First lines

The last Blog made me think about first lines.

I always advise ‘press on’ (please don’t ask if I do this or not – I can only tell you that getting the first draft down without stopping is the right thing to do – I can’t swear that I do it!)

But each time you open your manuscript to start work, what do you see? The first page. And yes, I try to tighten this a little more on each occasion.


That first line is all-important. It sets the mood, and may also introduce your main protagonist. You might have the essence of your main character down from the get-go. If not, there’s nothing to stop you changing up that first line when you know them better.

How do you get to know them better?

By seeing how they react to the challenges you place in their way – the things they say and how they say it – what they care about – what concerns them, and, ultimately, why they deserve that HEA

Here are some first lines from a small selection of the many, many books I love.

We came on the wind of the carnival’.

Magic is already in the air for me when I read this first line from Joanne Harris’s novel, Chocolat

‘Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York

As a very young girl, this first line from Betty Smith’s wonderful novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, seemed packed full of promise, and still does. Take me to this place!  I thought. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Brooklyn, New York. How exotic and wonderful it sounded to a young child who had never travelled out of the UK. And the novel is about a young girl. I couldn’t wait to discover how Francie’s life compared to mine.

J.K. Rowling really nails the first line with this, from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter was a most unusual boy in many ways.’

Take another look at your first line. And another. And another. Remember how quickly we make a judgement when we shake hands with someone we’ve never met before. Of course, when we get to know them better we may change our minds about that first snap judgement, but the reader may decide there and then, that they don’t want to read on. Don’t take that chance. Make your first line count. Make it stupendous.

You know you can do it. I know you can do it. Now go write it!

Love to all,



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