Killer First Lines
Consider this; there’s not a single person on this planet who cares whether or not you ever write another word.
I’ll bet you pulled away from the screen and instantly formulated an answer back didn’t you? That’s because my first line is loaded, and it gets your attention by touching a nerve. First lines can do that. A well-written first line is like the front door on an intriguing old house. It invites us to pass through to the unique experience that’s on the other side. So what goes into the creation of killer first lines? There is no magic wand to produce them but here are some basic things to consider.
Dynamic versus static – The root word for dynamic and dynamite are the same; dynamis, meaning power or strength. It pertains to energy or power in motion and is in direct opposition to static, which means to stand or rest. A dynamic first line will set the tone for your entire piece. It doesn’t always have to be an explosive line, but it should arrest your readers’ attention and entice them to read on.
Mood setting – Like that looming front door, the first line brings your reader through a portal into the world you’ve created for them. That line greets them with a smile, a leer, a shout or perhaps an awful truth. It allows you to shut the door behind them and hand over the gift of escape.
The power of recall – Readers love a memorable first line. Like a perfect song lyric, it enables instant transport to some other place and time where borders are fuzzily defined and possibilities are endless.
You have to write a good story. You must have a passion for your tale that will enable you to pen a killer first line. There’s some nugget buried in your words that could be pulled to the beginning of the story and become your dynamic threshold. What is it? Take two of the stories you’re working on now and examine the first lines. Would a single word from your main character’s mouth make a difference? Would a question? Grab four or five of the many books sitting on that shelf behind you and analyze the first lines. Compare them to yours. Then go in for the kill.
There’s not a single person on the planet that cares whether or not you ever write another word. That is, of course, unless you’ve got a killer first line and the story to go with it. So go out and prove me wrong.