—(Originally Appeared in Publishers Weekly)—
BookWorks founder and veteran editor, Betty Kelly Sargent, answers a reader's question about the importance of the first line of your novel...
Do you think it’s essential to start a novel with a dynamite first sentence?
Absolutely! Your first line must entice, impress, surprise, and maybe even shock the reader. With all the competition for a reader's attention these days, it's important to try to hook your reader instantly, so spending the time it takes to craft a powerful opening sentence is well worth the effort.
"It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this," as Stephen King said in a 2013 interview.
Think of the first line as an invitation to read your story—an invitation that's hard to refuse.
Memorable First Line Examples
"When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist"
—Circe by Madeline Miller
"My father was killed on a spring night four years ago, while I sat in a corner booth of a new bistro in Oakland"
—The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
"In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk"
—The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
Who knows, maybe you'll even get lucky and come up with something as memorable as "Call me Ishmael" or "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
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