My name is Anya Bast and I'm the author of over twenty five published works of fiction, mostly of them paranormal and most of them scorching hot. I write for Berkley Sensation, Harlequin Spice and Samhain, among other houses.
Today I thought I'd talk about that critical first line. I love writing that very first line of a novel. Actually, I obsess over them, rewriting them several times before I end up with the final version.
The first line is the first impression the reader gets of your work while they're standing in the bookstore deciding whether or not to buy your book. It's pretty important! It needs to hook the reader and make them want to read on. Your objective is to intrigue the reader, make them wonder what's going on and why.
If you can accomplish that much, then it's your job in the next few paragraphs to dig that hook in a bit deeper and add a dash of emotion, make the reader care about one of characters enough to invest even further.
Here is a sampling of some of the first lines from my books…
1. He looked like sin and seemed like salvation. Salvation for her sluggish libido, anyway. (Witch Fire, June 5, 2007 — Berkley Sensation)
2. How to Catch a Warlock 101. Isabelle could teach that class. (Witch Blood, March 4, 2008 — Berkley Sensation)
3.) Twenty years as a daaeman's handmaiden had prepared Claire for many things, but not this. Nothing could've prepared her for this. (Witch Heart, January 6, 2009 – Berkley Sensation)
4.) Sarafina might've been named for the angels, but she'd always known one day she'd end up in hell. (Witch Fury, June 2, 2009 – Berkley Sensation)
5). Alejandro leaned against the bar and watched the crush of dancers gyrate to the pounding beat in the Blood Spot. Lights flashed through the dark interior of the building, periodically illuminating bodies clad in almost nothing. (The Darkest Kiss, October 2008 — Berkley Heat)
6). The brown-haired businessman beside Cassidy at the roulette wheel held up a chip. “Kiss it for luck?” He gave her smarmy grin and a slow head-to-toe perusal. (The Deal, What Happens in Vegas…. May 2008 — Harlequin Spice)
I guess the reason I feel so strongly about my own first lines is because that's usually how I judge whether or not I'll buy someone else's book. My purchasing test goes something like this if the name on the spine is someone unfamiliar to me:
- Cover art…yeah, I'm shallow. ;) A good cover will get me to investigate a book further. Doesn't mean I'll buy it, just give it a closer look.
- Back blurb – Does it sound like "my kind" of book? My kind of book invariably being something of the paranormal or fantastical nature.
- First line – Does it catch me?
If the book passes all those tests, I skim the first page. If that looks good…GLOM. It's mine. *g*
How about you? What are your buying criteria when you encounter an intriguing book at the bookstore by an author you've never heard of? Some people pay attention to the cover quotes, others have a complicated test of flipping through the book at every forty pages or so and reading.
And how about those first lines?
If you're an author, I invite you to share some of your opening gambits in the comments. If you're a reader, what's your buying criteria and do first lines figure into them? Got any fav first lines you'd like to share from anything you've read lately?
I'll give away an autographed copy of my latest release, Witch Heart, to one commenter.