Short and Sweet

I’m a sucker for short opening sentences. I admit it. Give me a sentence that is less than ten words, pack it with just enough information to make me want to keep reading, and I am a happy camper.

It’s easier to say than to do. Writers love words, after all, and every writer is always tempted to add just a few more words–a little more explanation, just one more adjective or adverb, an extra clause to make things clear–to anything they write. See, I did it right there. But adjectives and adverbs, clauses and explanations can sometimes be like salt on food: a little bit improves the taste, but too much can ruin the meal.

That is why it takes a special kind of self-confidence and skill to start a book with a sentence that is short and sweet. We should recognize authors when they can do it with style.

Here are two examples:

“Nicholas Flamel is dying.”

Michael Scott
The Warlock


Four words. That’s right, four words packed with urgency and interest. Can you stop reading after that? Now check out this one:

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.”

Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief


Yes, it’s true that Mr Riordan used twice as many words, eight instead of four. But look what he accomplished: from those eight simple words we know that Percy is something called a half-blood (what is that?), that he has something of an attitude (my life is more of a burden than you think), and that he feels the need to get our attention (“Look”).


Categories: Fantastic First Lines | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: