For the longest time we’ve all heard that the first sentence of a book is what “hooks” readers and gets them to buy it. Yes, there are lots of wonderful examples of famous first lines that make you want to read more:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – George Orwell, 1984
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
But really, if you can’t get a reader to pick up the book in the first place, who cares how good the first line is? The most important thing to any book is a great cover. For example:
A clearing deep inside a forest, somewhere near Luton, England. The place looked perfect for a quiet camping night, or as a place for romance, but right now it was not. Who were those twelve strangers? A group of rowdies, six strong, on one side of the place and a group of regular teenagers, also six strong on the other. Tension was in the air. None of the people moved very much, they kept their distance. Words were exchanged, strong statements, but no real threats, no gestures. Then suddenly… A knife… Thrown by one of the rowdies, aimed at one of the teenagers. A straight hit, directly into the shoulder. A cry. The teenager drops to his knees. And the rowdie already has another knife ready.
The situation looked hopeless for the teenagers, they for sure would run away now. But hold on, three of them step forward, guarding the others. They will for sure not stand a chance.
The next knife comes flying, aimed at one of the defenders. He pulls up his arms, cries, but not in pain, the knife is not there yet…
Silence falls on the clearing. What was that? The knife had just stopped in mid air and dropped to the ground a second later. A mishap? An illusion? Or pure luck?
Another one of the rowdies charges towards the teenagers. She looks twice the size than any of them. But wait, something is wrong again. How did she end up on the ground? Tossed through the air, as if she was hit by a rocket. And now. The teenager pushing his friend out of harms way. Look at his speed. Thats not normal either.
What’s going on there? Who are those people? Is this trickery? Or is it magic?
- A colorful, eye-catching cover that will draw me close enough to read the title
- An intriguing title that will convince me the book deserves a longer look
- A brief synopsis that will entice me to read what’s between the covers
Without these, it doesn’t matter how good your first sentence is, let alone the rest of your novel. So what is the point of the first sentence? Loving the first sentence is basically an affirmation that you made right choice in purchasing the book and gives you permission to continue reading.