Writing Advice

Writing That Perfect First Line – How Important Is It?

gif writing long ago

The first line of a story. Many writers agonize over it, spending hours, days, sometimes month trying to come up with the perfect first sentence. But how important is it really? Some authors believe its perfection is essential. Some believe it matters, but not as much as a lot of writers believe. And some believe it’s inconsequential in relation to the quality of the rest of your story,

I tend to fall into the second camp. I believe your fist line matters. You want to at least try to grab the readers attention. But I don’t feel it holds as much weight as some think. Most people, like myself aren’t going to make a decision to read or discard a novel based on the opening line.

Let’s look at some opening line examples (not including the prologue) and you can decide for yourself how “perfect” they truly are. These are all from bestselling YA novels –

  1. Caraval by Stephanie Garber – “It took seven years to get the letter right.”
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – “I shouldn’t have come to this party.”
  3. The Hazel Wood: A Novel by Melissa Albert – “My mother was raised on fairy tales, but I was raised on highways.”
  4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – “In Faerie, there are no fish sticks, no ketchup, no television.”
  5. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – “Pick me.”
  6. Divergent by Veronica Roth – “There is one mirror in my house.”
  7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – “Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.”
  9. A Court of Thorns and Roses  by Sarah J. Maas – “The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.”
  10. Scythe by Neal Shusterman – “The scythe arrived late on a cold November afternoon.”
  11. Heartless by Marissa Meyer – “Three luscious lemon tarts glistened up at Catherine.”
  12. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – “It was freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrived.”
  13. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – “I hate First Friday.”
  14. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – “It’s just not working out,” Emma said.”
  15. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – “My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest.”
  16. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – “In the beginning, there were two suns and two moons.”
  17. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – “It’s a weirdly subtle conversation.”
  18. This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – “The starter gun shatters the silence, releasing the runners from their blocks.”
  19. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – “Sir?” she repeats.”
  20. Everything, Everything By Nicola Yoon – “I’ve read many more books than you.”
  21. Before I fall by Lauren Oliver – “Beep, beep,” Lindsay calls out.”
  22. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – “There was a boy in her room.”

There you have it. All of these books are best sellers. A lot of them have really good opening lines. And a lot just have an average, okay opening line, leading the way to a fantastic book. So don’t beat yourself up over your fist sentence. Give it your best effort, but don’t drag it out and torture yourself. Sometimes a first line is just a forgettable ‘hello’ into the world you’ve created.

However, if you are torturing yourself over that first sentence and you just can’t move on without getting it right, here are some resources that might help –

7 Keys to Write the Perfect First Line

How to Start a Novel – First Sentence

7 Ways to Create a Killer Opening Line

Now, in finishing up, I thought it would be fun to include the opening lines from my own books. This was not an easy task. I hate reading my own stuff. All I see is everything I would change – and there is A LOT I would change. But I’m putting that aside and laying my first lines bare –

The Protectors: Book 1“The long cold steps seemed endless as she rushed towards the screams of her friends.”

Dark Fate: Book 2“Sitting on top of Phantom in the pre-dawn darkness, Avery scratched the scabs forming over the wounds on her neck from the Serpentine attack the night before, which had already started to heal.”

Beginning’s End: Book 3 “As Avery opened her eyes to the pale sunlight, she was thankful for the extra hour of sleep she had demanded from Gumptin the night before, but at the same time wanted to kick herself for not telling Gumptin that training would start two hours later.”

Demon’s Gate: Book 4“The troll’s club slammed into Avery’s stomach, sending her soaring backwards and crashing into a large Oak tree.”

Dragon’s Blade: Book 5“The smell of burnt flesh and blood filled the air around Avery, seeping into her nostrils.”

Becoming Eden “You are such an idiot!” Eden cursed aloud to herself, watching her breath mix with the chilly night air and create a puff of steam in front of her face.”

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