First lines matter—just ask the nervous guy trying to get the cute girl. I uncovered these two “pick-up” lines today: “You’re so sweet, you’re going to put Hershey’s out of business,” and “Do you know why the sky is so gray? All the blue is in your eyes.”
First impressions count. As writers we must pay attention to our first lines. Start with a hook. Use the first line and paragraph to entice the reader to keep reading.
Examples of great first lines:
- Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus, “What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you?”
- Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, “A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I begin to live.”
- Tracy Elliott, Unbroken, “For years, I thought my Mother had died in the bed next to me.”
- Women of Faith member, Marylyn Meberg (Devotion in We brake for Joy). “Prior to a month ago, if anyone had asked if I had an opinion about rain gutters, I would have stared blankly.”
See how their lines draw us in?
Let’s say you open a book and this is the first line: Steve sat on the stool in the corner of the doctor’s office.
Let’s tweak it: Helpless, Steve sat on the stool in the corner of the doctor’s office. His wife hovered over their young son.
Better, but let’s layer it a bit: Steve, forcing his back rigid, sat on the stool in the corner of the doctor’s office. His wife hovered over Daniel as their young son’s chest heaved and struggled for air. Steve swallowed hard as his eyes burnt with unshed tears. He had to be strong for his family.
It’s crucial to bring the reader into the story. Don’t just state facts, let them experience.
Let’s say the piece ends: Steve closed Daniel’s bedroom door and went to bed.
Yawn. If that was the end, I’d also go to bed.
Let’s try it again: The nightmare of the last two days still fresh in his mind, Steve leaned against the doorframe and watched as Daniel slept. Looking heavenward, Steve said a prayer of thanks. His young son may have fought for his life, but God graced Steve with new life.
Our prose should clutch our readers, make them hungry for more. Hook them on the story, reel them in, and finish with points to ponder.
Lisa Buffaloe is contributing author for The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter. Her articles have appeared in Angels on Earth magazine, as well as Guideposts, Rest Ministries, (in)courage.me, and others. She’s an active member of writing organizations and critique groups, leads Bible studies, and speaks to writer and women’s groups. Her manuscripts have placed as finalists in the 2011 Women of Faith and the 2010 ACFW Genesis writing contests, and won awards with other distinguished writing contests. Contact Lisa on Facebook and Twitter.