You know it's going to be an interesting morning when the first person who walks through the door of your brand new downtown office is a 350-pound man named Precious.

People sometimes ask, "How do you write a whole book?"

My answer? One word at a time. It's the only way.

And so private investigator Nicholas Colt begins a new adventure. I don't outline, so I'm not exactly sure how it's going to go. See, that way it's an adventure for me as well.

Let's hear some of your favorite first lines from books published in 2008-2009. Or, from your own works in progress.

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Ha! You'd have gotten there on your own in another sentence.
Which illustrates that the human eye flies much too fast for clever first sentences to have much of an impact.
Especially if the second and third sentences are clever, too. I'm actually not a big fan of the first line hook, either--it feels too much like self-parody nowadays, see "Hitchhiker's Guide." I want the first few lines to establish setting and introduce a character or two, and do it in a way that captures my attention.
“You want me to frame myself for murder?”

First line of my recently completed and co-authored novel, "Frame-Up."
You've stated the book's premise in the very first line, Eric, which isn't easy to do. Bravo.
I'm instantly intrigued to read more. Great opening, Eric.
They decided to bury him next to the statue of the Virgin Mary.

That's from "Cleansing Eden," my as-of-yet unpublished novel (fingers crossed).

The best novel opening, however, is from "Moby Dick." Call me Ishmael. How rare it is nowadays that a novel actually introduces itself to the reader as a person would. Since you're a polite reader, you've got to stay a while and chat. If you're rude, you won't finish "Moby Dick." Who wants to be rude? It's a great marketing scheme.

I think your line might be more powerful as They decided to bury him next to the Virgin Mary.

Just a thought.
Thanks for the suggestion. I like the condensed version you proposed. It actually was the original first line. But then I get to wondering if people might think I'm referring to a literal manifestation of Mary, when I mean to say a statue (the opening scene is in a cemetery).

Do I bank on readers being overly literal? Or do I make the assumption they know what I mean?

Decisions, decisions...
You could incorporate a brief description of the statue as the scene unfolds, but I think we all know you're not really talking about the mother of Jesus.
At the risk of being a spoil sport, I tend to be suspicious of killer first lines. I worry that what follows may not live up to them.

Great first lines are clever, but they don't assure great stories, and the same goes for ho-hum first lines. I just got through reading THE WRONG CASE by James Crumley. He's known for a great first line from some other book, but in this one, he started with: There's no accounting for laws.

That's it. Tells you pretty much nothing, but the paragraph that follows is interesting and the rest of the book is fantastic.

That said, I'll give you the first line from MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust--one of my favorites of 2008: Coming back from the dead isn't as easy as they make it seem in the movies.

Now there's a book that lives up to the promise of its first line and then some.
I agree, Debbi. Some first lines just blatantly call attention to their own cleverness, which makes them not so clever after all.


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