Pick-up Lines

March 22, 2009 at 7:36 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing, Writing Advice, YA | 5 Comments
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I think of first sentences as pick-up lines. If it’s  successful, you’ve got your reader/girl hooked. If it’s bad/boring, then…anticipate a slap on the face or your reader putting your book down.

The general gist is to summarize your narrator’s personality, his/her outlook on the situation to come, or his current situation.

Case study, I AM THE MESSENGER, Markus Zusack:

“The gunman is useless.”

And you are left wondering why the heck the narrator is talking about a gunman. Your first sentence doesn’t have to be wordy. Just enough to capture attention.

However. It must also follow up with a good first paragraph. Again, from I AM THE MESSENGER. Just look at this:

“The gunman is useless.

I know it.

He knows it.

The whole bank knows it.

(reader’s note: Ahh. It’s a holdup. Interesting.  Might read on just for the sake of the amazing voice.)

Even my best friend Marv knows it, and he’s even more useless than the gunman.”

This last sentence made me laugh. I totally wasn’t expecting it.
Zusak goes on to slam the reader with a great first page, first chapter, second chapter, book…goodness, I was awestruck by his talent.

Let’s review.

A good sentence must:

-be enough and only enough to get the reader hooked

-summarize your narrator’s personality, his/her outlook on the situation, or his current situation

-be followed by awesome second, third, and fourth sentences. And oh yeah, possibly followed by a great rest of the book.

-have VOICE!


– linda



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  1. I like the opening line of the first Uglies book.
    “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”
    Yes, I did memorize that. tip: Make your first line so awesome people memorize it. :D
    Still, I’d try not to go overboard, lol. A crazy line that is sort of just put there for sake of being crazy may end up feeling… “put there.”

  2. “I think of first sentences as pick-up lines.”

    Awesome first sentence, Tilt.

  3. That really is a great comparison – pick-up lines vs. opening lines. Nice! Will keep in mind . . .

  4. Isn’t that Uglies line a takeoff of the famous opening line of Neuromancer?

    “The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

  5. That’s so ture. If the first sentence is bad, you don’t want to read it. good blog! =)

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