April 11, 2017

Once Upon a Time: The First Line

The first lines from one of my favorite movies:
Yo, ho, yo, ho, a pirate's life for me
Yo, ho, yo, ho, it's a pirate's life for me...

--Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio.
Pirates of the Caribbean 

It's spring. The time for new beginnings. A dawn of new ideas, new adventures, and even change. This season seems to make an appearance at the beginnings of most of my novels. It's not intentional; I suppose in my mind, spring is another way of saying, Once Upon a Time… 

Great beginnings start with the all-important first sentence, better known as "the hook." In the movies, it's the opening scene of Star Wars, with the rebels' ship being overtaken by the Star Destroyer, or the clever Indiana Jones dodging booby traps to steal a golden statue. And less we forget one of my favorite heroes, Jack Sparrow, first arrives at Port Royal with trumpets blasting a spectacular pirate theme just in time for his ride to sink at the edge of the pier.

The point is, once you see it, you're hooked. You're on the line.

Literature is full of great beginnings. Here's a few of the more memorable ones:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

"Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing." Don Quixote (1605; trans. Edith Grossman)

The opening line or paragraph of a story should let you know two things: either that you will read and finish the first chapter, or if it's done brilliantly (like the examples above), assure you that you will finish the book.

An author can only hope to craft such a gem; a reader always hopes to find one. That's why we crack open the covers. We need an "a-ha" moment, and we need it right away.

Consider Harry Potter's opening lines:

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense."

You saw the cover, you read the blurb, and the first line tells you that this is the beginning of a perfectly abnormal story that will indeed be strange, mysterious, and brimming with wonderful nonsense! It's not too different than the opening of a brand new year.

The best springs are the years we have much to look forward to. We study, exercise, garden, plot, plan, schedule, and think about all of the goals we will accomplish at work or the fun we will have on vacation when summer rolls around.

Spring is the first sentence of the year, so make it count!

This month, I'm wrapping up submissions on my next pirate Regency (two words you don't often see together, especially under clean fiction). Before I sign off, let me leave with you the opening line of my next release, which hopefully, you will find intriguing enough to want to learn more:

"Sophie Crestwood felt nothing could be worse than having a father who gossiped like a goose and a mother who read Gothic novels. Although it could be amusing at times, in truth, she was long past her first Season and the only Crestwood at Leatherbury weathering serious reservations about her ability to find a husband." A Pirate at Pembroke (Coming Soon)

Have a great week!

~Danielle Thorne

Looking for some clean reads full of adventure and romance? 
Check out my pirate Regencies, historicals, 
contemporary romances, and paranormal books 
 at Amazon.com!


Sherry Fundin said...

I love books that hook me with the first sentence, paragraph or page. I do some one sentence reviews to challenge myself and sometimes find it harder than writing a full review. Makes it fun.
sherry @ fundinmental

Danielle Thorne said...

Hi Sherry. I never thought of doing first line, one-sentence exercises to sharpen my mind. What a great idea! I am definitely going to write that down. What a good way to spend practice time. Thanks for sharing!