First Words


The hardest words to write are often the first words. Where do you start your story? What is the first image that you want your readers to have of your main character?


Today, those first few words capture must capture a reader's attention and give them a sliver of a promise that an adventure awaits in the pages that follow. If they don't, the person who is reading will set the book down and pick up something more exciting...a video game, Facebook, their cell phone...where they can access adventure more quickly. 


No pressure right? Take a look at these famous first lines:


"First the colors. Then the humans.

That's usually how I see things.

Or at least, how I try."

- The Book Thief


"It was a bright and cold day in April,

and the clocks were striking thirteen."

- 1984


"How does one describe Artemis Fowl?

Various psychiatrists have tried and failed."

- Artemis Fowl


"There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel

in the hallway upstairs."

- Divergent


"I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash

settles on the worn leather."

- Mockingjay


"I've been locked up for 264 days."

- Shatter Me


Whether you've read the books mentioned or not, think about what these first lines reveal about what is to come. How important is that first image to the book as a whole? If you haven't read the book, does the first line entice you to read more?


Crafting that first line doesn't come easy. Many times, authors go back and re-write the beginning after the novel has been completely written. Only then do they really know the story as a whole. Many authors even spend more time writing and re-writing those first few lines (and paragraphs) than they spend on the rest of the novel. 


It's hard. It's tough. But know that if you are struggling with your first line, you are not alone. Continue writing your story or novel. Along the way the best image for that first line will come to you. 


WRITING PROMPT: Take a look at how you began the story you are currently writing. Cut out the first sentence or two and put it on a page by itself. Put yourself in the place of the reader. Does it make you want to read more? Does it give you a hint of the adventure to come? If not, play around with other words and ways that you can approach that opening. Come up with several options and ask friends you know which is the most engaging. 




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CAROLYN BENNET FRAISER is a published writer and creative writing instructor in Brevard, North Carolina, where she enjoys helping youth find their passion for writing. 

Carolyn is available to speak to children and youth about creative writing at your school or special event. 

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@ 2019 CAROLYN BENNETT FRAISER. All Rights Reserved.