First Sentences

Every writer knows, or at least should know, that the opening sentence of your novel should be a decent hook. Ideally it has action or at least makes the reader want to know more about the story. Most readers crack open the first chapter and read the first paragraph to see if they might like the story. This is also the first thing an agent reads and and editor and they both are grading it just like the reader.

Here are some first lines from my first four novels.

Starstrikers: “The concussion of a nearby explosion rattled Centar’s bones and kept his head down.”

Null_Pointer: “His mom’s piercing scream echoed in his ears as her arms stiffened against the padded dashboard.”

Tyrmia: “The starfighter scout eased into low orbit of a green and white terrestrial planet.”

Starforgers: “The barrel of the blaster was still warm as she wedged it into the pirate’s gaping mouth.”

So far the only weak one is Tyrmia, due out this fall. It doesn’t have action and it’s borderline boring. But I can justify it because it lulls the reader into thinking nothing is going to happen. But something does happen and rather quickly, propelling the hero into action.

Starstrikers opens with a scene that showcases the heroic special forces team, doing what they do best and ends with the death of one of their team mates. Null_Pointer opens with the hero reliving the tragic deaths of his parents, a key subplot of the book. Starforgers opens with the hero taking care of Ranger business with a warm blaster and losing someone close to her.

In Starforgers, my current WIP, I’m taking extra care in getting the chapters to flow and carry the action along in a way that is hard for the reader to put down. Just one more chapter, I have to see how this ends. Each chapter begins with a problem, no matter how small and each chapter ends with an unsolved problem or a question that needs to be answered. Today’s reader has so many distractions, you have to keep them glued to the page, or risk losing them to Twitter or a movie or the needs of their children.

This is also why my chapters only last about 10 or 12 pages. I want the reader to feel like they can get through several chapters in a sitting and make some progress in the story. My prose is often sparse and I don’t mention things that are not immediately important to the scene. Readers also report that they tear through my novels fairly quickly. Which is what I want. Even Beta Readers of Tyrmia admitted to being hooked on the action and that is my longest work to date at over 100 thousand words.

What are some of your favorite first sentences from novels?

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3 thoughts on “First Sentences”

  1. I understand the need for the first sentence to lock in the reader, and the logic behind the way you write your chapters. I wonder if that’s why when I look at a new book to see if I will enjoy it or not I crack it open somewhere around the middle instead. I’ve read several books that start out great, have a great hook, but then after the first two or three chapters go downhill. So for me, if the middle can grab and hold my attention, I know I’m likely to read the whole book.

    Favorite first line? You know, I really don’t have one. Favorite line, favorite author, favorite book…yea. Favorite first line? Nope, can’t think of one, really.

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