Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.
The first time I heard about this idea was back in September, during a church service, of all places, and it's been one of those concepts that I can't stop thinking about. The idea was this:
The story should be in the first sentence.
It's a miracle that I heard anything else during the sermon, because I couldn't get over that idea. I've heard lots of great advice about first sentences during my years of writing - you should start in the point of view of your main character, start when action is already going, and, one of my personal favorites, the first sentence is a promise to your reader.
But I hadn't heard of this before.
But I hadn't heard of this before.
Is this something that's absolutely necessary to the success of a book? No. I pulled dozens of books off my shelves, books that I love, and the story was not in the first sentence. So don't think of this as, "I must do this to be successful." Instead, think of this as a tool that you can use to make a promise to your reader that you know you can keep.
The most notable example of the story being in the first sentence is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
That's the story of Pride and Prejudice, isn't it? Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley both have large fortunes and therefor everyone is obsessed with who they will marry.
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.And that's what the story of Emma holds. She's spoiled and she is happy and we're going to watch her grow increasingly distressed and vexed.
But let's see how a few modern authors achieve this:
Every season of my nanny career kicked off with a round of interviews so surreally similar that I'd often wonder if the mothers were slipped a secret manual at the Parents League to guide them through.
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, a story about a girl who takes yet another nanny job, expecting it to be the same as always, and is sucked into the family drama like never before.
It's hard being left behind.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, a love story in which the man has a condition that causes him to involuntary time travel. As you might guess, his wife gets left behind quite a bit throughout the story.
The Haddan School was built in 1858 on the sloping banks of the Haddan River, a muddy and precarious location that had proven disastrous from the start.
The River King by Alice Hoffman, a story about a murder that takes place at a boarding school.
The name of the song is "This Lullaby."
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, a YA novel about a teenage girl who has been followed around her whole life by a cheesy ballad her father wrote for her after he left the family.Again, this is not a, "You must have your story in your first sentence or your book will never be any good," type thing. This is just one technique for writing a strong opening sentence to your story.
Does the first line of any of your books show the story like in the examples above? If you like, try your hand at writing one that does and share it below!