Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Monday, April 23, 2012

First Line Madness

The first line of your novel means a lot. It can make or break it. It can pull the reader in or make them put your book back on the shelf. Ahhhhh, the pressure! To deal with the first line my advice is to take some time and come up with at least 20 of them.

REDWOOD BLOOD is in its final stages of revision. I love this story. I love the characters. But the first line is weak and boring. Here it is:

The black present sitting on my pillow startled me.

YUCK! It lacks excitement. Startled? Come on, I can do better than that. So I did. I set aside some time to come up with alternate first lines. I let my creative side go and rapid fire, typed them as they popped into my head. Here they are:

First Lines for REDWOOD BLOOD

1.             When Dad said my thirteenth birthday would be special, I doubt he meant that he'd go missing and a mysterious black present would end up on my pillow.
2.             My thirteenth birthday was supposed to be special. I thought special in a good way. Instead my dads been missing for seven days, my best friend, Trey, blew me off, and an odd black present showed up on my pillow.
3.             First my dad goes missing, then my best friend chooses baseball over me, and now a creepy black present shows up for my thirteenth, unlucky birthday.
4.             My dad is missing and it's all my fault.
5.             Whoever wrapped that thing should be told birthdays are supposed to be bright and colorful, not dull and black.
6.             At least the present matched my mood, dull and black.
7.             Did you ever feel something was so wrong that you knew it was right? That's how the dull black present felt in my hands.
8.             It was my fault dad was missing and I was going to find him.
9.             It was my thirteenth birthday and no one would give acknowledge it if they knew what was good for them.
10.          I made everyone promise not to say happy birthday to me today.
11.          If no one ever told you that your thirteenth birthday is cursed, let me be the first. 
12.          Its my unlucky thirteenth. My dads been missing for exactly seven days. My best friend cut all his hair off and joined a baseball team. And now this creepy black present showed up on my pillow. Things kind of suck right now.
13.          When I saw the black present something inside of me screamed. I knew it had something to do with dads disappearance.
14.          Everything up until now was perfectly normal, and then everything changed.
15.          I never believed in ghosts, the boogie man, or magic, that was until the black present showed up on my pillow.
16.          I believed I was safe, normal, and dull until dad went missing and a black present showed up on my thirteenth birthday.
17.          I jumped when I saw the black present on my pillow.
18.          All my friends promised not to celebrate my birthday until dad was found. So who left the black present on my pillow wasn't a friend.
19.          If someone would have told me that when I turned thirteen my dad would go missing, my best friend would stop hanging, and a creepy black present would show up on my pillow I'd have sprayed soda from my mouth.
20.          Hating your stomach, your name, and your backstabbing x-best friend are normal teenage ordeals, but add in a missing dad, and a mysterious black present on your pillow and things go from normal to ab real fast.
21.          Things in my life went from normal to ab real quick. 
Dad had been missing exactly one week when the black present showed up on my pillow.

I brought this list with me to my writer's critique group. Then I sat back and let them read. I didn't say a word. I didn't want to influence them in any way. I just wanted the reader to choose the one he/she liked best. And the did. They chose unanimously #13. Not only that, they helped to alter it to make it ever stronger.

The new first line of REDWOOD BLOOD is:

When I saw the black present on my pillow something inside of me screamed. 

Followed up by:

Could it have something to do with dad's disappearance? 

These two lines together show my MC's plight. They give the right amount of terror and surprise along with the shock and wonderment of her dad whose been missing. But I'd like to know what you think. If you can come up with a better first line, put it in the comments section. Who knows? Maybe I'll use it and give thanks to you.

As always, write~on



  1. Big improvement. Can you make it more active? Would the word shouted work as well as screamed?

    The voice in my head shouted "Dad!" the second I saw the black present, but that was impossible. He'd vanished months ago. No trace. No word. Definitely no presents.