Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."- Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
"All this happened, more or less." Slaughterhouse-Five- Kurt Vonnegut
"It was a pleasure to burn." Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
"I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story." -Ethan Frome- Edith Wharton
"The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new." - Murphy- Samuel Beckett

Read more: Best First Lines of Novels —
The YA Highway Road Trip question this week is about beginnings, first lines of books. Our favorites and how we write our own.

This is a topic I've agonized about in my own books more than thought about in others, which is probably why I agonize since Read, Read, Read is the first and best rule of writing. So, I went to a few of my all-time favorite writers for some instant inspiration this morning (see above).

It seems, as I suspected, that I'm not hung up on wanting a certain beginning when I read. If it fits the narrative voice of the story then just shout it out like Vonnegut and Wharton did above with "This is a story" type beginnings. If the story is out of the ordinary then a shocking and/or puzzling line like Bradbury's works. If tone is important then show it, like Beckett's line.

Personally, I lean toward Jane Austen's approach with a broad statement related to the book as a whole and the first scene I'm heading into.

These are my first lines as they stand right now, but nothing changes more often in my books than the first few paragraphs and pages:

"I’ve often thought that it’s too bad our lives don’t have a musical score in the background so we would know when the scary parts are coming, the momentous and the sad." Frog Kisses and Near Misses

"I always put in the same wish. Over the years, I’d written it as a plea, a demand, an affirmation and even a foregone conclusion." One Hundred To-Dos

"In a teen movie, I’d be some sweet, misunderstood girl who’s only one Garnier and Maybelline makeover away from getting the guy." Social Disorder

"All my boyfriends have cheated on me. I’m not exaggerating. Every single one." Cheater Beaters

"The boy slid his tray over to sit across from the girl in a story as old as this world and, no doubt, many others." Earthbound (WIP)    


So, right now, I'm agonizing over my WIP opening. I think because it's the first time I've ever gone straight into the scene, but I should probably stop agonizing because it is still early days for this WIP. Things will, no doubt, change.

As far as overall advice for writers, I'd say:
1. Aim for something that fits the main character and tone of the book. No false advertising. Don't go for shocking or witty unless that fits for your book. 
2. Having trouble coming up with an idea? Think of the protag first. What is her/his main issue in the book. Start with a statement that hints at that.
3. Aim for something that, if it's not of or about the first scene can easily lead to it.
4. Don't start with dialogue. I know this is a rule that can and does get broken effectively, but I lean away from it because it feels like shouting into an empty, dark room. Your readers have nothing to ground the words with.

What about your beginnings? What do you like to read? To write? Any of mine you love or hate?


  1. Great post. I've gone back and forth with my first line so many times--I don't know that the current one will stick. Yours are golden!

  2. I love your line fore One Hundred ToDos and I'm kind of digging the WiP opener :)

  3. I especially like the Social Disorder opening!

  4. Great topic! I love dissecting first lines. I love Cheater Beaters. :)

  5. I personally love your WIP opening! I think it puts a little spin on a casual action.

  6. Fantastic first lines! I agree that I tend to love the Austenian style. Frog Kisses and Near Misses is lovely.

  7. I love the Social Disorder opening. And Cheater Beaters :D

  8. Those are great first lines! I love Frog Kisses and Near Misses.

  9. Great advice, Jennifer! Frog Kisses and Near Misses sound really cute. And I so wish that about the music in our life. It would help a lot. Cue me into what's going on.

  10. Great advice there at the end! I really like your opening lines--especially the one for One Hundred To-Dos. And your titles all make me swoon. "Frog Kisses and Near Misses"--too cute!

  11. Great post! I blogged about a similar thing a couple of days ago. And I've given you an award!