1. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    That first line catcher.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sarah's scribbles, Aug 3, 2015.

    So any things you guys use to help you come up with a great first line. the reason I ask is because I keep getting adds for james patterson's youtube writing class and he reads the first line of one of his books. "To the best of my relatively shaky recollection the first time I died went something like this."

    So it's kind of made me want to work on how I begin my stories.
     
  2. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I honestly don't know how I come up with my first line. I just think of an interesting way to open the story. Currently my opening line(s) is this:
    "Demons they called us, titans of a different god. We were the means to an end to them, and we liked it."
    Seems a little bland now but it is a pretty good representation of what my book is about.
     
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  3. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I was thinking of a project where the first paragraph of the classics and award winners in each genre could be available to be read in one location - indicating book title, author, date written and then the paragraph.

    Then you could just go through and read them all.

    Not sure how to do it though :D

    I have seen some books on writing "hooks" on amazon - that might be a good place to start?
     
  4. thatoneauthor
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    thatoneauthor Member

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    He shoved the gun into my mouth, and I couldn't help but close the barrel hole with my tongue.
     
  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    'It was the day my grandmother exploded!'
    ~ The Crow Road, Iain Banks
     
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  6. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Iain M Banks definitely one of my favourite authors. :agreed:
     
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  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Me, too, but you want the real odd part? Despite my love for the sci-fi genre, I've never read any of his.
     
  8. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Ah really. Now that I think about it, I think it's part of the reason I don't really give a fuck what people call themselves -- gay, straight, bi, trans, etc, etc.

    Once you read the account of a man becoming a woman for a while and having a kid, your mind is open to all sorts of possibilities...
     
  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Usually I start with an image, based on my film background, that evokes a question. A broken fanbelt. A chalk drawing getting walked through. A broken string of pearls in the gutter. Hands clamping the side of a seat.

    I'm happy with my WOP opening line because it introduces three characters, a place, an action, an emotion, the tense, the perspective and a bunch of leading questions all in 17 words.
     
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  10. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would think the opening line or even first chapter might not be known to you until you have written a first draft; unless, of course, you are such a competent planner that you never deviate from your initial plan. No idea how a pantser would handle this area.
     
  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't found that great first line/paragraph/page yet.

    But that line is never the first thing you write. Stuff about the beginning will keep slamming you over the head the whole time you're writing. I've been writing for a year and a half, and I've redone the beginning three or four times (First I added a prologue, then I added a new Chapter 1 and 2, then I threw out Chapter 1 and re-wrote it from scratch...may cut chapter to, or condense, or re-write, or throw out Chapter One again.) I don't edit the body of the story much - actually I'm currently procrastinating on re-writing a piece of the middle that I KNOW needs re-done...but the beginning I tinker with a lot, because I know it's important.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Here's three openings to stuff I'm working on. Usually I'm going for an impression. Giving the reader a heads up of what they're getting into. The first story is dystopian taken from two young girls who talk in a kind of pidgin. The second takes place in a dismal futuristic prison. And the last deals with a spooky house.
    I'm not always satisfied with my opening lines or beginnings but sometimes you just have to power through and not worry about it. Some of my most favorite stories have very plain opening lines.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
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  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't come up with this until I decided to rewrite the opening after several drafts, beta-reads and a professional edit, none of which indicated a need for a different opening. I decided I needed it when my first 15 queries all came back with rejections. My advice is to not sweat the opening until you have everything else.
     
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  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is it a bit ironic that I find Patterson's opening line rather badly written?

    Says I, of course, who has self-published only one extremely unknown book :-D

    Nonetheless, can't say I think much of Patterson's line there lol. However I did read in a book on publishing once that you shouldn't get too caught up on that catchy first line. And definitely you should avoid gimmicky lines whose sole purpose is to hook, but that your story actually can't follow through. Eg. a line that raises so much expectation that then your actual story disappoints and cannot deliver on the promises intrigue/excitement that that first line suggested your story had.

    In my experience, if your story doesn't lend itself to a super cool opening line, then stick with the simple. You start with a simple, easy-to-read line, readers will probably just read on a few lines more. You start with some confusing convoluted line, readers will probably stop and shut the book. Certainly I'm like that. A simple, ordinary line leads me to just keep reading. A confusing line makes me frown and start critiquing the writing lol.
     
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  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    The first line isn't the hook, but the hook should be on the first page. It's just a concept that makes the reader want to keep reading. Generally you need to show the reader what the book is going to be about in the first 13 lines.
     
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  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Someone has a sig I took much comfort in. If I can find it I'll post it. It basically says, "Relax. It's a long story. The reader doesn't mind being eased into things".
     
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  17. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Ah yes it's @jannert :

    If you're writing a full length novel, you don't need to bend over backward trying to be clever in the first line or two. Readers will understand there's a lot of story to tell, and they'll give you some space to do that. Don't rush the opening." - Steven James (Story Trumps Structure)
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    An opening line doesn't have to be super-clever or super-gripping, but it does need to grab the reader's interest. There are lots of ways to do that.
     
  19. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why does an opening line have to do more than get the reader to read the next sentence?
     
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  20. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    Because the first line is supposed to get the reader interested in the novel they are about to read.
     
  21. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I look at it this way - your first sentence has to create forward momentum for your reader, propelling them further into your story. I've read very few stories in which virtually every sentence pulls the reader relentlessly forward. Some sentences are quiet, reflective or descriptive, necessary to the story, but not, in and of themselves, building momentum. So, to answer your question, I would say that an opening line that does no more than get the reader to read the next sentence means that the next sentence has to build momentum, too - and so on. The more momentum your opening provides, the more of a head start you have for those segments that are necessary but do not necessarily propel.
     
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  22. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    It smells a bit like a show, don't tell kind of argument to me.

    IMO, 99% of readers will be sucked in intrigued by the cover art and the blurb when it comes to a new author. They'll be looking for the hinted at hook on the back, more than a captivating first sentence.
     
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  23. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I think this is a very good thread, actually.

    I'll simple say this: fuck the first page; it's the first line that really grabs a reader.

    The first line should establish the scene, scenario, or event but in a charismatic and charming way. You should round up a bunch of your favourite books and take a look at the first line of each, and then see if there is any correlations to be found. What do they all contain? How are they all structured? Do they focus on the scene or the character?

    I kind of agree with @Aaron DC about people being intrigued by the cover art and blurb as well, but the opening sentence is like that first sip of beer: you'll know if you're going to enjoy it or not.
     
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  24. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I already know the answer to that one, @The Mad Regent - can't stand the taste of beer. :superlaugh:
     
  25. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Did you see my idea upthread? Ima do that now, if I can.
     

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