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"Chloe Harris" really is the pseudonym for two writers, Noelle and Barbra, who've joined forces to write intriguing and sexy stories. A quintessential eccentric southerner, Noelle seems to find a story in almost everything. Ever ambitious to change her stars, she has a degree in Communications. Barbra lives together with her cat ('Princess Mimi'), who isn't very happy that she is spending so much time on writing. But this folly of the living can opener with opposable thumbs is mostly tolerated.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

First Lines

by Barbra

First impressions are everything. As a writer, you should spend an awful lot of time on crafting the perfect opening sentence for your story. Many still seem to think the very first sentence isn’t all that important - the first paragraph is. Let me tell you, you’re wrong. With that attitude, you shoot yourself in the foot. The first line is the first thing a reader sees and it will determine whether or not she’s going to read the rest of the first paragraph or not.

I’ve read a few books already. Some I had to read, some I read for pleasure. The reason why I read a book aside, I discovered I enjoy books with a great first line much more than books starting like:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

*eyes glaze over*

I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me.


Granted, those are examples taken from the canon so the books are supposed to be great fiction no matter how I feel about the first sentence or the story as such. There are good examples for great first sentences from works in the canon as well:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

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

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.

I’ve got to stop now, or I’ll forget the next part of my blogpost! You can read more about the 100 best first lines from novels on this website.

Romance is the best there is, if you ask me, even though it’s not exactly supposed to elevate the spirit like literary works of art in the canon. I couldn't care less. I LOVE it. OMG, I love writing it. I love reading it! Ask me what I'd take with me onto a lonely island, and I'd answer 1000 romance novels and a hunk (or two if you insist I decide on three things).

In those numerous romance novels I’ve already read (and I read indiscriminately if you remember, historical, paranormal, fantasy, futuristic, you name it) I’ve also encountered numerous good first sentences. Here are examples of the books I still have here (the others have already moved *lol*):

A sound halted me at the door to my room, a rhythmic rattle, like a blind flapping against the window—except the sound was too fast for that, too fast and getting faster.

Chains rattled on the rough stucco wall as Audrey stretched her arms.

“Charles? What kind of name is Charles for a vampire?”

If I were to be totally honest I’d tell you that the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew I was in trouble.

“Oh, sugar, can you cook,” the woman purred as she thrust narrow hips off cream satin sheets and up his driving cock.

Only one kind of marriage ever bore Society’s stamp of approval.

She met Adam Serre on the night his wife left him.

The combination of a horse galloping far too fast, a muddy lane with a curve, and a lady pedestrian is never a good one.

Zoe Clare saw dead people.

Oh and let’s not forget this - if I may say so - brilliant *lol* first sentence:
If a lady was thinking of doing the unthinkable, she should dress unobtrusively.

How do you feel about opening lines? What’s your favorite first sentence?


Armenia said...

Barbara, I enjoyed your post.

As a reader, the first few sentences into the book really needs to grab my attention to really motivate me and set the mood.

I have a few favorites:

Phoebe Somerville outraged everyone by bringing a French poodle and a Hungarian lover to her father's funeral. -- It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Ramiel would not be blackmailed by any woman no matter how great was her need for sexual gratification. -- The Lady's Tutor by Robin Schone

She was the most beautiful bitch he'd ever seen, fast and sleek and deadly. -- MacKenzie's Mission by Linda Howard (Joe MacKenzie upon admiring his jet plane) *wink*

Noelle (Chloe Harris) said...

Winter fell one Sunday when people were coming out of church.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez "Monologue of Isabel Watching it Rain in Macondo"

Anonymous said...


Thank you! You hit the nail on the head with your comment! First lines are most important for me as a reader (for all those reasons you mentioned), and as a writer I've become a stickler for first lines!

The first line of Susan Elizabeth Phillip's novel sounds familiar.

*lol* @ the first line of "The Lady's Tutor". I've got to check it out!

*ROFL* @ "She was the most beautiful bitch he'd ever seen . . ." I love that line. But you gave a spoiler away! Never mind, I'll get the book regardless. After reading that line I simply need to have it.

Anonymous said...


I deliberately left out Madeline Hunter quotes because I was convinced you'd share some of them with us. I'll do it then!

"For a bachelor, there is no more dangerous person in the world than a happily married woman."

"Adrian crossed the drawing room's threshold and found himself in the middle of an Arab harem."

"It was one hell of a way for the son of Hugh Fitzwaryn to die."

" 'Be sure he drinks the wine before he gets your clothes off.' "

Awesome, aren't they?