How to Write an Absolutely Great First Sentence

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From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

I wrote this post on writing a great first sentence as a companion-piece to Anne’s recent post on writing a great first chapter.

With apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged, at least by writers and certainly by agents and editors, that no matter what genre, your first sentence must compel the reader to continue.

Because your first sentence is the first thing your potential reader sees in Look Inside, you must come up with something that’s one hundred per cent absolutely, positively come-hither irresistible.

Those few words must establish the voice, set the tone, induce curiosity and promise the answer to an urgent question.

In your first sentence you must present yourself and your book with confidence and authority.

If you’ve written a thriller, your first sentence must promise thrills.

If you’ve written a romance, your first sentence must promise romance.

Whatever genre you write, you must make your reader an offer s/he can’t refuse. You can choose from a menu of approaches when you compose that crucial first sentence.

Here are a few of the possibilities—

  • A tease
  • A jolt
  • Or a shock
  • Or a dare
  • Perhaps a provocation?
  • An invitation
  • A seduction
  • Maybe a declaration
  • Or a promise

Depending on your genre, consider—

  • Creating danger.
  • Laying out your character’s inner struggles.
  • Invoking deep emotion.
  • Introducing suspense.
  • Defining — or hinting at — the mystery.
  • Initiating the quest.
  • Starting the mission (whether it’s to find love, get the Bad Guy, or save civilization).
  • Establishing the mood: light and humorous, dark and dangerous, or daring and scary.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris