The Hook of a Book: It’s a Mystery

Do you recognize these famous first lines from novels?

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“It was a pleasure to burn.”P and P

“All children, except one, grow up.”

“Call me Ishmael.”

If you guessed Pride and Prejudice, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, and Moby-Dick, then you are the fish that these authors hooked.  The hardest part of starting a book is the first line.

In fact, Mystery Scene magazine devotes a page in each… Continue reading

I Challenge You: Do You Know These Books?

Stack-Of-Books-BigThis week I thought I might take a slightly different angle to the question of what my favorite first lines are from books I’ve read and loved. Instead, let’s see how many first lines you can remember from some of my favorite books. Two hints: I taught American literature in high school classes and have always loved the classics. Here are fifteen first lines. How many do you know? I’ll put the answers at the end, but no peeking.

1. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on… Continue reading

First Among Firsts

Writers are always being asked — or told  — about first lines.  Get a good hook. Make those critical beginning words count.

Like most people, I’ve reacted to hundreds and hundreds of first words with sheer boredom, barely passing glances, humour, distaste, revelation, revulsion, hatred, pleasure, wonder and sadness. Sometimes even buoyancy and hope, those being, in my experience, the rarest.  I know that something about the many volumes I’ve read had to draw me in beyond a grabby cover, an interesting sounding author, a compelling plot description on the dust jacket.  Something had to make me want to… Continue reading