Sunday, August 9, 2015

First Lines in my books

First lines

The first line of a book can make a big impact.  You know, like "A Tale of Two Cities":

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)


It was a dark and stormy night . . . —Snoopy (Actually, it was Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830))

So I decided to go through and make a list of the first lines of all my books.


Because before I can write the rest of the lines, I need a first line.  It seems a bit arbitrary, but someone decided that first would come . . . well . . . first.

No, really, why are you posting these lines?

Well, I thought about it . . .


Ahem . . . and I wanted to see how they measured up.  I want to know if they're any good.

Also, after looking them over, I'm hoping to gain some insight.

Insight as to what?

Ummm . . . Good question.  A lot of writers agonize over the first line.  It truly is important.  I spend a good deal of time on it, often a couple of hours total before publishing.  I'm never completely satisfied, but I go on and write the rest of the story.

I suppose I'm looking to gain insight as to how they relate to each other, insight as to how to make first lines better, and perhaps insight as to how to change these first lines to grab the readers' attention when they pick the books up (or read the samples online as the case may be).


Wow!  Push, aren't we!  Very well, here we go:

Ryallon Series

Dralin Trilogy
“Hello, pretty little miss." 

While in the gloomy ruins of an ancient city below Dralin, Ebudae and Pelya had discovered a temple dedicated to an unknown god. 

Sir Hamil Imbra, Knight Champion of the Goddess Reanna, floated high above the glasslike waters of Wraith Lake where the wisps of chaos drifting over its surface couldn’t reach.

Willden Trilogy
Tathan was a tall man of twenty-nine years with short, curly black hair framing a face tanned by travel.

Tathan made no sound as he walked toward the northern wall of the city, a place he liked to go to look at reflections of the moons in Trohiin Lake.  

“Vevin is Evil.”

Wyvern Trilogy
Pelya’s sapphire-blue eyes sparkled in the heavy afternoon sun.

Pelya sucked air into her lungs and ignored the sweat stinging her eyes.

Crazed Trilogy
Gurbin was hungry.

Stand Alone
Rain Glade
Rain opened her eyes as morning rays peeked through cracks in the eaves next to her straw bed.  

Stories for Demented Children

The Emo Bunny that Should
Emo the Bunny was sad.

Zachary Zombie and the Lost Boy
Tobias was determined to catch the emo bunny.

Drippy the Peg Legged Rainbow
Rainbows have existed throughout the universe since shortly after its inception.

Unholy Cow
“I hope they throw out some delicious leftovers,” Abel the raven cawed eagerly from a nearby branch.

Attack of the Sugar Plum Fairies
Light from tall streetlamps illuminated the snow that drifted lazily down to the cobblestones.

Elly zipped through a grouping of trees that provided shade for creatures of the savanna.

Naughty Nanoworms
Albert mumbled happily about the half-eaten Halibut Burger he had found in the dumpster at his 
favorite Fish Burgers fast food restaurant.

Zachary Zombie and the Wicked Worm
Zachary Zombie and his three zombie henchmen reached the secret entrance to the moss and ivy-covered tower they had spent days searching for.

Steampunk Roo
Governor Kevin Koala met Steampunk Roo at the edge of Steampunk City. 

Pow the Panda, The Case of the Rainbow Dragon
In the roaring year of 1925, business was good for a hard-working private eye in Chinatown.

Alien Coffee
Jillian tried to take a sip of her coffee, only to look at the barren mug in disgust before setting it back down with a sigh.

Short Stories
Blue Haired Alien Girlfriend
Lisa stared at the last of three orientation tapes with glassy eyes, her chin propped in hands with elbows on knees.

Test Pilot
“Who named this place ‘Moonbase City’?” 

Don't Ever Change
Lori walked through one of the smaller commons during lunch.

The Storage Room in the Grey Void
Hilda looked at her pretty dress.

What's your favorite?

I really like all the opening lines of the Dralin Trilogy.  The opening line of Liselle is great, simple but with a lot of meaning.  You can do a lot with just a few words.

"Vevin is Evil" is possibly the most powerful if you know what happened in the previous books of the trilogy.

But my favorite is:
Emo the Bunny was sad.

I think I like it, partially because of the character and the story.  It's very near and dear to my heart.  As far as the line goes, it's almost redundant.  It also sets the tone of the character and the story, which hold true to the first line.

What's your least favorite?

Zachary Zombie and the Wicked Worm
Zachary Zombie and his three zombie henchmen reached the secret entrance to the moss and ivy-covered tower they had spent days searching for.

I need to fix that.  It's not interesting at all.  Also, I use the word "for" at the end of the sentence.  It's a terrible word to use at the end.  Honestly, all of my later Stories for Demented Children have weak first lines.  I'll have to work on that.

So now that you're finished, did you gain any insights?

Well . . . yes.  There are a few I want to change right away.  I see what works and what doesn't.  That's 25 opening lines, which is a good sample size.  I think I can use this information to improve future works too.

I'd be interested to hear which ones are the readers favorites and least favorites too.  Please let me know in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

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