The Best First Line by Deborah Lytton

I imagine if I asked twenty writers for their favorite first lines, we would all come up with different answers. And yet, all of our favorites would be equally powerful and inspirational. The first sentence in a novel tells the reader so much in a few words. From point of view to setting to the author's voice, the first line is like shaking hands with a reader. It is the first step toward making a new friend. When I read a book with a truly incredible first line, I know I will appreciate the rest of the book because the author has taken time to craft that perfect opening sentence. One of my all-time favorites is the opening sentence of ALICE IN WONDERLAND because we learn so much about Alice right away--we learn that she has a very strong point of view and that she is looking for an adventure. We also discover that we like her. When I am beginning a new manuscript, I work on the opening line for days. I rewrite it over and over again until it has the right balance of information and perspective, style, and emotion. I want the first sentence to define the rest of the manuscript. Think about some of your favorite books. Go back and look at the opening lines of those books. Was the sentence complex or simple? Was it emotional or informational? Did it connect you to the story instantly? Ask yourself if the strength of the opening line influenced your appreciation for the book itself. Try some new opening lines for your own manuscripts. What happens when you change things around in that first sentence? I hope you write your own favorite first line in 2019. Happy writing! 


  1. This is so true. I usually find the right first line on draft 3,000. ;)


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