It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m gonna move on like I never left (with one quick parentheses to say I’m going to try and post more).
Tonight I am working on the first sentence of my book. Yikes. Exclamation mark. Holy crap. The task is difficult and makes me feel a whole lot of feelings. One of them is total excitement. “You go, Tessa,” I say to myself. “Thank you,” I reply. “I do go.”
Schizophrenia aside, I’m happy to have reached this place in my writing. When I first started working on this book, I planned to write it from the beginning to the end with very little jumping around. That is not how it worked out. Some days I felt up for the challenge of plot driving dialogue, other days it was descriptive scenery. Some days I felt so unmotivated, I had to allow myself to write the really exciting, juicy, awesome parts. For example, when my main character (whose name is Javin) meets my very favorite character (Layla). That scene was so much fun to write I almost felt guilty, like I should have saved it for the very end and really earned it.
Anyways, I am at a point where I have various scenes written from all over the timeline. Now I need to put them together seamlessly. And this requires knowing exactly what happened in the past. So it is time to start at the beginning. The very beginning.
I’ve always consider the first sentence to be super important. Sure, I’ll keep going if the first sentence is just okay or even bad. But if it is great, I read with extra hunger. Growing up, my mom and I would spend afternoons reading first sentences to each other from our favorite books.
Now the first sentence for this book can’t just be interesting or poetic. It has to be functional. It has to really throw you into the scene. My book takes place in another world (it’s technically fantasy because it doesn’t take place on Earth (writing that sentence made me laugh for some reason) but I would consider the content to be more light science fiction) and so I need the first paragraph to be simultaneously modern, effective in showing this is a different world, original and (I think) action based.
Hopefully I’ll have a first paragraph to share shortly….. If not I will be in a ball under my desk.
In other super related news, here are some first sentences from some of my fav books that do an awesome job of throwing you head first into new worlds. And yes, that gigantic stack of books is currently threatening to fall on me as I type. I live for danger!!!!
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984, George Orwell
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
“The predicted cataclysm, the Wasting, has come and- it seems- gone: pollution, exhaustion and inevitable wars among swollen, impoverished population have devastated the world, leaving it to the wild weeds. Who has survived?” The Slave and The Free/The Holdfast Chronicles: Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas ——— While this book has too many titles, it does such a great job of setting the tone. While this very direct, almost journalistic style of writing isn’t for every book, its works so well for this novel.
“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.” Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins ———- This isn’t one of my all time fav lines, but I really respect what Collins does here. The entire book is so plot focused, the writing really falls away (which is an amazing feat). This is actually a first paragraph, but it sets up the rest of the book so quickly that I had to include it. Aren’t you just dying to know what the reaping is?
“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.” The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien ——– Special magnificence. Awesome.
“The King of the Enchanted Forest was twenty years old and lived in a rambling, scrambling, mixed-up castle somewhere near the center of his domain.” Searching for Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede ——– What a whimsical tone to set for the book. It works because the rest of the book is light and filled with humor. The next first sentence is by the same author (same series) and strikes that same “winking at itself” tone.
“Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable. The climate was unremarkable.” Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede —– normally I don’t like geographical first sentences, but these are great.
“‘We should start back,’ Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. ‘The wildings are dead.’” Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin ——- I used to dislike books that started with dialogue, I thought they were too action driven, but they are really, really growing on me. In fact my current favorite first sentence for my book is dialogue…..
“Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.” The Golden compass, Philip Pullman —- Ugh, sooo good! One of my all time favorites for throwing you into a new world.
These are some other first sentences from favorite books:
“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling —— It’s amazing how J.K. Rowling allows/helps her audience to grow with the books. The writing style of the first book is so much lighter, more whimsical than the later books. Compare this to Deathly Hollows:
“The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.” Deathly Hollows, J.K. Rowling. —– It is so stark in comparison to her first book. It matches the serious nature of the content.
“It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.” The Giver, Lois Lowry —– Not just frightened, but beginning to be frightened. Such a deliberate but delicate touch.
“Not long ago in a large university town in California, on a street called Orchard Avenue, a strange old man ran a dusty shabby store.” The Egypt Game, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
“Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic.” A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers —– This is my all time favorite first sentence!!! I just love it. It really resonates with me and my writing style. I remember reading this book after going through a pretty hardcore memoir phase. I had written all these short stories about my life and I read this book and simultaneously loved it and was so jealous. Unique beauty crazy.
“Farther from shore, nearer to death. With every pull of her paddle, Kate recalled the much repeated warning about these waters.” The Merlin Effect, T.A. Barron
“‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.’” Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card —-These dialogue ones are great when they work. You are not even thrown into the world, you’re just there. My opinion on them has totally changed.
“Claudia knew she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.” The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler, E.L. Koingsburg — I love this book, but I wish the title was shorter. I can never remember Mrs. Basil’s last name!
“The rabbit had been run over minutes before.” Sabriel, Garth Nix —– short, sweet and really introduces the theme of death (which is a biggie in the book).
Here are some unremarkable lines from some remarkable books. Let me emphasize that I love these books, really love them. I wouldn’t change a thing! But the first lines don’t make me swoon.
“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis,
“A lone red deer was grazing across the glen, swaying through the deep tangle of heather that covered the hillside.” Fire Bringer, David Clement-Davies
“Each year, at the end of March, a great fair was held in Cria, the capital of Galla.” Wild Magic, Tamora Pierce