The Agony of The First Line

Writing a first line in a novel is a lot like a first kiss. Hopefully it doesn't go terribly wrong like this one.
Writing a first line in a novel is a lot like a first kiss. Hopefully it doesn’t go terribly wrong like this one.

How do I hate writing first lines? Let me count the ways! Actually, I even hated coming up with the first line of this very post.

But as the other Debs have noted, I know first lines are super important. Critical, in fact. They immediately reveal so much about your characters and their worldview.

Which is why, while working on TINY PRETTY THINGS, we had to think four times as hard about first lines. I know what you’re thinking: but there are only three narrators, Sona!

Well, yeah, except that we have a chapter zero. Which begins with this:

It always feels like death.

And that first line? That’s the one that starts the whole thing. So it has to hook you and real you in. Which is where we get to the real workhorses of literature — second lines! And third lines. And whole damn near perfect paragraphs.

What I’m saying is, a good first line is a lot like a good first kiss: full of hope and expectation and character. Ideally, it’s setting you up for a satisfying ride.

—Sona Chariapotra

Author: Sona Charaipotra

An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at or

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