Last Saturday, in my first writing session with the class I've joined, we were asked to write a first line and/or paragraph for our novel. Among our group are people at varying degrees of 'readiness' to launch into a full blown novel. Some know that they want to write, but haven't honed in on a specific story yet. Others, like me, have developed characters, perhaps a plot, context, style, and are partway through.
I first blogged about first lines last year.
The first line possibly carries the most weight of any sentence in a novel. I haven't had to suffer the terror of crafting my first line yet, for the simple reason that I'm still not sure where my story starts. I have any number of scenes that could possibly be the opener, depending on which character I choose to introduce my story. And judging by the amount of times I've moved my characters and scenes around so far, I'm unlikely to settle on anything concrete just yet. I figure the further I get into my story, the more my characters will reveal the flow.
Interesting then, to read in the Sydney Morning Herald's supplement, the (sydney) magazine, this week, a number of favourite first lines from some of our own publishing types.
There are two that stand out for me.
Shona Martyn, Publishing Director Australia and NZ, Harper Collins, chose the opener from the wonderful book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:
"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug."
Succinct, authentic, intriguing, resonant. It conjures up a thousand plot possibilities in the mere seconds it takes to read the sentence, hooking you right in.
And Julie Gibbs, Publishing Director Lantern, Viking, Penguin Group (Australia) chose a cracker. From Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy:
"'You too will marry a boy I choose,' said Mrs Rupa Mehra firmly to her younger daughter."
Horror, indignance, resilience, suspense. Like a life flashing before your eyes, you want to know what happens next.
I'm not ready to test out my first lines on a live audience yet, but it's fun (not to mention frustrating) playing around with possibilities.
Try it. It doesn't matter if you have an idea for a story or not. Go on - what would your first line be?