Monday, May 2, 2016

More First Lines. Suppose Were the Editor . . .

 By Susan J Berger

I spend a lot of time looking at other writer’s first lines. I study to make my own first lines better. There are thousands of writers submitting daily to a limited number of editors and agents. If I do not capture them in the first paragraph, I am slush.

Here are a few of my favorites from mid-grade and YA novels. Pretend you are an editor and you only had room for three of these books.  Which three would you pick?

1. 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.

2.  At the end of the Century before last, in the market square in the city of Bahese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand.

3. A poem by Eden Streit
Eyes Tell Stories
But do they know how

to craft fiction? Do
they know how to spin

4. There was a boy called Odd and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant the tip of a blade and it was a lucky name.

5. I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.

6. The best day of my life happen when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I am sixteen now so you can imagine that left me with quite a few days of major suckage.

7. Prince Charming is afraid of old Ladies. Didn’t know that, did you?
Don’t worry. There’s a lot you didn’t know about Prince Charming: Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes.

8. If you asked the kids and the teachers at Lincoln Elementary School to make three lists – all the really bad kids, all the really smart kids and all the really good kids-Nick Allen would not be on any of them. Nick Allen deserved a list all of his own and everybody knew it. 

9. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." 

10. If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it.

11.  I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.

Here's the list of where they came from.

1. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
2. The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo and Yoko Tanaka. 
3. Tricks, by Ellen Hopkins. 
4. Odd And The Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman.
5. Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
6. Going Bovine, by Libba Bray
7. The Heroes Guide To Saving Your Kingdom. By Christopher Healy
8. Frindle by Andrew Clements
9. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
10. The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
11. Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee.

For me, I would pick 6, 7, and 11, which says a lot about my reading tastes. I've read #1, plus #6 - #11 and loved all of them, so it was a hard choice for me. Which three did you pick? Happy reading and writing!


  1. So interesting where the lines came from. #7 definitely drew me in.

    1. Yeah, Ibought the book and his two sequels. That was a first time published author.

  2. 8, 11 and 2 in that order.

    1. Thanks. Its always interesting to see what other readers pick/

  3. My first line used to be, "Hey babe, how do you like it? Prose or poetry?"

    Oh you mean books. Heh, heh, heh...

    Last Lineup


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