Friday, May 15, 2009

First Line Friday

Okay, peeps. I like looking at the first lines of books. I've put several below. Some are mine from various novels and books I've written. Some aren't. Can you tell which ones? (NOTE: I am not comparing myself to anyone. Just throwing this fascinating topic out there.)

I'd love it if you'd post your first line(s) in the comments and I'll compile them and post them on my blog next week. Maybe we can have a little discussion about what makes a good first line? Would you be up for that?

Now I don't want to turn into Authoress at Miss Snark's First Victim. I just want to know what YOU think makes a good first line. And I want to read yours. And then I want us to look at them and decide which ones work FOR US INDIVIDUALLY and which ones don't. And maybe ponder on why.

Anyone want to do this? You know I like stewing about such things. What do you think of these below?

1. So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.

2. Good girls don't walk with boys.

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.

4. A tree branch slapped John Craig across the face.

5. The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.

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.

7. The acrid smell of smoke floated in my head, taunting me.

8. "You've got to be kidding me," the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest.

9. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

10. Dark shapes drifted in front of the car, blocking the oncoming lights from the freeway.

11. When I was a child, I didn't dream of growing up to be an international bank thief.

12. With one last, almighty roar, the Frenchman fell to his knees and died.

So if you're up for public humiliation critique and want to postulate as to what makes a good first line, simply post your first line in the comments. That will act sort of like your ticket to the discussion next week we'll have on all the entered first lines. Is this making sense to anyone other than me?

I'll make a list. I like lists. Lists like me.

1. Post your first line in a comment.
2. You can also comment about other things (the lines above. Can you guess mine?) if you want. You know I like that.
3. Next week, I'll post all the first lines and talk about which ones "work" for me and why.
4. You'll join in the discussion, naming which first lines you like and why.
5. We'll all have a jolly fun time discussing the first lines of books we've read, written, hope to write/read in the near and far distant future and basically learn from one another.




Unknown said...

Power touched him, gripping him tightly.

Three sounds like something my friend Mercedes would write. As for guessing yours, I'm not sure I've read enough of what you write, but I'll take a stab at it. 6 maybe. It's snarky. ;) Maybe 7, 11? Ooh, 7-11. Now I'm dreaming about slurpees...

Michelle Walkenhorst said...

I don't have a first line to post but I wanted to guess.

2. your book I read on Amazon that I can't remember the name, but thought was good.
3. Twilight

The rest I have no idea. I was just glad I knew at least one.

Robyn Campbell said...

I'm game Elana. Only I must say that I love my second sentence much more than my first. Here are my two top favorites, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And my other one is from, Star of the Sea, by Joseph O'Connor. Can't quote it exactly and can't find my copy but it is GOOD!

Here's mine from my MG novel,
Anna threw open the barn door, smiling at her horse.

Like I said, I like my second one better, but the first one is needed to set up the scene!

Liz said...

To say the house was old would be an understatement.

2,6,7,10,11 are yours, I think. :)

Michelle McLean said...

Well I know 2 is yours and 3 is Twilight :D

A couple of my favorite first lines are "I'd been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar." (Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris)

"He was dead." (Voyager by Diana Gabaldon)

"Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker." (Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast)


"I was seventeen years old before I found out my sister had been murdered." (The Judas Kiss by Victoria Holt)

I suck at first lines, big time. In fact, I am so afraid of the little buggers I don't even have a first line yet :D Okay, well I do have a first line that starts off the ms, but it will change. Anyhow, it's "Okay, even for a Monday my day was pretty suck-tacular."

And now you know why it will be cut :D

Jamie D. said...

I thing 2 & 7 are yours, but I'm not sure of the other ones. I need to read more of your writing. :-)

I recently promoted this to a first line from the 4th:

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

But this morning read something on not starting with dialogue, so may rethink that (depending on our discussion?).

What a great idea - can't wait to see all the entries!

Tess said...

Fun game, Elana -- I'm in!

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

Guesses? Er...brain. not. working.

Your writing is so vibrant. I love your blog.

Elana Johnson said...

Oooh, Michelle, those are all good. And yours is good too!

Nisa, nice line.

Michelle W - 3 is Twilight.

Robyn, I recently changed my first line too, but I forgot to change this post! Doh!

Liz, I remember yours! Nicely done. :D

Jamie - I don't mind it if books start with a dialogue first line. That doesn't bother me. And yours is great!

Elana Johnson said...

Tess - love that line! And thanks!

Scott said...

Elana - no fair making us think on Friday! ; )

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.

Sorry, somehow, my first sentence became snarky. I just don't know how that happens with such a snark-free person as myself.

Here's a second first line -

Jake was beyond furious.

I know, it's not much, but it is what it is . . . at least until the next editing phase.

I'm not even attempting a guess on the other aspect of your post. It's Friday, and the only thing I'm thinking about right now is how much time until margarita night.


~Jamie said...

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

I know which one is yours...but it would be cheating, and I want the others to get a chance... and I totally saw twilight in there :) I think I only remember it because it's the opening to the movie too...

B.J. Anderson said...

I'm too chicken to post my first line, but I love the ones developing here! And from your post, I love #2. That's awesome.


1. Wintergirls. Love the book. Very lyrical. I had to read it a couple of times when I first opened the book, but it set the tone for the rest of the novel.

2. I'm guessing yours. Just saw it on one of Miss Snark's SA contests from a month or two ago. It makes me smile every time I read it.

3. Twilight, of course. I wish the stuff between the dashes was cut.

4-12: no idea.

I'd post mine, but since I'm mid-SA contest, I should probably hold off on that.

First lines are fun!

Anonymous said...

Okay - you know I am always game for your "little" challenges...

SO, let's start with the ones you posted...
#1 is Wintergilrs, #2,7, and maybe #10 are yours, #3 is Twilight?, #8 might be City of Bones and #9 is Hunger Games...No idea of the others.

As for some of mine...Here are three:

“Always running; always the same.”

“Most people forget their dreams.”

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

Have at it...:)

Unknown said...

"I felt revulsion toward my son today."

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I want to play! But my first line doesn't work as just a first line. Is it okay to post the first two? If not, feel free to disqualify me, by all means.

I have no idea which one is yours. Maybe 2?

First Line: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.

Unknown said...

My first line (YA SF):

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

C. N. Nevets said...

I too am a huge fan of first lines, and a big believer in the power of the hook. Some personal faves from my own writing:

* 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.

Elana Johnson said...

Scott, I love that fairy godmother line! Love it. And thinking on Friday does a body good. It's like milk.

Jamie - I still like that line.

BJ - scared? Of me? lololololol

Jessjordan - congrats on the SA contest! Good luck! And you are right about the first three.

KLo - nice first line.

LadyG - You will never be disqualified! Never! Great first line(s).

Beth - "the ship"? Oooh, I like.

Christine - you get the most right! I knew you'd get Hunger Games. And City of Bones.

C.N. Neveets - welcome to Mindless Musings! I love your first lines!

And you guys are totally awesome on guessing which novels the lines came from. I'm totally shocked no one has guessed #5. That's a totally popular book.

And mine are:
#2 - Control Issues
#6 - Living Assistants
#7 - Elemental Hunger
#10 - The Mirror
#11 - Elite

Looking at that, I can't believe I've written that many novels. *shakes head sadly* My life has become...something.

Thanks for playing! Be back next week with part two of First Line Friday!

Oh, and you can still play if you haven't. It's not like it's "closed" or anything. ;)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Whew, I'm glad it's not closed!

I knew #2 is yours. Is #5 one of the Harry Potters? I'm not sure which one off the top of my head, though.

Here are a couple of my first lines:

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.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard about the book called Great Beginnings And Endings by Georgianne Ensign?

It's an awesome collection of beginning and ending lines from famous novels. You should check it out.

Unknown said...

Ok, here's my first line from my YA novel, The Hidden Force:

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 Nelson said...

Cool post! I recognize the Twilight one. LOL I also liked the good girls don't walk with boys. *snicker*
Have no clue which might be yours. :-)
I think what makes a good first line is introducing a unique character/viewpoint and a conflict, in one sentence. Maybe. I'm still working on mine.
Here's the first sentence from one of my manuscripts.

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

Scott said...

Here's one of my favorite first lines - 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. The title of the book caught my eye, but it was the first line that made me buy the book. If you get a chance, read the book. It is very well written. To me, at least, the first line is brilliance.


Danyelle L. said...

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

I'm sensing vampires on #3
Argh! #6 feels so familiar, but I can't place it.

I love #11

You are going to post the answers, aren't you?!

Liz Kales - I Love Books and Writers said...

Here is mine from my WIP: two lines actually to understand:

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

BTW, thanks for your great blog. I've just joined.

Cali MacKay said...

Ooo. All those lines were so good, I don't think I can guess.

Here's mine...

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

And then another from a different ms...

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

Elana Johnson said...

Anyone else? I've copied and pasted all the ones posted so far for next week's discussion! Woot!

Crystal said...

What a fun exercise! Sorry to be joining in so late, Elana!

But here's mine:

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

Okay, sorry, I think that's two, but my wip starts off with a letter . . .

See Elana's recent blog posts

Recent Posts Widget