Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Words on Wednesday - The First Sentence

First sentences are the devil. Don't let anyone say they're not, because they really ARE! You need to impart so much information in one little slice of words that it almost makes you want to quit before you've started.

I won a critique giveaway awhile ago, back in July, and I was super-excited that the lady who held that contest read the first chapter and thought it was really good. The only comment she made that really stuck with me most though was about my opening sentence. It was a good sentence, but it didn't impart necessary information. This is what she said:

The first sentence is fascinating, but it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. My first thought is “futuristic.” We’ve got a smart letterbox that can announce the mail. Furthermore, the box calls for [the MC], not one of her parents. But the book’s not futuristic (if it is, we need more signs). The assumption, both because her name is used and because she ran for the mail, is that she was expecting something important. But apparently not so. We have no clue why she ran for the mail. Does she always? Is that a way of assuaging some of her loneliness? Also, the sentence about handling the letter makes me wonder if she has powers. Can she handle objects and receive mental images? But I see no other hint of powers in this section, either.

It's so important to get that first sentence absolutely perfect. You need to tell the reader, clunk, who the MC is, what the MC can do, and what's conflicting him/her, and why this sentence was written in the first place.

Because of how wonderfully illuminating this critique was, I decided that I'm going to offer a Christmas Eve First Chapter Critique giveaway over at Cat's Mathoms. You can read the guidelines for entering, and I sincerely hope you do... enter, I mean. I promise I'll give you nothing more than my own honest, and very nice opinion! (And I sincerely believe that my opinion is very honest but nice!)

God bless!



  1. I often find that the first sentence is the last thing I write, or at least the last part I revise.

  2. First sentences can be tricky. Sometimes they come to me immediately. Other times I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite... repeat that about a thousand times.

  3. First sentences are killers ...

    That was a nice, heartfelt critique you'd received, Cat! Have fun with the critique giveaway. I don't know if I have anything much from my manuscript for a critique yet, but I'll hop over and take a look next week.

  4. I love first sentences. But I do find myself rewriting, rewriting, rewriting....

    Claudine, yay! If you have anything to submit, that would be jolly. :)


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