A great first line

crocodile-copyIf you spend any time reading about writing or going to writing conferences you know that, from time to time, people like to throw out “great first lines,” which often have yet unnamed heroes discovering severed heads in their glove compartment. The problem with such lessons is that they do you no good if your book isn’t about severed heads. Anyway, I find such first sentences wheeze of desperation, they are like the bespectacled kid in seventh grade who tries too hard to be your friend (I was that kid). And I can rarely think of “great first lines,” because I don’t think that way. I give a book a chance and don’t really need to be won over in the first sentence; I am won over gradually by character and plot and so forth. But next time the conversation does trend toward first lines, I want to remember this one, from Arnold Lobel’s Fables.

A crocodile became increasingly fond of the wallpaper in his bedroom.

This sentence does more than hook me. It promises to take me somewhere I have never been.

Of course to have a first line like this you must have a story that deserves it.


7 thoughts on “A great first line

  1. Thank you for this post. You wrote what I feel. We love those “Would I read more?” workshops (well, some of us do, ahem) but that pressure to make The First Line the only one that matters can be a soul killer!

    Thanks again.
    PS I love the font used above. What is it? It sold me to read more. 😉

  2. Agreed. A killer first line is good but a great first line in a week story is way worse than a serviceable first line in a terrific story.
    Plus–love the Lobel!

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