Friday, October 8, 2010

First Lines = First Impression

Call me Ishmael. - Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. - Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. - Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

You better not never tell nobody but God. - The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.
-Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

As we all know, first lines are extremely important. Not only do readers judge a book by its first lines, editors and agents often don't read past the first page of your manuscript if it doesn't immediately capture their attention.

If you're an ACFW member, you've probably seen this topic come across the Loop this week. I've really been enjoying reading all of the excellent first-lines from everyone's novels and/or WIP's (works in progress). I want to share a few of those that stood out to me. I'll include three of the first lines from my manuscripts, as well. Although mine are yet unpublished, the others are from published (or soon to be published) novels.

If her car hadn’t died that morning, Monique might not have, either.
-From Double Take by Jenness Walker

I marched into church on Sunday, not to find God, but to search for a killer.
-From Fudge-Laced Felonies by Cynthia Hickey

If I hadn’t zigged when he zagged, we would’ve knocked each other out cold.
-The Lady & the Impractical Jokester by Roger Bruner

Today was not a good day for a wedding. It was Lucinda Bishop’s wedding day and he wasn’t the groom.
-From Morning for Dove by Martha Rogers

It's not easy going to the Silicon Valley's most elite private school --as a poor girl.
-From Perfectly Invisible by Kristin Billerbeck

Unemployed. Single. And out of brownie mix.
-From A Valentine's Wish by Betsy St. Amant

A handsome man couldn't be trusted, Maggie Davis reminded herself, and a girl would be wise to watch out for the ugly ones, too.
-From Maggie and the Maverick, Book 3 in the Idaho Brides series

Here are three of mine:

I'm on the run. Unfortunately, not a very fast run. Heels have a way of slowing a woman down. Especially a woman who lives in tennis shoes, loafers, and flip-flops.
-Mind over Madi

Gym shorts...check. T-shirt...check. Water bottle...check. Nikes...nope. They were still packed away in a box somewhere from the move, six months ago. Shows how long it had been since I'd worked out.
-Dead Weight

Rose sat back in her office chair and stared at the computer screen. After a few seconds, she closed her eyes. Maybe when she opened them, the words would be gone.

Nope. Still there.
-Three Wishes

I'd love to hear your favorites. Or, better yet, the first lines from your own published novels or WIP's. Do share!


Linda Glaz said...

Sitting in your royal tower,
Wielding your judgmental power
Princess . . . you deserve to die

Rochelle tore the note into tiny flakes and tossed the remnants in file thirteen. The guy would never be mistaken for Thoreau.

Bunny’s eyes popped open. The sound of a charging train filled her ears. Where were they and what had happened to the peaceful lull of the car?
FELT IN THE HEART/hist romance

Thanks for the great post. Those one-liners certainly draw a person in and make me want to rewrite these.

Caroline said...

Have enjoyed this topic at ACFW loop. Here's a couple of mine:

From a Romantic Suspense:
Thick darkness seeped into the room and clung to his skin like the bats outside clung to the trees, the eaves, and any darker-than-night place they could find.

And from my cozy:
“You what?”
“I bought—”
“I know what you said,” I growled. A vision of my wife’s closet back home, filled with rows of shoes—basic colors like black, blue, brown, and white, and a rainbow of colors—intensified my already stretched-to-out-of-bounds nerves.

From my historical:
Tyrell Walker stared down at the evaluation form, up at the government issued photo of President Roosevelt mounted on the wall and then back down at the paper in his hand. The single word blazed up at him, sneering and final.

And finally, this one:
Joel Peterman-Blair stepped further into the kitchen and leaned against a counter, his gaze fastened on the red-haired guy who wielded the large knife.


Lynda Schab said...

Oh, I love yours, Linda. Especially the first one...I definitely want to read more of that one.

Lynda Schab said...

Great first lines, Caroline! The last one is my favorite. :-)

Timmy Boyle said...

Why is that man wearing no pants?
- My comment on Lynda's blog

Do you know what annoys me? Questions like that.
- Purple

kathy taylor said...

You certainly got my attention with the first line from Moby Dick. I don't understand why people like the line so much, even after many lectures and discussions about it in college. If I were writing a book about reading Moby Dick, I'd begin with "Call me bored."

I love the other first-liners you've mentioned. Here's one of mine: "The old woman remembered a swan she had bought years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum." It's from Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club.

Lynda Schab said...

I agree, Kathy. I think the first line of Moby Dick is so memorable only because the book itself was so good. And because the line is so short. :-)

jenness said...

Thanks for the mention, Lynda! Like yours, too. I posted on this a while back, too. Fun subject! Here are a few:

The first time it happened, I had pins sticking in my back.
~ from Leaper by Geoffrey Wood

Bad hair ruined my life.
~ from She's All That by Kristin Billerbeck

Whistling a tune from Fiddler on the Roof, I used my tweezers to work a piece of Gloria Cunningham's skull out of the sky blue wall.
~ from Hazardous Duty by Christy Barritt

And one from a WIP:

It always starts with the creaking of a door.

Diane said...

I love all of the examples you gave. It is so important! :O)

Cheryl Linn Martin said...

Great to see all these first lines! Here's one from me:

I leapt off the lanai, dodged between two palms, and powered through the rows of pineapples. The perfect getaway.

And another:

I smoothed the crumpled paper, stared at the words, and read the first clue.

Pam said...

Well, right now I can really relate to "unemployed, single and out of brownie mix!" so that one particularly hit me! :) I like all of yours too, Lynda!