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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Does Your First Line Lead Down The Right Path?

Have you just written the first line of a story or article? Were you lucky enough to pluck the words right out of the air, or did it take more time, but now you're on the right path? Does your first line intrigue, inspire, hypnotise or shock? 

Sometimes the first line is all you have written, but you know those right words are the seeds from which your story will flourish.

Perhaps you find the first line of a story the hardest to write; you can't come up with those amazing opening words just yet, so you leave it for now.

Writers know how much depends on the impact of the first line, but if those opening words are not coming easily to them, there is only one thing to do. Work at it. Work at it in any way you can. Keep writing, or speak the line aloud and twist and turn the words until the right sounds come out. Try the line out on other people. Take a break if you have to, sleep on it, but never, ever give up. Your first line may get altered a hundred times until it’s right, but you will get there in the end.

And when you find a brilliant first line, you know it, because it pulls you in, makes your eyes water or spine tingle. You may even forget to breathe while everything else pales into 'insignificant.'

When I read a wonderful first line of a novel, I fall so hard, I want everything and everyone to disappear, so it’s just me and the book.

Some of my favourite first lines include the shockingly visual:
‘His children are falling from the sky.’ 

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies 

The apathetic, gruesome, but darkly humorous:

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.” 
Iain Banks, The Crow Road

And the thought-provoking:  

“It was like so, but wasn't.” 
Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2

A few first lines I’ve written for my own short stories are:


  1. 'I remember the day I realised I was an experiment'
  2. 'To kill your spirit, you must make sure there is no hope left; that takes time, but not as long as you think.'
  3. 'The one that gets away rarely recovers as well as the one that’s left behind.'

So, what are your favourite first lines and why?

For other great Opening Sentences, see : Science Fiction First Lines 


Nisha P Postlethwaite is the author of The First Sense eBook available from several online retailers. To find out more visit

And the first line of The First Sense is :
'I never knew the man that left me in my mother, and I hoped he hadn’t passed down any part of himself to me.' 

An author interview can be found on the One Thousand Worlds Blog by the fantastic Richard Earl . On twitter:   @1000Worlds

Also featured on paper.li 

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