How many fiction writers do we have here?

There’s an interesting post on another writing site I visit where people post the first lines (or first several lines) of their latest work for reader response. I thought it was a good idea, as first lines are 1) relatively short and easy to read and 2) extremely important in terms of garnering that elusive prize, reader interest. I am still wrestling with mine, but would be willing to put it up here if others were also interested in posting theirs. You go first. No you go first.


Here’s mine:

Ana was the descendant of the first men to sail with the Grand Admiral of the Ocean Sea himself, don Cristóbal Colón.


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Ooh, I do like that, Esmeralda. Give us the next sentence. :slight_smile:

Immediately, I want to know if Ana is Spanish, or Italian, or Caribbean.

… and here’s the (current) first line of my in-progress novel:

When he joked about death, as sane old men frequently do, Gene Murray liked to say he would probably be killed by a stray bullet at a Communion Breakfast.



I love it. :smiley: I’ll try to get mine in good enough shape to post in the next few days. Have to get through the first rough revision of the final 100 pages, and I’m set to start finessing. So to speak. :blush:

Yes, Mollymums, Ana is a Spaniard. The book is Conquistadora. It takes place in Puerto Rico in 1840-70. This is the second line: Three men on her father’s side were among the first conquistadores, Basque sailors with intimate knowledge of the sea and fearless curiosity about what lay beyond the sunset.

Love your (current) first line, PJS. Funny and sad, and already tells us a lot, and the voice is intriguing.

This is such fun. I hope other fictioneers will weigh in with their first (current) sentences.


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I’m immediately interested, since long ago I wrote an essay on the Diario.
It’s a fascinating mix of history and fiction, copied/written by a priest, many years after CC.

I do like the lilt of your sentence, but I’m puzzled by its logic.
“descendant of the first men?” She can only have one biological father.
and she’s probably A descendant, rather than THE only one.
by “first men,” are you referring to the first voyage? There were four.

A clearer rendition might be:
"Ana descended from a man who sailed on the first voyage with…
Or are you saying that several of her ancestors sailed with CC?
Improbable, and that raises the question of how far fiction may contort history.
Sorry to rain editorial nit-picks on your fine prose.

Thank you, Druid, for the analysis. Of course, a descendant of one of the men. I appreciate your pointing that out. And yes, she’s descended from conquistadores through both mother‘s and father‘s lines. One sailed with CC, on her father’s side. There was another conquistador, not on any of the Gran Almirante’s voyages, on her mother’s side.


Wow. These are REAL people, Esmeralda! :smiley:
I am away for the weekend of the Fourth here, so will get my first line in somewhat readable form and put it up early next week when I return.

Cheers. Happy weekend, everyone.

First line:

When you’re traveling at 75% of the speed of light, you have to make decisions quickly.


The first line of my latest book is:

Facts are not truth. Listen carefully, this is important.

Okay, that’s two sentences, but they do fit on the first line.

The first line of my next book (current WIP) is:

The Deceiver had not yet arrived, but the multitudes preceded him and Jackson Square was packed.

At least, that’s what it is right now. The only people who’ve seen it are my wife and parents and my friend (and fellow crime writer) Marcus Sakey. And now you guys. I’m about 60 pages in, and I have no idea if that will still be the first line after I’ve finished and gotten feedback from agent and editor.

What do y’all think? Is it a keeper? Or is it lame?

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Love that.

But you age more slowly, so you get more time to think about it afterwards!

Interesting, but not my preferred genre.

Are you sure you want to be using the weak “was” there? Also, it should be “Don Cristóbal Colón”, since it’s being used as part of his name. I’m also assuming that you intended to call her decended from more than one of the first men who sailed with the don.

Hm. I’m intrigued. Not sure what to make of the “sane” addition to “old men” (in a good way). I’d keep reading.

Don’t have enough sense of the style yet to know if I’d like it, but it already sounds like I’ll like the genre.

Um, you should’ve stuck to the first sentence. Second sentence makes me shrug and put it down. (If you’re saying something ‘profound’ like the “Facts are not truth”—notice the lack of any contraction—I’m assuming that means you think it important.

Nice compound-compound sentence, but not everyone can follow those. (I’ve noticed that ADD folks tend not to.) It’s an interesting thought, but I’m not sure about the style. (That may partially be due to the mode that the previous example put me into, because now I’m thinking of that second sentence that proved that I didn’t like the style.)

My turn: opening line of a project in revision and of a project in drafting

Novel in revision:
(from the prologue, in an excerpt written by the late Princess Endellion)
[A] slight noise could be so loud.

Serial novelette in drafting/plotting:
I wish I could say that it had woken me as soon as it started, but that’s a comforting nothing that my unconventional childhood stole from me.

I don’t know what the intended rules were for this thread, but I am not sure that this sub-editing and nit-picking is quite in the spirit of the original intention.

Opening lines can be fun and clever, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as make-or-break as implied by:

The first page perhaps, if browsing in a bookshop, but certainly not the first two sentences.

If I may:

And reader response when you stick writing in a pack of writers = nitpicks. :smiley:

I can tell from that second sentence that the narrator is going to bother me.

I’ve been a proofreader and copyeditor as a day job, matt (and SeanC). Noticing early on if I’m going to like a writing piece or not comes with the territory. I’ll sometimes dislike something I initially expected to like, but I’ve tried making myself read past those niggling "neh"s, and I’ve never ended up enjoying something I was hesitant about.

Am I characteristic of all readers? Nope. Just some. :mrgreen:

What would you have preferred me do, say nothing about the line either way, even though I’d talked about everyone else’s? Ooo, that would’ve been polite. I’m sure SeanC would’ve been wondering why I skipped him–did I just not see them, were they that bad, etc. See, I know how the writer’s habit of puzzling out scenarios goes when left unchecked. :smiley:

No worries on this end, Carradee! You are fully within your rights to dislike my opening line. :slight_smile:

Like Matt, I usually judge based on the first page (or at least a couple 'graphs). If anybody wants to see the rest of that first page, it can be found here:

I post the link only in the interest of discussing openings. I am not trying to pimp my books on this forum; I’m just here to chat about writing. If posting such a link is seen as spam, please contact me and I will delete the post!

As for the opening line of my WIP, I’m not concerned about readers who can’t follow compound sentences. They wouldn’t like my stuff anyway. But I’m not entirely sold on the line itself. I like it, but I suspect it could be better.

Fair enough, I withdraw my previous comment :mrgreen:

But you are still very fast to put a book down. I have read lots of great books with bad openings.

I’m with SeanC on compounds or otherwise difficult opening sentences. Some of my favourite tales start with dry and dusty contortions. The Turn of the Screw, anyone? Stories cannot appeal universally, nor can styles. Fortunately we have millions to choose from.

Just sayin’. :slight_smile:

[size=80]Not meaning to imply your opening is dry, Sean. Far from it.[/size]

Here’s one I’ve always liked:

“The thing that side-tracked me and made me so late coming to college was a somewhat unusual accident, or string of accidents. It began with a poker game, when I was a call boy in Pardee, New Mexico.”

Tom Outland’s Story, by Willa Cather. Originally a short story, later the middle chapter of her novel, The Professor’s House.