I’m not the first writer-blogger to obsess about this, but I’m revising my novel to send a partial to an agent. I’ve added a new scene to the front end, which is a flashback from the “now” of the rest of the book, and I’m trying to perfect the first line, as well as the first four chapters, in about a week.
Right now, the line is “Several weeks later, when she heard and saw the news for herself, Kate would remember the seps’ tired, frightened faces as they packed their gear to go — Kate never found out where, and neither did Justin.”
Bonus points for those who know what novel that first line is derivative of.
Aside from the problem, if it is a problem, of derivation, there is the question of whether it is an adequate hook.
The opening scene takes place three weeks before the book “begins,” in the same way the opening of Mystic River takes place years before that story begins.
An opening line could kick forward to the end of the book, revealing the ending, but then the end is always lurking in the background of the action, like the opening shot in Sunset Boulevard of the writer face down in the swimming pool. If the writer works from after the story, then that’s going to have an effect on the story. The end isn’t a surprise, and the reader spends the narrative wondering how the character reached that place. It can be an effective technique, but it’s not my technique for this book. I want time to keep pace with the action, for the narration to reveal what’s happening as the reader and characters discover it.
So I don’t want the opening line to refer to the end.
It could also simply be isolated to the scene at hand. Figuring out how to kick the interest forward is the question here.
It now refers to the inciting incident of the story, three weeks hence. That appeals to me.
But does it sparkle? Does it grab the reader by the shirt collar and drag him into the book?
I’m still working on it, but if my readers have any thoughts, I’d be glad to hear them.