What Happened To the Kale??!! The Importance of a Novel’s First Line

This is kale. And it has gone missing.

This is kale. And it has gone missing.

The kale is gone.

That’s the first line of my debut novel BEFORE I GO. It’s four simple words, and on the outset, hard to argue that it’s all that compelling of a first line.

It’s not as profound as, say: Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. (THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD — Zora Neale Hurston)

Or as memorable as: Call Me Ishmael. (MOBY DICK — Herman Melville)

Or as intriguing as: All children, except one, grow up. (PETER PAN — J.M. Barrie)

But here’s why I wrote it. It puts you in the middle of the action. Granted, it’s not exciting action— like someone who’s just been shot, or a bomb that’s just exploded, but it is an immediate problem: Where did the kale go? Why is the kale important?

And I think that’s what a first line should do— compel a reader to read the next line. That’s it. Simple really. But anyone who’s written a first line, knows it’s really not that simple. And most authors will tell you that they spend hours, days, months rewriting, editing, and tweaking their first lines— even to end up with something as simple as Call Me Ishmael or The kale is gone. Because if you can’t suck the reader in immediately— if they don’t even want to read the second line of your book — then you’re in trouble. (No pressure or anything!)

Struggling with your first line? Here are a few great blog posts with tips that might help:

7 Keys to Write the Perfect First Line of a Novel

7 Ways to Create a Killer Opening Line for Your Novel

Why Stephen King Spends Months and Even Years Writing Opening Sentences

There. Once you’ve got that opening sentence, the rest is a breeze! It’s like getting through labor, and then all you have left is raising a child for the next 18 years! Oh, wait.

What are your favorite first lines in novels? Do you have any sure-fire tips for writing good ones?




News Flash: Our Books, Holidays & Giveaways!


Congratulations to Nancy Allen, winner of the signed copy of ELECTRIC CITY by guest author Elizabeth Rosner! Check back next Sunday for this week’s winner of VANESSA AND HER SISTER by guest author Priya Parmar …       From the 2015 Debs: Colleen Oakley is thrilled about the great reviews for BEFORE I GO in…
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Guest author Priya Parmar on writing & why Mom is always right.

Vanessa and Her Sister

Today at the Ball we welcome author Priya Parmar, whose VANESSA AND HER SISTER is an insightful work of historical fiction that follows the early years of the Bloomsbury group, a clique of 1950s intellectuals that yielded the genius of novelist E.M. Forster, economist John Maynard Keynes and Virginia Woolf. At its heart is the…
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Bookish Gifts For All

The Literary Gift Company - Pashmina library card

For the littlest bookworm on your list: Personalized bookplate stamp I was an avid reader as a kid, and would have loved to stamp my books for my own little library. Not to mention, parents will appreciate the time spent stamping (craft time!) so they can have a few minutes of peace and quiet to…
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News Flash: Holidays, Book Birthdays, & Giveaways!

News Flash

Congratulations to Katelyn Carolyn Hart, winner of the signed copy of TOP TEN CLUES YOU’RE CLUELESS by guest author Liz Czukas! Check back next Sunday for this week’s winner of ELECTRIC CITY by guest author Elizabeth Rosner…   From the 2015 Debs: Colleen Oakley can’t believe her book baby will meet the world in less than a…
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Elizabeth Rosner and the Language of Science (Book Giveaway!)


This week is for all you literary science geeks out there. (We know you exist!) Our guest is Elizabeth Rosner, author of the novel ELECTRIC CITY and the poetry collection GRAVITY (both released in October). As probably the nerdiest of the Debs, ELECTRIC CITY especially has huge appeal for me. I’m reading it now and it’s…
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