Thursday, January 19, 2012

The First Sentence

I've been doing some research on this, since lets face it, any and all writers who want to go the traditional route of publishing or publish themselves need to have a strong first sentence. You want to grab the reader by the mind, heart and spirit at first glance.  You want your book to be that sexy blond haired blue eyed girl that everyone looks at, right till she walks out of the room.  The grabber of attention.  To any writer, your story is a child, a brain child that you want people to notice.  However, attention spans are not what they used to be.  There was a time when a reader would accept the long winded description of scenes and the characters in them before anything happened. That is just not the case anymore.  The reader wants to use their own imagination implant their own ideas of what things look like, not to be pushed into viewing something else.  They want that first line to be one of those lines that tells them everything and nothing.  So, how do you do that?  Well it's the easiest, and hardest thing to do as a writer, and when accomplished, one of the most rewarding.

Let's take a look at what is expected of the first line.
Narrator's voice, character, setting and the most anticipated, some sort of conflict. Some of these things can't fit into every first sentence.  There are times where you need to pick and choose what would grab the reader most, and follow up the rest of the needed elements in the rest of the first paragraph. Making not just the first sentence the hook, but the first paragraph.

Examples of first sentences.

Delta Pi by Andrew Bert:
Kinsey Stafford noticed it—or, rather, the effect of it—in his office at the Center for Mathematical Studies, CambridgeEngland.

Andrew Bert shows in his first sentence the character: Kinsey Stafford.  We can  picture where Kinsey is, just by knowing he's in an office. It also shows voice in the way that Andrew Bert words his first sentence.We do not see conflict yet, but it gives the the presence of the main character.   

His chest tightened and he hung his head in grief. His program to calculate the deep digits of pi had suddenly crashed.  In a race against time to save his career, he'd just lost precious months' work

With the rest of the paragraph not only do we find the conflict, but the provoking conflict that will drive the entire story.

The Watchtower by Darke Conteur:
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that there were two motivation to move men; inspiration and fear, but for Martin Cunningham, starvation was a damn good means of motivation too.

Darke shows in this one sentence a powerful drive of voice, character, and conflict.  A good mix to keep the reader going.

I challenge you to pick up your favorite book.  Does it have a good opening line, one filled with character, voice, setting and conflict? If not, does the rest of the paragraph lend a hand in this.  Perhaps the rest of the chapter?  Sift through your library and check book after book. Sometimes it only takes one line to grab you till the end pages.

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