Tuesday, July 12, 2022

2T Repeat Performance -- Crafting the First Line

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published May 20, 2011 for Amber Keller

Crafting the First Line

First, thanks so much to Amber for having me here today!

How do you pick a book to read? If it's not a favorite author, many readers scan the shelves (or eshelves). A cover/title combo catches her eye. She picks it up and the blurb looks interesting. She flips to page one to give it a try. And she reads the first line.

If it doesn't hold her interest―she'll put the book back. That first line is vital to keeping reader interest high. To do that, try paying attention to three things. 

Impact. Hook. Voice.

Recently I won the DRB 1st Chapters Best First Line contest with the following line. Check it out for impact, hook and voice.

It’s a little-known fact that when vampires fly, they hog the window seats. (The Bite of Silence)

Impact is made quickly through what I call pepper words. These are words that bite a reader's imagination (like bite) or send it soaring (like princess). Swearing, sexual language, high concept words like murder are all examples of pepper words. They're great to use in an opening to grab the reader's attention, but one warning. Like pepper, these words can quickly dull the reader's pallet, so use sparingly.

Here are some other first lines. Note the pepper words.

Officially the murder was SCH-1, but I called it the Case of the Punctured Prick. (Bite My Fire)
When I first clapped eyes on Logan, I thought, Hot damn. Look what the Sex Fairy brung me! (Biting Me Softly)

Hook is done via a question the reader wants answered, or juxtaposing ideas or images in a way that sparks her interest. In Silence, the idea of vampires hogging sunny windows is deliciously contrary, as are the official and unofficial name for Fire's murder. In Softly the question is who is Logan and what does he look like, that “I” have such a strong reaction?

Voice is your own style. It's the way you put words together and make paragraphs and tell stories, the quality that stamps the writing as yours through and through.

That first line is vital, but the good news is, most readers will give an author a bit more than one line to hook them. You still need to pay attention to impact, hook and voice. Here's the rest of Biting Me Softly's first page. “I” is Liese, a St.-Pauli-Girl-Next-Door programmer.

It was eight p.m. Sunday night, and I was at work. I do computers for the Meiers Corners Blood Center. The staff is me, the executive director and a part-time nurse named Battle. I was the only one who worked insane hours, but I was new and still trying to prove myself.

I don’t know what made me look up. The cool March air, perhaps. Maybe the aroma wafting in, mystery and magic with overtones of raw sex.

Whatever it was, my eyes lifted and there he was, the most stunning male I’d ever seen. Smack-me-between-the-eyes gorgeous. Bright blond hair rippled to broad, muscular shoulders. Lean strength roped a long, lithe body. Laughter and intelligence sparked gold-flecked hazel eyes. Perfect lips curved in a smile so sensuous it made my innards go bang.

Then he opened his mouth and spoke. Talk about ruining perfection.

“Hello, gorgeous.” His tone was deep and lazy. “I want to speak to the computer man in charge.”

Right. Well that just spoiled everything, didn’t it?

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