Remember last week when I said I had four fabulous secret bits of news? Well, I can tell you one of them now:
I just signed a contract with BenBella Books to write for another of their anthologies! Yay! This one is about Scott Westerfeld’s amazing UGLIES series. It’s no secret on this blog how much I love those books, so I’m so keen on writing this essay.
I actually discussed the essay topic with Scott, and he finds it pretty amusing, so here goes nothing! (See, I never spoke to Judy Blume, Philip Pullman, or the ghost of C.S. Lewis about those essays, so I have no idea what to think.) Very nervous-making that the author is actually a) around and b) able to give feedback on the antho.
Speaking of Westerfeld, he had a great blog up the other day about the importance of a good first line. Must be something in the air, as agent Nephele Tempest is doing a whole series on the Knight Agency blog on the same topic. Says Tempest:
What are your favorite books, and how do they start? Try reading the first sentences of some of your most frequent re-reads, and determine how that first sentence relates to the whole. What do you like about the book, and do you feel the same way about that opening line? How do you think the writer came up with that particular line? Why did they make the choices that they did?
According to Westerfeld, he’s planning a post to explain why he decided to start his futuristic dystopian hoverboard chase-filled adventure novel with a rumination on the color of cat vomit.
I feel both lucky and unlucky, because with all the SSG novels, I get several chances to make a “first line” impression. I also have the challenge of hooking you several times over. This is because sometimes readers (or excerpts) start with the first confession, sometimes with the first line of the prologue, and sometimes with the first line of the first chapter.
Thus, in SECRET SOCIETY GIRL I have:
- I hereby confess: I am a member of one of the most infamous secret societies in the world.
- You’ve heard the legends, I’m sure.
- It all began on a day in late April of my junior year.
In UNDER THE ROSE, I have:
- I hereby confess: I didn’t know what it meant to be a Digger.
- When you picture the secret society of Rose & Grave, I know what you see.
- It was shopping period at Eli University, and lest you think this is one of those books about fashion, let me enlighten you.
And in RITES OF SPRING (BREAK), I have:
- I hereby confess: Even the secret and the powerful need vacations.
- Not all tropical islands keep their treasured buried, but for those that do, no map will help.
- Some people pledge to lose weight for their new year’s resolution.
With the exception of that last one, I think they all have heavy thematic elements. The first sentence of the first chapter of Rites of Spring (Break), in contrast, sets up a long joke. If you consider that each of the first chapters have confessions as well, there are even more “first” lines. I sometimes wonder if most readers bother reading the confessions (or the chapter titles, for that matter). Sometimes, they are the punch line of the joke, at other times, spoilers for the chapter. I like giving chapters titles, rather than just numbers, and have done it in every one of my contracted books.
More on that tomorrow. Meanwhile, how do you feel about first lines? What is your favorite first line in all of literature? If you’re a writer,w hat’s your favorite first line that you’ve written?