First lines are like the first impressions we generate every time we meet someone new: they last. A great first line can immediately hook us...

First lines are like the first impressions we generate every time we meet someone new: they last. A great first line can immediately hook us into a story, and have us turning the pages as quickly as we can. We love to be whisked away by a story's opening!

At my work (English tutoring) we refer to a killer opening as a 'sizzle start'. But what makes an opening, more specifically a first line, enthralling? To try and cement my own suspicions I dug deep into my bookshelves and categorised the types of first lines writers use to hook us in. Note that most of these books do fall into the YA and fantasy categories, but when it comes to the craft of writing, we can learn from any genre and age range.

Let's dive in!

1) The Stake-Raisers

These are the kind of first lines that immediately lay the stakes on the table. Usually centering around danger, death, or blood, these first lines set your heart pounding and wanting to understand what's happening and to who. They promise a fast-faced, dark, and high-stakes story with plenty of intrigue and action. 

Below are some examples (technically one is two sentences, but I can break my own rules, right?):

'The Scorpio Races' by Maggie Stiefvater: It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

'Wilder Girls' by Rory Power: Something. Way out in the white-dark.

'A Curse so Dark and Lonely' by Brigid Kemmerer: There is blood under my fingernails.

'We Hunt the Flame' by Hafsah Faizal: People lived because she killed.

'Sorcery of Thorns' by Maragaret Rogerson: Night fell as death rode into the Great Library of Summershall.

2) The Question-Creators

While the first category certainly also falls into this (any good first line should rack up questions in the reader's mind!) these aren't necessarily centered around high-stake events or danger. Using ambiguous language or unlikely scenarios/statements, they craft a hook by making the reader want to understand who, what, why, or how. Interestingly, most of the examples I found used short, punchy sentences!

'Sky In The Deep' by Adrienne Young: "They're coming."

'Dance of Thieves' by Mary E. Pearson: The ghosts are still here.

'The Gilded Wolves' by Roshani Chokshi: Once, there were four Houses of France.

'Romanov' by Nadine Brandes: I watched my diaries burn.

'Angel Eyes' by Shannon Dittemore: The boy trembles.

'The Cruel Prince' by Holly Black: On a drowsy Sunday afternoon, a man in a long dark coat hesitated in front of a house on a tree-lined street.

'The Boy Who Steals Houses' by C.G. Drews: If it hadn't been so dark and if his fingers hadn't been so stiff with dried blood, he could've picked the lock in thirty-eight seconds.

3) The Setting-Establishers

Some first lines choose to use the world as the hook, whether this is through vivid sensory description, or atmospheric statements. In stories where the setting plays a big role or is incredibly unique, this can work fantastically. Settings can easily set a mood which lays the foundation for the characters to come and move within the world.

'An Enchantment of Ravens' by Maragaret Rogerson: My parlor smelled of linseed oil and spiked lavender, and a dab of lead tin yellow glistened on my canvas.

'Vicious' by V.E. Schwab: Victor readjusted the shovels on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old half-sunken grave.

'The Crown's Game' by Evelyn Skye: The smell of sugar and yeast welcomed Vika even before she stepped into the pumpkin-shaped shop on the main street of their little town. 

'Wolf by Wolf' by Ryan Graudin: There were five thousand souls stuffed into train cars---thick and deep like cattle. 

'The Beholder' by Anna Bright: Once upon a time always began on nights like tonight.

4) The Double-Take

I love first lines where I start the sentence believing one thing about the world, and by the end I'm completely caught off guard. These lines utilise the unexpected and the unusual to introduce unique elements about the world or the character. Often these double-take moments center around the premise and hook readers by the questions they present.

'The Blood Race' by K.A. Emmons: They said I was born with markings: black stains that wrapped my upper arms like mourning bands.

'This Mortal Coil' by Emily Suvada: It's sunset, and the sky is aflame, not with clouds or dust, but with the iridescent feathers of a million genehacked passenger pigeons.

'Invictus' by Ryan Graudin: Recorder Empra McCarthy sat in the bleachers of the Amphitheatrum Flavium, her pregnant belly round as a globe under her indigo stola. 

5) The Character-Focused

These lines appear to be more common in stories which are character-driven or set in contemporary worlds. Often strong on voice, their aim is to immediately connect the reader with the central character's life, thoughts, and feelings, or occasionally how others view them. Whether from a narrator's point of view or the character's, these first lines are wonderful at making readers care.

'Love and the Sea and Everything in Between' by Brian McBride: I think that, maybe, everyone is lost.

'In the Dark Spaces' by Cally Black: Gub's silent giggles escape in little puffs.

'The Hazel Wood' by Melissa Albert: My mother was raised on fairytales, but I was raised on highways.

'Bone Gap' by Laura Ruby: The people of Bone Gap called Finn a lot of things, but none if them was his name. 

There is a lot of overlap in these categories, which is a great thing! It means that first lines can achieve several goals at once, whether it be raising questions and establishing a character's voice, or introducing the setting while raising the stakes. I hope that seeing these examples might have given you ideas of ways to play around with your own first lines, and hook your readers from the very start!

Which of these types of first lines is your favourite? What's a first line from a book you still remember? Drop your WIP's first line below if you like; I'd love to read it!
Happy writing! <3

Books are the reason I started writing. One day I went to the library looking for a story that resembled the one forming in my head, and whe...

Books are the reason I started writing. One day I went to the library looking for a story that resembled the one forming in my head, and when I couldn't find it, I decided to write it myself. It's impossible to be a writer and not a reader, and this year I've really elevated the number of books I've been able to read! Some of my recent reads have been AMAZING, and others...not so much.

If you're looking for your next read (or trying to figure which books to cull from your TBR), read on my friend! Don't worry, it's all spoiler-free.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
You'll love it if you're in the mood for a twisty, slow-burning horror-like mystery set in a fantasy world. It's a atmospheric retelling of the twelve dancing princesses, and our main character Annaleigh is part of a family that appears to be cursed, with all the older daughters dying one by one. If you like to shudder and question your sanity inbetween scenes of family conflict and love, then this one's for you!

My Thoughts: While I certainly enjoyed a lot of moments, especially the ones that made my skin crawl, the romance in it wasn't for me. I never really connected to the love interest, and worldbuilding elements that were very crucial at the end weren't fleshed out enough to pack a punch, in my opinion. Verity was a favourite character of mine though, and I really enjoyed the mysterious island setting!

Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
You'll love this series if you're a fan of intricate fantasy worlds with unpredictable villains, plot twists a plenty, and rich characters. Vow of Thieves is the sequel to Dance of Thieves, which was equally amazing. In Dance of Thieves a member of a royal guard is sent to uncover a traitor in a foreign land, having to spy upon a gang-like family in control, and her own feelings get tangled in the mix. If you enjoy hate-to-love romance, lush settings, and complex fantasy politics, this is absolutely a series you'll adore.

My Thoughts: A five star read, like Dance of Thieves, without a doubt. This is the kind of book written for me. I was worried as the first five pages were slow-moving, but once the action started, it didn't stop. Mary E. Pearson holds nothing back from her characters, and through their pain and sorrow, it's inspiring to see them grow as people and in their relationships. Everything in it blew me away. ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SERIES. IT'S AMAZING. AH.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
You'll love it if you adore stories involving angel and demon-like creatures, but the lines between them are blurred, and the main character is caught in the middle. Romance is a plenty and the whole story is told in a lush, dramatic form that Laini Taylor is so reknowned for. If you enjoy dramatic romance entwined with a slowly-unfolding mystery and high stakes behind it, here's your perfect match!

My Thoughts: I didn't realise how romance heavy this book was going to be going into it; I picked it up at the library primarily because I heard so much of Laini Taylor. While I'll be giving Strange the Dreamer a go, I don't think I'll continue on with this series. While I understood why the romance played out as insta-love (and suspected the plot twist very early on) I would have liked a larger focus on the mystery of the other world and portals.

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson
You'll love it if you're seeking a fantasy book with a main character struggling with her mental health amid invasion and war. The main character Anthia is forced to marry the son of her enemy to avoid her country's total destruction, and enter a foreign court with hardly any protection. This book is the one for you if you're seeking a story that focuses on the way people are changed and caught up in war, rather than action battles, and have a hunger for unqiue magic systems.

My Thoughts: My ship didn't sail in this one, which broke my heart, but I still enjoyed this read nevertheless! While it's not a ground-breaking fantasy for me, I think the series has the potential to really expand and captivate, so I'll be continuing on with it. There's great depth to every character and the magic system of giant crows having magical powers was incredibly fascinating.

Call it What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
You'll love it if you're in the mood for a contemporary that explores complex facets of family dynamics, burdens, and responsibilities. It's a modern retelling of Robin Hood with very grounded and real characters, with moments that will wrench your heart in two. If characters are the reason you're drawn to a book, then you should meet Rob, who was a school hot-shot until his father was caught embezzeling money, and Maegan, who's caught between her sister and parents.

My Thoughts: Contemporary isn't my normal genre, but I devoured this one in two days. I wanted to know what would happen to Rob and Maegan, whose relationship felt real, because it was messy and full of hurt, but layered with hope. Their situations made my heart bleed for them. Even if they made decisions that had me groaning at them, their growth was beautiful to watch!

Tell me about the books you've been reading lately! Have you read any on my list? What did you think? What books should I put on my TBR right away?
Happy reading! <3

Dear writer, Why are you rushing? Why are you trying to catch the days disappearing through your fingertips? Why are you fighting to touc...

Dear writer,
Why are you rushing?
Why are you trying to catch the days disappearing through your fingertips?
Why are you fighting to touch the stars when you're still building the ladder?
It's as though you've drawn a line for yourself, straight across the near future's path.
Goals written in thick black lines, checkboxes waiting like jailers.
"Have a perfect draft by now"
"Have an agent by now"
"Be published by now"
And so time is crunched and squeezed, and the calendar looms before each writing session.
The clock ticks, ticks, ticks.
You bend your head down, trying to write faster, trying to edit and query and edit some more because those goals are waiting.

Stop. Breathe.
There is something that lurks within us, always ordering perfection and met ambitions, as if we have two years left to live.
It pleads its case, of course.
"Why is it taking you so long to edit? You should be done by now."
"Why aren't you published yet?"
"If you only worked harder, worked faster, you'd already be there."
We only strengthen it by our lofty goals, by buying into the idea that to be published immediately (while you're still young!) is better.
And so we rush.
We plunge into pages without checking the depth of the ink and paper, without realising it could drown us.

Writer, rushing your craft is setting sail on the ocean with a half-formed boat.
The waves may be high, the wind ripping across your cheeks, but you've told yourself you must sail now. 
The sooner, the better, isn't that what they say?
So you push off with half a mast, nail-bent boards hammered over holes. The wood groans, but your heart beats with the desire for now now now.
You almost miss it, when the water flows up to your waist.

None of us are immune to the desire for success as soon as we can grasp it.
But we are forgetting that writing is a craft, not an outcome.
It is something honed, not made once then used.
It is layered, brick by brick, the metal beams forged in fire and coming out strengthened. It is beautiful and draining and wondrous and painful.
Being published is not the destination. 
It is a single step on a longer journey.
What use is it having a boat that can struggle its way to an island, but no further?

There's no need to rush.
Our world likes to tell us that everything that is satisfying should be within arms-reach. Every product or service is supposed to be make life easier, more convenient, and faster.
But the satisfaction that comes with achievement is only equivalent to the time it took to achieve your goal.
And what about learning? Growing? Developing? Have we forgotten the blessings these are?

Pour yourself into writing, devote time to it, treat it seriously, yes.
But don't let the fading days, weeks, months rule you.
You could be published at twenty or seventy, and either one is a cause for celebration because you took your time. 
You built your boat and now the whole journey is unfurling before you, ready for the taking.
Writing is not a race, and never has been.

So this is me giving us permission, dear writer, to push aside the goals that wring us dry of joy.
This is me telling you, and telling myself, that it is worth the time to build our craft and learn.
Publishing is not an end, but a beginning.
And as any writer knows, that is simply where the story starts.

A fellow writer

Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are. I didn't sign up to the Camp NaNo site, nor did I make some lofty goal in my head for the mon...

Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are. I didn't sign up to the Camp NaNo site, nor did I make some lofty goal in my head for the month. I simply wrote and wrote and somehow, at the end of the month, I had a first draft finished and 'The End' typed at the bottom of the document. Consider this post me trying to answer how on Earth I managed this for myself as well as for you!

The novel that I'm talking about, young and fresh that is, I've never mentioned on the blog before. So before we leap into what my process for writing this 86K novel was, I'll briefly introduce you. Reader, meet 'Traitor's Tomb', a YA fantasy where: thirty-three sons and daughters of a now-dead king are locked into tombs together for a week, to decide among themselves who will rule next.

Stage 1: The Idea

Traitor's Tomb was really, like most of my novels, a mash-up of ideas that had been long term residents of my brain. One element of the story I've been playing and fiddling with for over five years, and the other was also a long ago seed that had been watered in drips every now and then. When they came together in my mind, with a fresh twist, because they had stewed so long I had a very strong idea of where the story was heading. 

An analogy might be that these were bulbs lying under the surface, waiting for the right conditions of weather, sun and water to sprout. So while the act of drafting took 30 days, the actual nurturing of the premise, whether concious or not, was years in the process. And this is important for ideas! If they come back after so long and still fascinate you years down the line, then they're far more powerful and engaging than a shiny idea that never returns.

Stage 2: Preparation

My two ideas intersected neatly, which gave me a brief plot cushion, but I had no idea whose POV I was going to tell the story through or even the characters in it. I'm not a plotter by any means, but I knew that if I hadn't even the slightest clue about my characters, I wouldn't get past a blinking cursor.

One of two POVs for Traitor's Tomb came about in a strange way; I was struggling to understand what my POV could want, and on a bus ride home began looking around for anything that could inspire me. And then we drove over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My brain tugged on my attention, as if nodding to the bridge, and while it seemed bizarre at first, I took it as challenge. What kind of character would have building a bridge as a motivation? What kind of bridge does she want, and why? Why is it so important to her?

The storyworld began drifting in then, and I word-dumped all my thoughts into a document. When I had jotted down all my sparks of inspiration, I came to a huge block that stopped me from continuing. A large part of my premise came from the fact that there were dozens of children of a now-dead king, and with them being almost all my characters in a restricted setting, I had to know all of them.

Creating a family tree that visually showed me the different connections to the princes and princesses, and their half-siblings, and the different queens, was primarily for my sanity. From there I wrote myself a basic chunk of information or one line, depending on how old they were, about the character and their possible motivations or weaknesses. Whether or not it became true in the draft didn't matter; I needed a base line to go to when a half-sibling arrived in the scene.

After that, there was nothing to do but start writing. 

Stage 3: Drafting

There are two things I should make clear here. The first is that I completed the first draft in thirty days, and in no way have edited it. (And it needs a lot of revising!) The second is that I credit being able to devote the amount of time necessary to being in a situation where I didn't have to work a lot through my university holidays. I'm very blessed in that way.

My brief break from work during school holidays, and then my own university holidays, gave me a month where I could effectively chunk my time. I would look at each day and ask myself: "Right. When can I fit in two straight hours of writing?" Oftentimes it would be in the midmorning after a walk, or at a local library, or early afternoons after church. I made sure to deisgnate blocks of two hours ahead so that when the time came, I was in my chair and ready to write. 

Why choose two hours? From previous experience I found that, depending on how tired or motivated I was, I could write between 2500 and 4000 words in that amount of time. Any longer, and I began to get restless, and any shorter and I'd often stop mid-scene. Your ideal time chunk might be more or less than two hours, but find what works well for you! And then look to see any days where you can assign those hours/minutes to solely writing.

Another reason I was able to complete the novel in a month is because, at the end of each writing session, I jotted down my thoughts on what the next two or three scenes could be. Ever since I heard a writer describe themselves as a 'headlights writer', meaning they could only see the story so far in front of them, I've realised that's how I write. I can see a few scenes ahead but no further. If I have a basic outline of where to take my characters next, then each time I start a writing session, I have a path to follow. No more time wasted staring at the blinking cursor!

Final Thoughts

In no way am I telling you that you should try and write a first draft in a month and copy my methods. Usually it takes me two to three months to complete a first draft, and my circumstances played a big role in allowing me to write Traitor's Tomb! Here are some questions I'd like to leave you with, though, in the hopes that they might inspire you:

1. How often do you purposefully set aside time to write? Can you do so more often?
2. Which part of your writing process, whether pantsing, plotting, or a mixture, can you embrace to help you finish your draft?
3. What ideas have you had for a long time that you can nuture into something exciting?

Tell me about how your writing's going at the moment! Are you drafting or editing? How long does it usually take you to first draft a story? Are you a plotter, pantser, or a headlights writer like me?
All the best with your writing! <3

Today I'm incredibly excited to share with you some of my favourite mythical creatures by joining Victoria's tag! It's fun to ge...

Today I'm incredibly excited to share with you some of my favourite mythical creatures by joining Victoria's tag! It's fun to geek out over fantasy, mythology, and animals in general so this post is my perfect excuse to do so. Be sure to check out Victoria's post, and steal this tag if you love mythical creatures too!

Here are the rules:
- Include Victoria's graphic somewhere in the post and/or link back to her!
- Answer the questions on your blog!
- Tag three or more fantasy fans!

1.) What is your favorite mythical creature?

Griffins! Griffins! And still griffins! They're one of the coolest animal hybrid creatures I know in mythology, and they have this beautiful elegance about them.

2.) When was the first time you heard of this beast?

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" by Holly Black. I devoured the series when I was young (probaby much too young for them to be honest) and proclaimed to the whole world that I was the champion fencer and griffin-riding Mallory.

3.) What is your favorite portrayal of this creature in media? 

Also the "Spiderwick Chronicles"! Likely because this was where I was first introduced to the creatures. And I love love love the drawing of the griffin on "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You" (though it could probably be given some more to eat, it's a little on the thin side). 

4.) If you could shapeshift into a mythical beast what would you pick?

This is a really difficult one, but I'd love to be able to become a dragon. They're majestic, fierce, and stunning all at once. It would be fascinating to see what flight felt like as well as being able to breathe fire. (I'd have to be careful not to burn down the neighbourhood though.)

5.) What mythical beast would you love to have as a pet?

I must be on a fire streak, because I think a phoenix would make a great pet. I imagine they'd be warm, fluffy, and fiercely loyal. Plus you could hide them in plain sight of the normal world.

6.) What is your favorite mythological story surrounding a fantastical beast like in Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, etc.?

I've always found the Egyptian myth of the sphinx interesting. No doubt I'd never be able to solve their riddles, but the drama and tension of not being allowed access to great treasure, unless travellers use their minds, is an interesting twist to the usually war-heavy myths of old.

Photo by Simon Infanger @ Unsplash

7.) What mythical creature would terrify you the most if you encountered it in person?

If you ever see a Naga, run. And keep running. They're a hybrid of dragon and sea serpent, often with multiple heads, which can spew fire but also eat you alive. They play a central role in Thai folklore and arhitecture, as well as various religions, and are known to be fierce protectors of the gods.

8.) What is the most unusual mythical creature you've ever heard of?

On Victoria's post she introduced me to the kitsune, which are Japanese foxes with nine tails! They seem very cute as well as unusual. I wonder if the extra tails make them even more sly?

9.) What uncommon mythical beast do you wish you saw more of in books and movies?

I've never seen sleipnir, eight-legged horses with extreme speed from Norse mythology, in books, but I think it would put an interesting spin on the fantasy default of horses!
10.) If you could create a mythical creature what would it be?

I actually have created a few mythical creatures for various stories, one of them being balaur. They're similar to griffins in some ways, but have the bodies of leopards with wings, and sharp birds' talons. The colour of a balaur's coat depends on when they're born; if in sunset, they'll be streaks of orange and pink, at night then they're fully black, on cloudy days they might be a light grey, and so on!

I now tag...

And anyone else who'd love to join in!

What's your favourite mythical creature? Anyone else obsessed with griffins? Who here is a dragon fan?
Have a wonderful day! <3