Celebrating Great First Sentences

Crafting a fantastic first sentence is an art. Done well, a first sentence can immediately hook a reader and set the tone for the rest of the reading experience. Done poorly, a first sentence can cause a reader’s interest to evaporate immediately.
Writers know this. They have all been told, at one point or another, of the importance of the first 100 words. That is why most writers spend a good deal of time and effort on the first few sentences of a manuscript, editing and revising until they have come as close to perfection as they can manage.

Of course, some manage better than others. There is a special kind of talent in crafting an opening message that involves not just word choices, but a knack for prioritizing and a skill in evoking a feeling of originality. It isn’t easy.

Even more difficult, as every writer surely knows, is the challenge of packing all the originality and importance of that opening message before the first period. That is why we notice and remember when a writer succeeds in creating a fantastic first sentence. Sometime we can even recite them from memory.

Fantastic first sentences do not make a great book, to be sure. But they are worthy of special recognition and celebration nonetheless. This is particularly true in the case of children’s literature, where writers often have only a brief and fleeting moment to capture the attention yet a responsibility to do so without resorting to simplistic verbal fireworks.

This month on the blog is dedicated to celebrating great first sentences in writing for children and young adults. Fiction, non-fiction, or poetry—wherever a first sentence is worthy of recognition, I hope to note it eventually. Some first sentences I recognize will be classics; others will be from recently published works.

Please join in the discussion either by commenting on my selections or suggesting first sentences that you find notable.

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