Let me introduce myself.

I spent a good deal of my professional life writing newspaper stories and the rest showing other people how to do it.

The first thing I would talk about was the intro.

This is the most important sentence in any story because if you get it wrong the likelihood is the reader bids you farewell at that point and goes off to find something else, probably the crossword.

But a great intro can sell a story and make it hard for the audience to abandon you.

The same is true for novels.

How many times have you picked up a book and if the first few paragraphs did not grab you put it back on the shelf?

We probably all have our favourite opening lines and many are frequently quoted.

Short works best in newspapers and sometimes in books.

“Call me Ishmael.”

Melville’s biblical command opening Moby Dick for example.

And though somewhat longer, it would be hard to take a single word out of Jane Austen’s most famous first line:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

And for setting that first scene Raymond Chandler is tough to beat.

“The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of the Dancers.”

And how beautifully judged is the the haunting beginning of Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

And for a fisherman Norman Maclean hooks you with a beautifully presented line.

“In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.”

A great opening line is a firm promise of more to come.

I have rarely found the opposite to be true.

People will say: ”Stick with it, it gets better,” but in my experience it hardly ever does.

A writer who cannot fix the start of a story is likely to continue breaking things.

If you have a favourite first line please share it with us, we would be delighted to hear from you.

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