The snow has finally fallen, large drifts piled up under the street lamps. Today is one of those tuck-in, and stay cozy kind of days. The house is clean, well the downstairs anyway, and I’m ready to write. Today on the blog, I want to talk about your first sentence. Either if your writing a short story, or a novel, your first sentence will make or break you. You want your first sentence to grab your reader. You want to draw them in and not let them go until the period of the very last sentence. Studying other writing always helps, and so here are some famous first-liners I think we can draw a lot from.
“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, the Hobbit)
It is simple. It is plain. And yet it is so packed with gorgeous details. It states a fact. And it makes you want to know what the heck a hobbit is. The beautiful thing here is, is that Tolkien doesn’t tell you what a Hobbit is, he never explains it. He shows you throughout the entire story. With the first sentence, he normalizes the magic and the world for the reader, and then sucks them right in.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.)
Like Tolkien, here Austen is stating a fact. But here, she draws you in by giving away the entire plotline of her novel, without giving away anything. This tactic is tricky. You want to give away enough inforamtion to your reader, to tell them what the novel is about and why they should read it, without telling your reader any of the actual details. It’s like handing a toddler a piece of candy and then hiding it and telling them they have to go find it before they can eat it.
“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago-never mind how long precisley- having little or no money in my purse and nothing in particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick.)
This one is actually two sentences, but two sentences that flow right into each other so perfectly they could be one. I have just recently stumbled across this fabulous piece and have instantly fell in love. It’s a mouthful, but a good one. The first part is simple. Like the other two, just stating a fact. And the second part is quite a bit like Jane Austen’s opening sentence. It gives the reader enought of the story, without giving much away at all. It draws you in by knowing that the narrator is poor, but you don’t know why. You know the story probably takes place in some sort of watery setting, but you don’t know wxactly where. And so, you’re immedietly hooked.
So with all of this in mind, I want you to write a kick ass first liner, and if you want, you can share it below.
- Normalize you story’s world to your reader
- State facts
- Give away your story without giving away anything. (I know that sounds cliche or contradictory, but think deep here).
If you have any questions, comment below or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Writing Collective