katiedoyle's picture
katiedoyle from Pittsburgh is reading Anne of Green Gables November 27, 2011 - 8:19pm

What kind of first line writer are you? Do you jump right in? Do you agonize over that sentence for weeks? Is your first like a kind of thesis (i. e. Pride and Prejudice-"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.")? Are you trying to TELL the reader some thing with that one line?

I'm a jump write in and get the ball rolling kind of person myself. =)

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day November 27, 2011 - 9:02pm

"They always expect it to be the mailman, since there aren't any milkmen anymore."

I've only completed one short story and that was the first line. I think Chuck's advice--that you should open with an image rather than a thesis--is a good rule of thumb, but if you can sort of combine the two--by presenting (or disguising) a thesis as an image that will hook the reader, then go for it.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 27, 2011 - 9:07pm

I used to be really great at one liners but now I have been told that I try to explain too much in the first sentence.  I suppose I need to go back and try to just do vivid imagery as a first line.  I think an image is probably best. 

.'s picture
. November 27, 2011 - 9:14pm

Bret Easton Ellis has epic first lines. Seriously his opening lines are like epic poems.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest November 27, 2011 - 11:42pm

I always try to make as much of an impact in my first lines as possible. If I can get your attention with that first line, chances are you'll keep reading. Usually, I don't agonize over it, it just comes to me. And, I always start in media res. 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest November 27, 2011 - 11:44pm

@Jack: I agree. Bret's first lines are pretty damn epic. Andrew Vachss has some pretty good first lines, too. Elmore Leonard has good ones as well.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 28, 2011 - 3:25am

The one about people in LA being afraid to merge on freeways is pretty good.

Here are some good first lines:

The first time I had an abortion it was funny, the second time it hurt.

It wasn't until I saw my Dad having sex with my sister that I realized our family was fucked up.

Sometimes I think about killing myself, the other half of the time I think about killing others, my doctor says I'm depressed.

 

Feel free to play along!

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 28, 2011 - 5:52am

I used to be stuck on making the first line some sort of dialouge.  I still like that.  I like to open anc close on dialouge actually.  Not that it's good or anything, it's just what i like to do.  I'm bad at goodbyes I guess, and equally bad at hellos.

A recent one that i like which was not dialouge was this:  He should have gotten his key back..

I don't know why, but I like it.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin November 28, 2011 - 3:14pm

Depends on what I need for the story or what works better for what I'm writing.

The intro for Upright Citizens is a thesis:

"I wish I could tell you that the good guys always win, but in my experience this is rarely the case"

and it works for Upright Citizens because the narrator is this over-educated hippie rebel who the other characters are always asking "why do you talk like that?" (and it ties in so nicely with the closing line, which is something like we're all the good guys in our own stories but since it's a political book instead of one about literary form it goes "In our own eyes we are all Upright Citizens of these divided states")

Convo at a Hanging has a jump right in sort of opening line, but that is because I am trying to conceal things from the reader and the best way to do that is by focusing on peripheral details that characterize the scene without providing too much content. In fact, a lot of my short stories jump right in.

But it depends on the story, not the writer.