Crashing Through Brick Walls: First Lines that Sold
On one of my writing loops (sending a shout out to my friends from PASIC) we've been sharing first lines from our own novels, specifically our first novels published. It's been so much fun reading the openings of books that snagged an editor's or agent's attention that I thought I'd carry it over to the blog today and see if I could entice any of you to share.
But first, a little about the rumored "rules" for openings. I've been hearing them for years: Don't start with the weather. Or a funeral. Or a woman sipping tea. Don't begin with a long sentence (some rule-spouters are so specific, they give an exact word count you mustn't exceed). Avoid prologues at all cost. Start with dialogue. Begin in the middle of things. Set off at the moment everything changes. Never start with a description. Eschew backstory.
I could go on, but I won't. Because I think it's all a load of bunkum. First lines aren't meant to be paint-by-number prescriptions. They're meant to engage the reader on some level, to transport us or raise some question that keeps you reading to the next line... then the next. To establish the author's voice and give the reader faith she is in good hands.
Truth to be told, a lot of really great books don't start with great first lines, but those that do definitely have a competitive advantage. Or at least they do if the story can live up to those first words.
To show how different successful beginnings can be, please share the opening line or lines (no more than a paragraph, please) of the first piece of fiction that netted you a contest win, an agent, or a contract.
I'll start off with the first paragraph from my 1999 historical romance debut, Touched by Fire (written as Gwyneth Atlee and published by Kensington). From the prologue:
The hardest part was stealing the fresh blood. True, the shabby boardinghouse where Hannah Shelton now resided was just around the corner from the butcher's, and often the smell of death loomed large. Truer still, the old meat dealer was a drunkard, but even so, he normally locked the slaughterhouse.
Big surprise I later ended up switching to suspense, huh? ;)
Now don't leave me swinging in the wind here, please. How about sharing some openings of your own?