First sentences are hard. Agents and editors give all kinds of conflicting advice on panels and in workshops, on their websites or in books. One says a novel should never open with dialogue, another says she loves a book to jump into dialogue from the get-go. A writing manual tells us the first sentence should be the hook. An agent insists we should never open a book with the weather. In a conference workshop, a well-known editor advises writers that the opening sentence should never be in the form, "Blank did blank."
What's an author to do? Here's what these authors chose for their first lines:
"Several miles into his journey, Jack St. Bride decided to give up his former life."
.....Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls (2001)
"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."
.....Alice Sebold, The Almost Moon (2007)
"Call me Snake."
.....Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory, Death Roll (2007)
"Something caused men to stare at Nealie Bent, although just what it was that made them do so wasn't clear."
.....Sandra Dallas, The Bride's House (2011)
"Three days before her death, my mother told me--these weren't her last words, but they were pretty close--that my brother was still alive."
.....Harlan Coben, Gone for Good (2002)
"When this nameless piece a' shit tore off Linda Lobo's G-string instead of sticking money in it like he was supposed to, Texas Jack Carmine went crazy-over-the-edge and hit him with a pool cue."
.....Robert James Waller, Border Music (1993)
"I've never been what you might call an 'overachiever' but at age twenty-five I've already done the worst thing any human being can possible do."
.....Chris Grabenstein, Whack A Mole (2007)
Can a great first sentence convince you to buy a book (or check it out of the library)?