With all the movie remakes from Star Trek to The Great Gatsby, I often fondly wish to revisit the original – and am usually astounded at how slow the movie starts out and how long it takes to draw the viewer in. And remember those yummy bodice rippers from the early 80s? Rambling, historical tomes where the hero and heroine might not meet until chapter six?
I’m not sure when the story structure changed. Perhaps when the Internet age brought in immediate gratification. Now, authors are told that if their story doesn’t grab the reader (or editor) within the first six pages, the story won’t sell. I take that a step further. To me, the opening sentence of the story must be riveting enough to encourage the reader to continue.
Some of my favorite first lines from classics:
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. ~ Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. – Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. ~ Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Part of choosing a first line that makes a strong impact is deciding where the story starts. And while those eighties romances somehow got away with fifty page preludes to the action, today’s readers demand to be dropped into the action immediately.
Here are some first lines from my books:
Even though violet twilight blanketed the gently undulating hills of Middle Tennessee, Cathleen Ryan squinted behind her black-lensed glasses. ~ Lover for Ransom
I killed my best friend. ~ Eternal
“Stand and deliver!” ~ Badcock
“I’d be obliged if ye’d fetch the modiste,” Laird of Lockerbie, Blane McLaren, said impatiently as he made rather a commotion of pretending to be dissatisfied with his service. ~ Slave to Fashion
“Oh my dear, he isn’t received,” Lady Martha Ashcroft whispered under her breath to Lady Emily Blevins. ~ Bad Kitty
What are some of your favorite first lines? And what beginnings have hooked you for the rest of the book?
About Debra Glass
DEBRA GLASS is the author of over thirty-five books of historical and paranormal romance, non-fiction, young adult romance, and folklore. She holds an MAed with emphasis in history from the University of North Alabama.
She lives in Alabama with her real life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and a diabolical black cat.
Visit her website at www.DebraGlass.com