Rough Riders, A Detour Home, and One Wild Wish, because I have to keep reading while feeling kept in the dark. And yet it's silly on my part because I'm sure you give us full context within about four lines maximum, and probably sooner than that. But it is this weird little reaction in my subconscious as a reader.

    Thanks for doing this, Devon! This has been fun to read these lines and think about it.

  4. Your opening lines pull me in right away, so you definitely succeeded :) Quite a few use dialogue, but the ones that don't pull me in just as much (or vice versa, depending on how you look at it). And they all set an immediate mood. you're going to have me looking at my opening lines. I think of myself as more of an opening paragraph kinda girl than an opening liner, but it will be interesting to see if that's actually true.

  5. I like to start with dialogue/monologue. As you, I also think it gives a sense of immediacy and is intended to pull you in. Mostly that works for me. Endless paragraphs of info bores me.

    Meme indeed! I'm gonna out the start on my stories on my blog too, because this was cool! :)

  6. I've never heard it said you shouldn't start with dialogue and personally I think those so-called rules are usually nonsense. Nice job!

  7. It took me like a week to join the meme party, but I finally did. Here's mine - Opening Lines


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