What’s MY Line? (First Lines – part two)

I loved reading your favorite first lines last week. Isn’t it amazing how the right first line sets the stage, how it can pull readers out of reality deep into the story that’s being woven around them? I’m always awed at the power of the written word.

As I said last week, a group of writer friends likes to share the first lines of their works in progress. JUST the first line. Not the first paragraph, or even the first two lines. All we can share is that one, lonely line. And you know what? It’s been so helpful to do this. Because I realized, as I played from time to time, that my first lines weren’t as strong or emotive as they needed to be. And that, far too often, those first lines only had impact when combined with the second line.

Now, admittedly, some of the first lines I shared last week are even stronger with the second line. Consider the one from Andrew Greely’s The God Game:

It’s Nathan’s fault I became God.

It is, as I would learn, hell to be God.

I love that. Makes me smile every time I read it. I had to read more, to find out why this character was saying this, who Nathan was, and how on earth he made the protagonist into God. Still, that first line by itself works great. My first lines? Not so much. So I spend a lot more time now making sure my first lines work well in and of themselves.

How about you? Do you love the first line of your work in progress (WIP)? Whether you do or not, here’s your chance to share it and see what some readers think! Come on, now, be brave. Show us how you’re drawing your readers into your book.

Just to prime the pump, here are a few of my first lines. The first three are from books already published, the last from my WIP:

We’re out of control. (The Breaking Point)

The night was a chameleon. (What Lies Within)

The last thing on Josh’s mind that morning was death. (Reunion)

He’d always known he would die young, he just never thought it would happen in a kitchen. (WIP)

Okay, your turn. Have at it!

41 Responses to What’s MY Line? (First Lines – part two)

  1. JennyM May 23, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    A shroud of rags leaned against the wall, her shoulder pressing clouds into the canvas of mildew.

  2. April Kidwell May 23, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    First line from my WIP: “The tears streaming down her face melded with the rain as if heaven wept too.”

  3. Diana Harkness May 23, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    I moved reluctantly into my parents’ old age. In truth, it was not I who moved. I was dragged from a world of light and color and possibility into a dark morass, held in a grip so tight I could not escape. Twisting and turning, I grasped for life, searched for meaning. I struggled to cling to the life I once had. If I allowed those hands to control me, my life was over; if I resisted—and how precisely might I resist? — God himself would disown me. (First lines from a essay in progress)

  4. TC Avey May 23, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Those are juicy.
    Here are two of my fav’s: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”- Gone With The Wind

    “It is truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” -Pride and Prejudice

  5. Robin Patchen May 23, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    A shadow fell across Amanda’s novel, and her eyes flickered upwards to a pair of knees, a waist, and finally the face of the man she’d been hiding from for twelve years.

  6. Sybil Bates McCormack May 23, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    The first line of my WIP reads, “Perhaps she’d only had a nightmare and imagined the sensation of icy steel against an exposed neck.”

    • JennyM May 23, 2012 at 8:02 am #

      THAT had punch Sybil!

      • Sybil Bates McCormack May 23, 2012 at 8:09 am #

        Thanks. Pray for me that the rest of the book proves a knock-out. ;-) Blessings!

  7. Ane Mulligan May 23, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    Like a dispensing gumball, Claire Bennett pinged against, around and between hordes of straw hats, bikinis, and plaid shorts. ~ completed manuscript, Chapel Springs Survival

    • JennyM May 23, 2012 at 8:03 am #

      I laughed out loud and read that 3 times.

  8. Gene Maddox May 23, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Muffin was nuts.

    • V.V. Denman May 25, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      The name makes this one interesting. I’m curious to know if Muffin is a puppy or a girl.

  9. Andrea Nell May 23, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    I have two WIP’s
    What she wouldn’t do to escape this silent madhouse.
    and
    How many times could she start over before she ran out of places to go?

  10. Dianne Price May 23, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    From two WIP’s

    It was a disaster, that’s what it was.

    and

    “You going to spend the rest of your life married to an airplane?”

  11. Carla May 23, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    2 current 1st lines from works in progress:

    The truth is, things weren’t going all that well even before the gypsies came.

    The Thursday Club appointed me to tell our story, but for the life of me, I don’t know why.

  12. Sally Bradley May 23, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Carla, I love the gypsy line!

    From my WIP Kept–Every now and then a perfect day shows up and promises happiness.

    • Jeanne May 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      I loved this line, Sally. So many questions popped into my head after reading it. Can’t wait to read more. :)

  13. Elizabeth Goddard May 23, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Beautiful . . .but dangerous. (Freezing Point 2011)

  14. Zachary Sigmon May 23, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    A cool wind foreshadowing a change in weather ruffled the newspaper.

  15. Jeanne May 23, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    So many great first lines. :)

    I haven’t decided which POV I’m starting with (sounds terrible, doesn’t it?), so I’m including two first lines. I hope that’s okay. The first “first line” got some help from an author friend of mine.

    The only thing that might make this romantic night more magical was her husband actually showing up.

    He’d have to pull his Super Man act to get to Anya’s Christmas party before it ended.

    • Andrea Nell May 23, 2012 at 11:42 am #

      Jeanne, I think you should start with Anya’s POV. Both great lines though!

      • Jeanne May 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

        Thanks, Andrea! :)

    • Sally Bradley May 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

      I like the first line; that hooked me.

      • Jeanne May 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

        Thanks, Sally. :)

  16. Erin Taylor Young May 23, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Our dog has special needs, the greatest of which being the need for a lobotomy.

  17. Jim Ayers May 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Hi all – I am a new writer and wondering if I have what it takes. Can not quite make conferences happen for me, so this is my next best option. How about this:

    “This is insane!” Jim yelled over the roar of the rapid.

  18. Peter DeHaan May 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    From my WIP: At the time it seemed like a good idea.

    From another WIP: “I don’t want to hear it!” Her words were emphatic and had a ring of finality to them.

  19. Mike Manto May 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    From one of my WiP: Miriam had the misfortune of being one of the most beautiful women on the planet.

    From my other WIP: It’s hardest when children are involved. We found them huddled at the back of a dark closet.

  20. Gillian Marchenko May 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    The summer before second grade I thought God ripped my arm off to teach me a lesson.

  21. Wade Webster May 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    If it doesn’t kill me, it will make me stronger.

  22. Melissa Finnegan May 24, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Ella Bradshaw’s father casted a shadow over her tiny frame.

  23. Patti Shene May 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    “Uncle Nathan, why’d you kill my mom?” From an untitled WIP I would like to write someday.

  24. Joanne Guidoccio May 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Great exercise!

    First line from my WIP, A Season for Killing Blondes…

    She looked good, too good for someone who had turned up dead in a dumpster.

  25. J.L. Lyon June 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    There would be no dawn.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The First Lines of Your Novel | The Steve Laube Agency - September 2, 2013

    […] opening lines of a novel are like an introduction to the rest of the story. (Karen Ball discussed this over a year ago.) Some have become famous. “It was a dark and stormy night” is the well known beginning of that […]

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