Friday, May 22, 2009

First Line Friday, Part Two

Wow, a lot of people posted their first lines. And there were so many really great ones! Just as a recap, here are the ones I posted last week--with the novel they came from.

1. So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee. (Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson)

2. Good girls don't walk with boys. (Control Issues by, that's right--me!)

3. I'd never given much thought to how I would die--though I'd had reason enough in the last few months--but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. (Twilight by Stephenie Meyer)

4. A tree branch slapped John Craig across the face. (Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer)

5. The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

6. The haze settling in Jesse Oropeza's head has nothing to do with Mr. Sadler's droning lecture on functions, though that would have done it. (Living Assistants - yours truly)

7. The acrid smell of smoke floated in my head, taunting me. (Elemental Hunger - me again)

8. "You've got to be kidding me," the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest. (City of Bones by Cassandra Clare)

9. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

10. Dark shapes drifted in front of the car, blocking the oncoming lights from the freeway. (The Mirror - mine)

11. When I was a child, I didn't dream of growing up to be an international bank thief. (Elite - me again)

12. With one last, almighty roar, the Frenchman fell to his knees and died. (Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King)


Our golden ticket holders:

Nisa: Power touched him, gripping him tightly.

Robyn: Anna threw open the barn door, smiling at her horse.

Liz: To say the house was old would be an understatement.

Michelle: Okay, even for a Monday my day was pretty suck-tacular.

Jamie: “Are we going to take her to the cabin first, or inject her right here?”

Tess: Ollie's daddy was born a preacher, no choice in the matter.

Scott: The fairy godmother (okay, it was a drag queen dressed as Glinda the Good Witch) waved her magic wand and solved all the problems of the Universe.

Jake was beyond furious.

~Jamie: I hold my breath and dive into the crawl space just before the beam of a flashlight sweeps across the wall.

Christine: Always running; always the same.

Most people forget their dreams.

Nesya climbed the steps of the subway platform, her human form still foreign.

KLo: I felt revulsion toward my son today.

Lady Glamis: A book of poetry. Naomi didn’t know why the man looking down at her was pressing a thin volume of poetry to his chest, but it was the first thing that fueled her hope of staying alive.

Beth: My name is Elder, even though I'm the youngest one on the ship.

C.N.: I found Jesus in the Five Man Electric Band, and I found him there because Jesus plays Chinese chess.

God Bless the flower pots.

As I douse your body in gasoline, pouring almost a full gallon into the gash I opened in your throat, and then proceed to light you ablaze, I realize that it’s still not enough.

People like to read poems about monkeys.

Sandra: As soon as Paul Harrison left the stage, he ripped the holoprojector bands off his arms. The cherubs dumped another basket of hearts into the vat. I was mopping up puppy piss in the waiting room when a client brought in his bearded dragon.

Michelle: While most teenagers reveled in moments of tested independence with their parents, Faith McDaniels had been cheated of that coming-of-age ritual; death had a way of changing priorities in life.

Jessica: If there was one thing Rachel McCormick hated more than breaking into the mayor’s house, it was getting caught.

Danyelle: The world began with a wish and a flame.

Bettyk: As the clock struck midnight the bells of Westminster Abby began to peal; it was a solemn occasion and the carillons tolled with a distinct half-muffled ring. A proclamation of bereavement.

C. Taylor: The body lay as it had fallen, the man’s limbs bent at awkward angles.

Lady Phoebe Hughes came down the stairs, her hand tight on the railing in case she should misstep and fall.

Crystal: Dear Mama, I hope you are doing well. PLEASE COME GET ME AND OTIS!

I'm going to pick five (not necessarily my top five. Remember my desire for nice-nice?) that I liked and explain why. You're welcome to do the same. The questions for today are: What makes a great first line? What sucks you in? Why does it grip you so? And, how much time and energy do you put into that first line?

1. The world began with a wish and a flame.
***I like this because I want to know what the wish was, what the world was, and how the flame plays into all of it. I'd read on for sure.

2. Okay, even for a Monday my day was pretty sucktacular.
***I love the voice of this. I like sassy and snappy and cool new words like sucktacular. *wink* Like you all didn't know that. I'd read a whole novel with snark like this.

3.
“Are we going to take her to the cabin first, or inject her right here?”
***Oooh, what cabin? Inject her with what? Why? Who is she? Who are "they"? This brings so many intriguing questions that I'd read on for a while to find out the answers.

4. The fairy godmother (okay, it was a drag queen dressed as Glinda the Good Witch) waved her magic wand and solved all the problems of the Universe.
***Dude, I need a fairy godmother that can solve the problems of the universe. Badly. This also has great voice that grabs and the drag queen adds an interesting twist. I wonder where it will go next--what with the problems all solved and everything. I'd read on to find out.

5. The body lay as it had fallen, the man’s limbs bent at awkward angles.
***I like a good mystery, so this draws me in immediately.

So sometimes it's voice (okay, for me, a lot of the time, the voice is the first thing that hooks me), sometimes it's content (mystery injections, dead bodies) and sometimes it's simply the intrigue of what might come next.

In all honesty, I don't spend much time on the first line of my novels. Heck, just writing the beginning is always like Chinese water torture, but once I know where to start the story, the first line just sort of falls into place.

Today's questions are just above my picks. Which of these first lines do you like best? And why?

11 comments:

Scott said...

Wow, I made it into your top five. Woo-hoo! Okay, not 'necessarily' your top five! : )

Here's what makes a great first line . . .

"God is walking through Shibboleth, rummaging through the pockets of his memory, the distant past and the near future." The line is from "The Messenger of Magnolia Street" by River Jordan.

This line drew me in right from the start. The imagery just seemed to explode in my mind. I mean, how seriously neat for an author to have God walking through a town - today. That's what piqued my interest. The line was interesting, intriguing, and made me want to read more.

So, for me, that's what a first line should do - make me want to read more. Give me something that piques my interest, or, as in the above sentence, makes the imagery explode in my head. That's a good thing in case you're wondering.

Now as for the ones I like best from your post . . .

Michelle: While most teenagers reveled in moments of tested independence with their parents, Faith McDaniels had been cheated of that coming-of-age ritual; death had a way of changing priorities in life.

Why? I love the line "death had a way of changing priorities in life". I'd definitely keep reading.

Lady Glamis: A book of poetry. Naomi didn’t know why the man looking down at her was pressing a thin volume of poetry to his chest, but it was the first thing that fueled her hope of staying alive.

Why? Because the sentence intrigues me. Why would a book of poetry fuel someones hope of staying alive? I'm hooked.

Michelle: Okay, even for a Monday my day was pretty suck-tacular.

Because this sentence just sums everything up.

Okay, that's it for me. There were a bunch of other great sentences. Space/Time are my limitations today.

S

p.s. I would have mentioned my sentence, but that would go way beyond snark. : )

C. N. Nevets said...

Christine: Always running; always the same --

It's brief but it sucks me in and gives me an entire context in which to understand what will follow. For me that's key. I want the opening to not only hook my interest, but to be a distillation of the important theme of the work.

This line has emotional power, it's something I can understand and relate to, and it establishes a character premise. I love it.

Danyelle: The world began with a wish and a flame --

Normally I am a sucker for character-driven opens, and frankly I am most often turned off by world-centric opens. This line is brilliant, though, because it almost seems to establish the world as a character.

That's a neat trick!

KLo: I felt revulsion toward my son today --

I'll be honest. I didn't like this line the first time I read it. I was like, "Yeah, okay, thanks for spouting off, right at the outset." But that was followed immedately by, "Well, hang on, what the crap?"

And I re-read it right then, and was immediately hooked.

What I think got to me was the play of contradicting but immediate forces. Either, I'm going to have antipathy for the MC for reacitng like that to the son -- or else I'm going to have antipathy toward the son for doing something so horrid as to draw that feeling from a parent.

I really wanna know which to hate.

Alright, there were plenty of gems in there and several more I can go on about, but that's more than my share of time in the comment field. haha

C. N. Nevets said...

Christine: Always running; always the same --

It's brief but it sucks me in and gives me an entire context in which to understand what will follow. For me that's key. I want the opening to not only hook my interest, but to be a distillation of the important theme of the work.

This line has emotional power, it's something I can understand and relate to, and it establishes a character premise. I love it.

Danyelle: The world began with a wish and a flame --

Normally I am a sucker for character-driven opens, and frankly I am most often turned off by world-centric opens. This line is brilliant, though, because it almost seems to establish the world as a character.

That's a neat trick!

KLo: I felt revulsion toward my son today --

I'll be honest. I didn't like this line the first time I read it. I was like, "Yeah, okay, thanks for spouting off, right at the outset." But that was followed immedately by, "Well, hang on, what the crap?"

And I re-read it right then, and was immediately hooked.

What I think got to me was the play of contradicting but immediate forces. Either, I'm going to have antipathy for the MC for reacitng like that to the son -- or else I'm going to have antipathy toward the son for doing something so horrid as to draw that feeling from a parent.

I really wanna know which to hate.

Alright, there were plenty of gems in there and several more I can go on about, but that's more than my share of time in the comment field. haha

Lisa and Laura said...

LOVE the fairy godmother line. I mean who wouldn't want a fairy godmother who's actually a drag queen dressed as Glinda the Good Witch?

I would SO be reading on.

Tess said...

fun game Elana - thanks. And, I love some of these first lines!! So much creativity floating around out there :)

~Jamie said...

Scott: The fairy godmother (okay, it was a drag queen dressed as Glinda the Good Witch) waved her magic wand and solved all the problems of the Universe.

I don't know how when or why... but this is awesome. :)

Jamie said...

Hey, you picked my line! Thanks, and glad it hooked you!

A great first line for me is either very active, or makes me insanely curious about what's going to happen. I like to be propelled into a book as fast as possible, so I can’t stop reading that first page. As for how much time/energy I put into my own first lines – probably more than I should. If it doesn’t pull me into writing the rest of the page, I have no faith that it will hook a reader.

A few of my favorite lines here:

Jessica: "If there was one thing Rachel McCormick hated more than breaking into the mayor’s house, it was getting caught."

Why is she breaking in? Has she done it more than once? Who caught her? Is she going to jail? What was she looking for? I want to know all of those and more – color me hooked.

~Jamie: "I hold my breath and dive into the crawl space just before the beam of a flashlight sweeps across the wall."

I’m not fond of first-person narratives, but this makes me curious. I want to know why this person is hiding, what they might find in the crawl space, and whether or not they’ll successfully avoid being found.

Christine: "Nesya climbed the steps of the subway platform, her human form still foreign."

So if “human” isn’t her normal form, what is? Where’d she come from? What’s she doing on a subway?

I’ll stop there…great post series, Elana. I loved reading all the lines submitted!

Danyelle said...

Thanks for your kind words, Elana! :)

My three (in no particular order):

Liz: To say the house was old would be an understatement.I love the voice!

Michelle: While most teenagers reveled in moments of tested independence with their parents, Faith McDaniels had been cheated of that coming-of-age ritual; death had a way of changing priorities in life.I love this voice and the story possibilities it has!

Jessica: If there was one thing Rachel McCormick hated more than breaking into the mayor’s house, it was getting caught.Rachel already feels like someone I'd like to meet--through the pages of the story, of course. O:)

christinefonseca said...

Oohh..this is SO FUN!!! I think first lines need to hook you in. And I do spend time on a first line, though it usually isn't the FIRST thing I write in a new story!!!

As for the ones I liked:

I loved Scott's fairy godmother line -cause it SO HOOKED ME.

I also loved Michelle's "sucktacular" line...cause, srsly...it is just awesome!

Finally - Danyelle's Wish and Flame line...it was fantastic.

And C.N. and Jaime - I'm glad you liked my lines!!!

Great post, Elana!!!

Jaime Theler said...

Great first lines! I love reading these. My first lines are usually pretty suck-tastic.

*hastily scribbling notes*

IMO, Voice, voice, voice trumps all.

Lady Glamis said...

This is awesome! So many great lines. It just goes to show you how many different taste there are out there, and styles. What will hook one person won't hook another. In the end, it really does matter that we stay true to our own voice. The rest will follow. Thanks, Elana!

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