A piece of advice that all writers are given is that you should always grab a reader from the first line. While a good first line is a great thing to aim for, I don’t think it will keep a reader going if the second, third and fourth line are not much chop. I also find it hard to believe a reader would be inclined to put a book down after just the first line, even if it was staggeringly bad. In fact even then I’d want to keep reading to see if it got worse.
Here are the first lines of three of my favourite books…
“First the colours.” – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I do think the fifth line in this book is great; “Here is a small fact, you are going to die.”
“My name is Moon.” – Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer
“An old blue Ford pulled into the guarded parking lot that morning, looking like a small, tired dog after a hard run.” – The Long Walk by Richard Bachman/Stephen King.
None of those first lines particularly hook me, though I do like the imagery of Stephen King’s sentence, but the point is that I loved ALL of those books.
I think a well written blurb will always do ten times more to sell your book to a reader than a first line ever will. That’s no reason not to put a bit more effort into your first line, but I do wonder if it might just be publishers cold-reading manuscripts who care deeply about first lines.
My friend Liz explores more first lines here.