Miranda Kenneally

Mexican Food Cures Writer's Block

Intros are everything

Best opening ever? Imperial battlecruiser fills the screen as it crawls forward in space. Star Wars!

Most agents ask to see the first five to ten pages of a manuscript, but if you don’t grab them on page one, they probably won’t keep reading.

In my opinion, the first sentence is the most crucial line in ANY book. Over the past few years, as the publishing industry has gotten more and more competitive, I’ve noticed an upswing in killer first lines. I spend a lot of time crafting the perfect first line in each book I write, and then I test it out on people (even those I never ask to beta read), just to see if it elicits a reaction.

I remember when I was a kid, sometimes I wouldn’t get into a book for a few pages. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Either a book has me in the first few paragraphs, or it doesn’t, and now, more often than not, most writers get me in the first few lines, which shows how high publishing standards have become. Writers nowadays are expected to know how important that first sentence is… here are a few examples (try to guess the book!):

EXAMPLE 1: “I didn’t start out my junior year of high school planning to lose my virginity to Benjamin Easter – a senior – at his parents’ cabin in Island Park underneath a sloppily-patched, unseaworthy, upside-down canoe.”

EXAMPLE 2: “Imagine four years. Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken limbs, turf wars – everyday, a turf war – six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts. High school.”

EXAMPLE 3: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

EXAMPLE 4: “I’m a senior at Cesar Chavez High in San Francisco’s sunny Mission district, and that makes me one of the most surveilled people in the world.”

EXAMPLE 5: “The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.”

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Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Intros are everything”

  1. Sarah says:

    Yes. An opening line is everything. And sadly I can’t match any of those lines to books they go with.

  2. Sarah says:

    Oooh, let’s see!

    Example 2: “Cracked Up to Be”
    and Example 3: “Feed.”

    That’s all I got 🙂

  3. Miranda Kenneally says:

    Two points for Sarah Skilton. 🙂

    Okay – here are the rest:
    1) Lost It
    2) Cracked Up to Be
    3) Feed
    4) Little Brother
    5) Going Bovine

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