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How Important is the First Line of a Novel?

First lines hook your readers. Believe it or not, your first sentence is the most important to get absolutely perfect. It is your reader’s first exposure to you, your novel, your character, and it sets the tone for the entire book.

I pulled the trigger.

It’s a simple sentence, but does it make you want to know what or who they shot and why? It isn’t a bad start; the reader will probably read the next sentence where the tone will be revealed, maybe some background information

The blast from the gun made my frozen ears feel like they were going to explode, but I kept my eyes on him and made sure he didn’t get back up.

Now we have setting and a bit of tone. The MC meant to kill ‘him.’ whoever or whatever ‘him’ refers to, and the writer makes it sound like he was a threat to the MC.

She couldn’t believe she pulled the trigger, the sound it made, the splatter on her bedroom wall.

Not as simple, but now we have an idea of the mindset of the character. Could she not believe it because it was the first time she shot a gun or the first time she shot that particular gun? Or was it because of who/what she shot? We know she is in her bedroom, but why was what she shot in there?

Think about some of your favorite first lines in novels. Or those which are famous.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

“It was a dark and stormy night.” Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830).

“I was born twice...” Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002).

Those from the 1800s were so successful they are still well known. And Eugenides… well, doesn’t it make you want to read more? I mean, how can anyone be born twice?

Good luck on perfecting your first lines!

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