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December 1, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: First Lines

Kate Hart
Question: How important is the first line of your book?

Answer: Um... I dunno. Kind of?
Here are the first lines of some books that are a) popular, b) my favorites, c) currently within arm's reach, or d) some combination thereof. I'll ruin the surprise-- the answer is: Pretty important unless you have a damn good hook.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling:
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

My reaction: It's the "thank you very much" at the end that gets me. Just a little bite of voice that makes me go on.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:
"I was born with water on the brain."

My reaction: What? I'll admit, Alexie didn't hook me until the later line, "My brain was drowning in grease"-- the imagery made me curious where he was going with this story.

Libby on Wednesday by Zilpha Keatley Snyder:
"'I've decided to quit school again,' Libby said."

My reaction: This book has a special place in my heart. My best friend and I realized we were destined to be together forever when we learned that years before we met, we had both stolen a copy of the same book from our childhood libraries. (On accident, of course.) I know you're not "supposed" to start with dialog, but this works, in my opinion. Who is this kid who thinks she can just quit school? Why does she want to quit? Why can't I just quit school?

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher:
"'Sir?' she repeats. 'How soon do you want it to get there?'"

My reaction: From the cover blurb, I already know we're dealing with a mysterious shoe box. Where he's sending it or how fast it gets there doesn't really matter to me-- I'm going to keep reading because I want to know what's on the tapes in the box. Had I been undecided, this might not have dragged me in, but the issue was irrelevant because I was already intrigued by the premise.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer:
"My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down."

My reaction: Yawn. I've read interviews with Meyer where she says that she was nervous about sending agents the first few chapters of her book because she didn't think they were the strongest part. I wouldn't argue with her. But like Asher, she's got a killer premise (no pun intended). So I dutifully slog along until I find some sparkle.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr:
"'Four-ball, side pocket.'"

My reaction: I read the prologue to this book three or four times in the store and put the book back. One day I finally read the first line of the first chapter and thought, "Faeries playing pool? WTF is this?" So I bought it. This time it was less knowing the premise than seeing the odd juxtaposition of what I thought was the premise with what appeared to be happening that drew me in. That, and a rockin' cover. Melissa hit the jackpot on that one.

Hm, I have a bunch more of these, but maybe I'll see what y'all think about this post and save the rest for next Teaser Tuesday. So what do you think? How were your reactions similar or different?


  1. Very creative twist on your normal Teaser Tuesday, I like it. I just posted a current draft of my first chapter on my blog, would you mind checking out my first line?

  2. That sounded way to formal. I really agree with the Harry Potter one, that first line grabbed me for an entire series.

  3. The Harry Potter one definitely grabbed me with the "thank you very much" part too. Twilight, I wouldn't have read on if I hadn't been reading it because I'd heard it was good. It also helped, I think, that I was in college then, and hadn't been reading for pleasure nearly enough, so I was starved for something not boring to read! It did improve after the first little bit, though, for sure.

  4. I frickin' heart your Teaser Tuesday. Don't forget Austen and Pride and Prejudice. Best. First. Line. Ever.

  5. I've got to agree with the Harry Potter one. I think both the first line and the first chapter of HP are very intriguing, with a voice that make me want to keep reading. :)

  6. Thank you for proving the awesomness of HP and WL.

  7. I also agree with the HP one. It just kind of pulls you in. With Twilight. I didn't care for the first couple chapters, but I read them because my best friend was raving lol

  8. My favorite first line ever: "The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit."

    Scott Westerfield, Uglies :D

  9. What an awesome idea for a post. I'm just now reading Wicked Lovely. That first chapter is made of win.


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