I get Cricket, a wonderful magazine targeted toward avid readers, artists, writers, and explorers of culture and literature. In it, they sometimes feature a page or two titled “Favorite First Sentences”. Readers can submit their favorite first sentences of books and some are chosen to be on the page. After reading some, I remembered a couple:
“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog.” –Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillio
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” –Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
“Favorite First Sentences” had, and still has, a great effect on my writing. After I read those sentences, one of the first thoughts that went through my mind was, and I kid you not, I want one of my books’ first sentences on that page someday. I really and truly do. That page has affected my writing so much, and I am extremely grateful for Cricket, for it inspiring me and other young authors to be the best we can.
Here is the first sentence of Nakoma:
“I’ve been called many names, such as devil, sorcerer, evil, witch, flame, and dirt, but never has someone called me pretty or charming.”
When I wrote it, I had that page in mind. I knew I wanted my first sentence to be a window into Nakoma’s life. Her feelings, her personality, all of her. And what better way to start then to say what people think of her?
How to Write a “Favorite First Sentence”:
1. Who is the main character? What is he/she like? What do people think of him/her? What is one of the main topics in your story? Make a list of these answers, and see if you can piece together some major themes, character traits, and views of the main character.
2. Everyone has written an essay or done a project for school, right? Have your teachers ever told you to start with a hook? If not, here is my definition of a hook for a project or essay: A piece of information, video, sentence, or any other interesting thing about your topic that you think people would be interested in, something that makes them want to read/hear more.
When you’re writing your first sentence, use a “hook” to capture your audience. For example, if you were writing something about a bad thing happening to a person on a rainy day, use an ominous omen for the first sentence.
“The black clouds in the sky predicted the day Jane would experience.”
3. Ask people about your sentences. Come up with 3-5 options and read them to people to see what they think. After all, you’re going to have an audience.
Here are some of my favorite first sentences of un-finished stories I’ve written.
“Jump, run, duck, pull, move to the left, jump, slide, stretch, run.” This starts with a girl playing on her Xbox. It jumps right into her life.
“I stood on the cobblestone path, observing passerby, waiting for my moment to strike.” A bit of an intro that’s vague and intriguing.
“My name is Bobby Blue Pinne and I’m wanted by the police for $1,000 because I stole some detective items.” Also intriguing and mysterious.
“The neighbors said the Peppertooth family was “eccentric” and “knew how to accessorize life with bright colors,” but that was just a polite way of saying they were a tad crazy.” A good intro to an interesting family.
I hope you found this post helpful on writing great first sentences. Think I missed any tips? Put it in the comments below.
I stood on the cobblestone path, observing passerby, waiting for my moment to strike