Although I will gladly write about Shadyia Ascendant and how this breathtaking character came to be, I will also delve into the world of writing. Today, the topic is the first line of a novel.
Novel Writing Tips – The First Line
Ah, the first line of a novel. You have to hook your reader like a deep sea swordfish, reel them in and crack them over the head with your oar. If you can’t hook ‘em on the first line, your book is doomed. Your years of hard work, fortune spent on copy editors and dreams of movie rights, a chateau in Nice, France, and wearing sunglasses all the time as paparazzi blind you with their flash cameras dashed—crushed!—on the jagged rocks of mediocrity. Doomed!
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with this!
Here are the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, (aka “It Was a dark and Stormy Night” Contest) run by the English Department of San Jose State University, wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel. The goal of this contest is to write the best BAD opening sentence for a novel.
Winners in reverse:
- As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.
- Just beyond the Narrows , the river widens.
- With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.
- Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: “Andre creep… Andre creep…Andre creep.”
- Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.
- Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eking out a living at a local pet store.
- Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.
- Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
- Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn’t know the meaning of the word “fear”‘; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death — in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.
AND THE WINNER IS…
- The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog’s deception, screaming madly, “You lied!”
For the opening line of Beneath the Silver Rose I went with:
BELLS CLAMORED throughout the Silver Rose.
Nothing grabs attention like ringing bells. I point this out not to self-congratulate (well, a little), but as a spot of advice to new writers. To write a good opening hook, get the reader to subconsciously ask a question. Why were the bells ringing? It may not be as classic as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” but the ringing bells puts the reader into the action right away and gets them to ask a question.
Look at this awesome first line from Gunslinger, the first book Stephen King’s Dark Tower series:
The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
Excellent! Right away, you are in the action and you have questions. Why was the man in black fleeing? Why was the gun slinger following? Who wears black in the desert?
There is also a list of “Don’ts” when writing that vital first line, but I’ve taken enough of your time. Hope you enjoyed the funny list.
If you want to see how I translate this into my work, Download my free short story here!