Astonishingly, the "one-liner" of a joke gets people to laugh. The "first-liner" is meant to get a reader to buy a book through using wittism, intrigue or other method.
In writing a novel or a short story the first line is so important because if a person doesn't get catapulted out of a fast moving vehicle, thrown upon the pavement, beaten about the face, body and bleeding thrown into an Ambulance by your writing in the first four words, or the first ten seconds when scrolling on the internet, it is unlikely they will keep reading.
The first line in a book may have up to 15 seconds or fifty words to make that same impact. If lucky!
In, Going For Broke, Paul Barry wrote:
"Alan Bond is lucky he didn't go bust 150 years ago, because creditors in those days had the right to lock debtors in jail and throw away the key."
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien wrote,
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit".
But, it's really the second line that acts like the first line when it says,
"Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, shady hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
Jean M. Auel's, Clan of the Cave Bear, has an opening line,
"The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to toward the rocky beach at the bend in the small river."
In the most interesting story of, Life is So Good by Richard Glaubman,
"Wanting to enjoy every moment, I stared at the hard candies in the different wooden barrels." is an intriguing first liner.
Then you look at something like John Stanley's "Setting Up Shop" which guides you through the experience of opening your own retailing business. The opening line in chapter one says,
"According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics you are about to enter an AU$17898 billion-dollar industry that has been growing at a rate of 0.5 per cent a year."
Another interesting first liner is Sue Ebury's in the life story of Sir Edward Dunlop entitled, "Weary" Sue Ebury starts the 641 page biography with,
"When Weary Dunlop emerged from his 'long dark night of captivity' in the prison camps on the Burma-Siam Railway in August 1945, he carried with him a tattered packet of papers."
All first-liners are carefully and masterfully designed to get the reader to read on, purchase and hopefully give the writer enough money to buy their next meal.
When you write, take the time to think about that vital first line.
Let me know how you're traveling, or if you've taken your first trip in an ambulance.
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