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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Author Insight: The First Sentence

What is the opening sentence of your most recent book? How different is it from the original one?

"The first line of The Cinderella Society is exactly the same as it was in the first draft. Sometimes nailing that first sentence is a nightmare, and other times you know immediately how the story needs to begin. The beginning of TCS is:The Cinderella Society.
'There are moments in life when you know things will never be the same. When you’re called to the edge of adventure and given the chance to break free, uninhibited by your past, and claim the life you were meant to live.'" - Kay Cassidy, author of


"Oh, I can't tell you! My most recent work is a sequel to Book 1, and there's a little bit of a spoiler in the very first sentence!!" - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"'Most of us like to believe that we are born to do great things, maybe even to be famous.' The original read, 'We like to believe . . . ;' otherwise, nothing has changed." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"The first line from Dirty Little Secrets is: 'Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.' The first chapter of the book was actually added in the editing process, so it isn’t the original opener. The book used to open with the main character finding her mother dead in the hoarded house, but my editor thought that we needed a chapter to get to know the characters before everything happens. The original first line was : 'We always said the newspapers would bury Mom, but it was the National Geographics that got her in the end.'" - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

"I’m currently working on a book that begins: 'I was climbing up my wall when the door opened.' It’s about a thrill-seeking former cancer patient who becomes a demon fighting roller derby girl. It’s not done yet, and who knows what will happen to it, but I sure am having fun writing it. It’s still got the funny, campy paranormal vibe of Bad Taste in Boys, but this one also has a serious side. I’m tired of all the cancer patients dying in books. I wanted to write one in which she not only survives, but goes on to kick some serious ass." - Carrie Harris, author of Bad Taste in Boys.

"'On a hillside stood three figures.' Warped.

That's from the prologue and is much the same, I believe, as my original draft." - Maurissa Guibord, author of

"The current WIP has the first sentence 'It was the same plague, but it hit children differently.' The original first sentence was, I think, 'We were six, and it was the hottest day of the year.' The new one is much better, I think." - Hannah Moskowitz, author of Invincible Summer. 

"From King of Ithaka: 'I did not hate my father for leaving us.' The only change is the last word; it originally read, “I did not hate my father for leaving.” Adding “us” made it more personal and I think makes the narrator seem more abandoned." - Tracy Barrett, author of King of Ithaka.

"'I may be heaven-sent, but I’m not perfect.' That’s the guardian angel Zachary from Eternal (Candlewick, 2008, 2010). Blessed.

The original beginning was: "'Kill me now,’ I pleaded." That’s Miranda, his true love. She’s talking about not having a date on Valentine’s Day and having to settle for watching a chick flick instead.
In my forthcoming novel, Blessed (Candlewick, Jan. 25, 2011), the first line is: 'Have you damned me? I wondered staring over my shoulder at the lanky devil in dark formalwear.' That’s Quincie, talking about Brad, the vampire who transformed her into one of his kind. It’s the central question of the novel, and that line hasn’t changed at all since the first draft." - Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of

"Well, the original opening line to Possess was 'The house didn't want her there.'  It's currently the first line of Chapter 2, since I needed to write a new opening chapter.  So for the sequel which I'm working on right now, I went with a little homage: 'The room didn't want her there.'" - Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess.

"The book I just turned in to my editor is Magic Under Stone, the Magic Under Glass sequel, and the opening line is (subject to change!): 'Ifra became aware of his body like a prisoner waking to find himself in chains.' Between the Sea and Sky.
Magic Under Glass opens with Nimira's first person POV, so this is quite different." - Jaclyn Dolamore, author of

"'The boy in the tower was pacing again, his long hair moving behind him like a rippling black flag.' I just finished a proposal for a new book, and I'm fingers-crossed my agent likes it. It's also a paranormal YA, but a little darker and sexier than Delcroix Academy, with an older protagonist." - Inara Scott, author of Delcroix Academy: The Candidates.

"'You don’t want to kill me,' I said." Interestingly, it was always my first line." - Kim Harrington, author of Clarity. 

"I've actually got two most recent books, and while I just made a big deal about revision, I actually rarely change my first lines. Here are the two from my most recent projects:
"'This is the best house on campus,' Maddy told her new roommate, Imogen." and "'These skirts come in three different colors, Veronica. Why don't we get you one of each?'" - Sara Bennett Wealer, author of Rival.

"The opening sequence is like the other first chapters in the Downside books, in that it's sort of an Indiana Jones-esque opening; the closure of something else. I try to make those tie in at least somewhat to the entire book, but in essence they're like very short stories in the beginning.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'the original one'--if that's my first draft, in which case it hasn't changed much, or if it's my first book, in which case it's an enormous improvement, or if it's my first Downside book, in which case it's the same (Indiana Jones-y), but the first chapter of Unholy Ghosts was a late addition. Originally the story started with Chess at the Morton house." - Stacia Kane, author of City of Ghosts.

Come back Thursday to find out how the author's first sentences have evolved since the first draft.

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