Thursday, March 25, 2010


First lines are important. They set a tone. They make a promise to the reader. Most of us already know the regular rigmarole about first lines. If you don't know the importance of them, there are much better and more informative posts out there than this one. Start Googling.

This is more personal.

As so much of our writing usually ends up being. At least in my case.

The first line to my sea monster story is:

I had to choose between the angel and the mermaid.

Love it? Hate it? It doesn't matter. Unless an editor or agent tells me it's gotta go, that's the first line. Many have said they loved it. We already know I love it, or I wouldn't have wrote it. But now I'm going to let you in on some inside scoop.

(My writing group might be mad when they read this because I didn't tell them first. Although, if they listened carefully during our dinner at that restaurant in NYC when I talked about my next story idea, they will understand.)

My first line has a deeper meaning. In the story, it is the first line of my MC, Yara.
In my life, it was the decision I was forced to make before I started writing Yara's story.

Months ago, I had two ideas in my head. An angel story, and a mermaid story. I had to choose.
I chose the mermaid. (That line is in the book too.)

A few times I wondered if I had made the right choice. The angel story still tugs at my mind a lot. I've jotted down a few scenes here and there, and yes, it will be the next MS I create, but I am so glad I chose the mermaid.

It was her time. It was my time to tell her story.
I loved Yara so much I had to bond us with the same first line.
It could be her thinking it, it could be me thinking it, because both of us had the same choice to make, just in different contexts. And both of us are happy with our choice.

I'll admit, I gave double meaning to this one on purpose, but sometimes the personal touches hidden in my stories are by accident.
What about you? If readers studied the lines of your writing carefully would they discover more of your personal story?


  1. Yes! Definitely. I love the story behind your opening line - it makes me want to read it all. :-)

  2. Lines such as that serve as winks to a knowing few. I think they're great! If books were like DVD's, that would end up in the Special Features section. :)

  3. I'm heartily on board for the loving it side. I think it's a great opening line for your book, and if it has even deeper meaning for you, that makes it more special :)

    I'm impressed that your opening line has stayed so nicely consistent.

    Mine has changed no fewer than 20 times. (although I haven't changed it since you last read it, so it might be there to stay. for now anyway)

  4. I love that Karen! Both the line and the meaning behind it.

    I don't have double meanings in the same way... But since I'm hoping Shattered is the start of a trilogy, I've certainly added things that will come into play later in the series...

  5. Yes, they totally would. Even places that are mentioned in my WiP sometimes have special meanings. For example, my MC Katrine mentions that she bought her copy of Interview With The Vampire from a bookshop in Marseille. Only my husband and I will get the real reference, but I like that.

    I also love your first line. I really like my new first line but I'm not yet ready to share it because it gives away the entire story in that one line.

    I'm so intrigued about your story. Here's hoping it sells so I can read it!!

  6. That thought must have given you such a bond with your MFC. I'm intrigued though, you have to love an angel.
    I don't think my story lurks in Jess and Caleb's. How busy would that be considering everyone else's story is already running around in there. ;)

  7. SUCH a good question. I find it hard to hide behind my main characters. Even when I try to make her totally different from me, pieces of my personality or history or spirit come through! There are probably parallels that I am not even conscious of...
    As far as your first line, it definitely makes a reader wonder what's going on and HOW she found herself in those circumstances! And the fact that you love it is really the most important thing of all. If it sings to you, if it means something to you, if it kicks off your story the way YOU want it kicked off, it's in. Nice post!

  8. They definately would. My MS is dripping with grief and bitterness....much like myself.

  9. That is very intriguing. I'm not sure if my first lines say anything about me. They might. My own angel/demon novel right now starts with the demon main character's beginning and someone calling him a "tease". lol Not sure I want that to say much about me but who knows, it could. I think Hero is closer. It starts with a discussion about being different and the desire to just be normal even when it's not possible.

    It is a great story about your first line. Something you could tell again during book readings and conferences if you ever go to any of these.

  10. Absolutely! There are so many hidden truths about myself in my writing that someone could easily disect me if they tried. I love the first line, by the way.

  11. In one of my novels, the first line and the last line are exactly the same. Completing the circle of the MC's self-discovery. So yes, I love a great first line and appreciate when it can be doubly great by functioning as the last line as well.

  12. People always ask me if my fiction is based on my life. My answer is no, but that is not the whole truth. The plot and actions are not mine, not at all, but the emotions are mine. All of them.

  13. I doubt there's a writer in the world who doesn't put some top secret info in between the lines. It's in our nature to want to talk about us, so I'm sure we all squeeze a little something in. I know I have.

    Just so you know, my current WIP has angels in it, so you can rest easy that they are being taken care of while you focus on your mermaids. :)

  14. I'm with Shannon. Love the story. And I am dying to read the rest!

  15. I love the first line! I love both angels and mermaids and it would be hard for me to choose between them. You have me hooked!

  16. I love it! I'm very intriuged, and if I'd been the one to pick up the book I'd want to read more.

  17. Awesome! Awesome! Love the first line - okay Karen I was already dying to read its like serious teasing! lol

    It was wonderful that you shared this with us. What a great background story.

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  18. People hate my opening line, according to a contest I just entered. I don't think the first line is as important as the first paragraph as a whole. I think it would suck if the first line was the best line in the whole book. What a let down. :)

  19. Oh, I love that line! And the story behind it is so touching. I really hope you get this one published. I would love to read it:)

  20. I like your first line. A lot, actually.

    My first line (Well, what was my first line, and soon will be again) has a bit of a personal story to it. It was a line that lived in my head a lot longer than this story did. I just never had a story to put it to. Now I do.

  21. Wonderful post! I love that line - you could really read a lot into it ;o) Absolutely, my story is woven in all my writing, not that I try, for some reason religion plays a role in all my stories, well except for the Mystery I wrote.

    My beliefs are different than my MC's portray in the stories, it's my venture into the unknown what it would be like. So that's what they may see in it. I dunno? Wow, ya got me thinkin' that's hard to do ;o) Thanks!

  22. Beautiful first line. I too want to read the whole thing just by reading those few words.
    My story isn't based on my life, and I'm definitely not my MC, but in my WIP there's a lot of personal info someone who knows me well enough will be able to recognize.

  23. I totally love the story behind your first line. I tried to encapsulate my novel in my first line- it could have become my query hook too, but I chose something else on a slightly different theme.

    If only she'd been born a boy.

    Since the book is about a female Pharaoh it fits- she had to struggle to become the ruler whereas if she'd been a boy the crown would have been handed to her.

    You need to get published so I can buy your book- your first line has me totally intrigued!

  24. That's so cool your first line parallels with your choice on which story to write. I'm glad you wrote the mermaid story. I've read angels are the fad, so I'll bet agents will appreciate something different.

  25. Everything you write has meaning, each piece shares a little piece of you, thats was so beautiful about writing!

    I think your first line is very creative regardless to whether it stays or not, I immediately want to know more, why did she choose the mermaid? Why not the angel? Why was she given a choice... at that point I'm already invested.

    My first line is important, it does set up the story but who knows if it will stay or go!

    I love your heart cloud photo!! Super cute!

  26. Wonderful first line. The first line of my WIP is: "But why can't we go too?" Madeline whined.

    That's me, child-like. Thanks for making me think! :O)

  27. I like that you and your story are connected by the first line. And I'm sure I seep through into most of my writing.

  28. I think we have to make it personal (to a degree) to make it really sing.

    I changed my first line in the 7th draft because it finally became obvious to me that the connection just wasn't there. My first line now REALLY means something.

  29. Just stumbled onto your blog.

    First lines are so very impotent, I agree. ;)
    Loved that post too. He was great.

    Alot of my work reflects my personal experience or what I would have liked my personal experience to be.

  30. There is definitely a lot of me in my book. The most obvious influence is the South American flavor. My husband's family is from Peru, which we've visited, and we honeymooned in Mexico and saw Chichen Itza which is a HUGE influence. I like your first line:)

  31. Great story! I think in my writing people would for sure learn more about me. I'm not certain they would know it but they would.

  32. Awesome post! How interesting that you've tied that line to yourself and your own choice. It's a fantastic line!

  33. Hm... the first line of my steampunk would reveal that I like to hide behind disguises :-P And so do both of my MCs. Haha.

  34. Where good writing is concerned, I don't think there is such a thing as an unimportant line. That said, yes I think first lines are quite important.

    Yours seems to be quite good without knowing what comes next.

  35. oh, yes. Sometimes I write something and then sit back and say , "Wow, that has multiple meanings I didn't even intend." It's those moments I feel all writerly :) And, I like this first line. Well done.

  36. The words that first allow us to enter our story in the right way ARE magic.

    Keep your first line. I love it. From that one line, I would keep reading.


  37. here's another soul that loves your first line and i love it even more knowing the meaning behind it. :)
    i discovered your blog a few weeks ago and it has been inspirational to me ever since.
    cheering you on!

  38. I love that first line and would definitely be intrigued to find out more! Great blog too, by the way. x

  39. It's an extraordinary first line, Karen. Knowing the story behind it makes it even more so.

    Thank you for making me think about my own first line.

  40. It's so cool that you've let us in on this little secret - can't wait to read the book now!

  41. Thanks for sharing your story. I made my own blog on first lines last week as well, but it was a decidedly different approach. =)

  42. Just discovered your blog - you have great topics - more so than a lot of writing blogs I've visited.

    I applaud you for posting your first sentence (and it's great, by the way. I would definitely read more). In fact, can i read more? Not long ago I posted one of my book loglines on my blog - actually a couple versions of it - and then got all self-conscious and deleted it.

    If it was as good as your first sentence, I'd have kept it up!


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