The Importance of First Lines

The somber group of men sat in a large room that rested far belowground, accessed by only a single, high-speed elevator.

David Baldacci

In case you missed it, I really like first lines. There is such a graveness and beauty about their importance. Some readers judge a book by those first lines instead of by its cover. Imagine, a stranger picks up your novel in a bookstore, reads the first few lines, and crinkles their nose as they place it back in the shelf…what a nightmare!

Baldacci, David. Saving Faith. New York: Warner, 1999. Print.

Stephen King

Partly because I haven’t started reading this book yet, and partly because I love beginnings of novels, here are some words from the beginning of Stephen King’s novel The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I. I have yet to read anything by King and I’ve been intrigued by him for a while now, so I thought it was about time to delve into his work.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

~Stephen King

Are you interested in this story? I am. Who are the man in black and the gunslinger? Why is the gunslinger chasing him? And why are they in the desert? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go read now.

King, Stephen. The Gunslinger. New York, NY: New American Library, 1988. Print.

Pirates

Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesay, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17…and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.

~Robert Louis Stevenson from “Treasure Island”

As I mentioned in today’s other post, I’m going to try to start reading Treasure Island. Partly because I have a thing for first lines and partly because I haven’t had the chance to start reading this work, I’ve given you the first sentence of the novel.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. Oxford: Macmillan, 2005. Print.

New Wednesdays

Every Wednesday for a long while, has been Weird Word Wednesday. I’ve been debating on whether or not I should keep this one.

While I enjoy the idea of discovering and sharing new words, I never find really good ones (in my opinion). If you want a good daily source of interesting words, Dictionary.com is a great source.

So, the alternative that I’m currently juggling in my head is having weekly quotes that are either from what I’m reading at the time or that are about writing.

I address these lines–written in India–to my relatives in England.

This is the first line from the book I’m currently reading, William Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. I’m not yet very far in the novel (I’m on page 36), and I don’t have a favorite quote yet. And, besides, I feel like the first line or lines of any work are very important to said work.

Sometimes, the first lines are what determines whether or not a work gets read. There are some readers that will wait until the first chapter, page, or paragraph before judging a book, but there are also still plenty of people out there that will judge a book by the cover or first line.

The first line(s) serve to draw the reader in. They set the mood of the poem, story, or novel and can cast a spell on your reader that beckons them into your world of words that you’ve crafted for them.

So, when you write your first line(s), keep in mind that they’re powerful. And that all of your words are powerful.

Collins, William Wilkie. The Moonstone. Airmont Publishing Company, Inc., 1965. Print.