As they say, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Clothing, facial expression, situation, words, and tone all combine to create an image in the minds of the people we meet. That initial image influences their opinions and responses … and is resistant to change.

The same is true about opening lines in books. Authors only have a few words to pique the interest of a reader and hook them into reading on. A few words to set the tone and reveal the character or situation in a way that encourages readers to invest their time in the rest of the page … and then the rest of the story.

Should I start with “It was a dark and stormy night” or some other form of description? Or should I start with action or dialogue or a shocking statement that will only make sense later?

My first attempt at a novel opened with:

Morgues were not known for holiday decorations.  Not that Amanda Yates was paying attention anyway.

The second novel, an ACFW Genesis Runner-Up in 2009:

“Will you marry me?”

“Not today.” Greta Wilson deposited a plate of steaming meatloaf and mashed potatoes on the counter in front of Clay Hogan. Why did the man always propose on Tuesday?

The third, an ACFW Genesis Semi-finalist in 2011:

(Prologue)

Danielle Barker pushed her tongue against her loose tooth. If it came out today, she could put it under her pillow and then the … 

Dani turned to Miss Amy, the nice lady driving the car. “Does the Tooth Fairy know I have a new house?”

(Chapter 1 – years later)

Danielle Lefontaine wiped sweaty palms on her short skirt. Auditions always put her off balance.

“Next up. Number seventeen.”

Dani rolled her shoulders once, gave each leg a shake, took a deep breath, and clicked her way up three steps to the polished hardwood.

And, my fourth novel, started last week:

“There’s been a mistake.” Cassie Parker sank onto a brown leather chair in the Head Coach’s office.

“And you are?” Coach Thomas folded his hands atop the piles of paper covering his enormous cherry wood desk.

(This last one will likely change many times as the story unfolds. Not to mention once my critique partners get their hands on it!)

Opening lines. The hardest to write, yet vitally important. At least I can keep revising them … unlike other first impressions.

What about you? How does your favorite book open? Did any of my opening lines make you want to read more?

First Impressions
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One thought on “First Impressions

  • September 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm
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    “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Famous opening lines from one of the most boring and then most glorious books of all time, A TALE OF TWO CITIES. After wading through the first hundred or so pages wondering how on earth this could be a classic, I saw mercy and grace at the end and it stole my heart.

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