Starting today, I'm going to fill you in on important parts of the novel. I'll start with what starts it all, and talk about the first sentence. The day I began writing this, I read a post by author Maggie Stiefvater on the subject, and I thought I'd do my own post on the subject. (Speaking of dates, also, a quick apology for me posting this a bit early. Tomorrow I'm going on an English Department trip and I don't know when/if I'll have le Internet with me.)
So honestly, the whole first line issue in novels really ticks me off. Not the first line so much as the "first page" or "first chapter" or even "first three chapters." I guess my intros can be slow, what with exposition and at-first-it's-cliche-and-then-it-gets-less-cliche. I'm a fan of prologues for the action and stuff, which is also not "in" at the moment. I'll admit it's a problem. But it makes me mad that agents and publishers judge based off of just the first section of your work.
I have been informed that this is because readers often look through the first pages and if you don't hook them, they don't go for it. I think this is rubbish, but maybe it's because I'm such a virulent reader. I always read the synopsis flapishness, and then I go ahead and dive in if I like the idea. I'll admit a particularly boring start will jolt me out (I had this problem with Lord of the Rings. Also, Inkheart.), but in general the first part of the book has very little to do with the actual book quality.
Moving past that though, it is true, and always will be, that the first line makes the book. Not to mention, first lines are particularly amusing to peruse. You can always get a sense of the story from a really good first line, and hopefully it'll jolt you as well. So today I'm going to list some of my favorite first lines from books I've read, and also give you the first lines of my books (no guarantees on their quality). So sit back, and enjoy!
Best First Lines of Other Books
All children, except one, grow up.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news.
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz, from the Alex Rider series
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.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car.
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan, from the Percy Jackson series
Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
It was a pleasure to burn.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket from A Series of Unfortunate Events
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, from the Chronicles of Narnia
Current First Lines of My Books
A single snowflake fell from the sun-kissed sky, foreboding the future that Haley Ravét knew was coming faster than anyone could stop it.
THE ICE ENCHANTRESS'S PLOT
If you saw me on the street, you’d think I was normal.
THE LAST HOPE
They’ve existed for ages unfathomed.
THE PSYCHIC STORY
I don't know exactly the date of my birth, only that it was sometime during the summer.
PERISHED, sequel to THE PSYCHIC STORY
Eliada lay on her cot in the bare cell, the remnants of tears crusting her light eyes.
ON THE DAWNING, from THE CHOSEN FOUR series
Sage O’Riley skimmed her schedule for Centralia High School as she walked out to her family’s Jeep, and instantly appreciated being a sophomore.
ON THE BRINK, from THE CHOSEN FOUR series
Hunter Cole, clinging to the hand of the only girl he had ever loved, dove outside just as the helicopter reached the hospital roof.
ON THE RUN, from THE CHOSEN FOUR series
He stood in silence.
ON THE OUTSIDE, from THE CHOSEN FOUR series
In every way, it had been an ordinary evening, hardly portending the tragedy at hand.
THE PROPHECY KEEPER
“Mom!” I bellowed, sticking my head out my bedroom door, which was covered in posters of my favorite music group, Evanescence.
WHAT IT TAKES TO DEAL
On the morning of my sixteenth birthday, I wake up my younger brother Max, help him dress, give him breakfast, and get him on the bus to school.
My lines don't have the same strength as the professional ones, which makes sense. Most my novels still need a whole lot of editing before I end up sending them out... and then even more editing once I get someone to take them on.
The point is to give your first line some punch! It'll carry you forward and give you an advantage in the industry. Not to mention, it's just cool. Be awesome like cool published writers and hook them readers in.
Thanks for reading, guys. :) Come back next time for part two of Parts of the Novel, focusing on titles -- those of the chapters and of the novel itself.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. Basically, stories are my life.
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