Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Taking Inspiration from Great First Lines

Did you know that Stephen King spends months, even years writing the first few lines of his novels? (Read the article in The Atlantic here.)

One of the things King says in the interview is this: "But there's one thing I'm sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."

Just about every literary agent and editor I've ever heard speak agrees that first lines are vitally important in the modern literary world. This article from The Telegraph theorizes that this is largely due to the distractions of technology and the ability to "drop" a book and download another instantly if the first one doesn't grab you immediately.

So how do you make sure the first lines of your manuscript hook your readers? One of the best ways is to study examples of great ones from literature. Lines like "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." (1984) and "Marley was dead: to begin with." (A Christmas Carol) grab the reader instantly—you want to read on to find out why that would be, or why that would have been said like that. Check out an extensive list of great first lines here on Pub(lishing) Crawl.

If you need help getting your own first lines into shape, here are some online resources that may help:

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