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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Talking First Lines with Scarlett Archer

It's me again, my lovelies!

Today I have a special treat for you in the form of author Scarlett Archer, who has just released in paperback and ebook a non-fiction title that discusses and analyses the all-important first line of your book.
They're TOUGH, aren't they? That blank page. The blinking cursor. The pressure of summing up the tone of the WHOLE BOOK in that one line of text...

I will be talking first lines during The Kiss Off's blog tour between April 23 - May 15 but right now, let's talk first line hell with Scarlett Archer!
Do you consider the first line to be an important part of a story? If so, why?
I think it's one of the most vital parts of a book. When I pick up a book I want it to catch me. Given I'll wait a couple of paragraphs but I'm essentially looking to be seized by the opening line. It's like hearing someone for the first time, you immediately get the impression of what they're about from the way they talk, the way they say their words, the rhythm that they arrive, and how the words mingle in amongst one another. 
Do you find first lines easy to come up with, or challenging? Do you have a technique, or a ritual, that you go by to make it easy?
It's definitely one thing I love about writing. I know a lot of writers who hate starting a story but the first line is an inviting challenge. It's beginning the great meal I'm cooking up! I don't find them easy to come up with but I enjoy thinking about them. They don't frustrate me. As for a technique or ritual I give my intuition a lot of room to take charge. I don't force it but browse through inspiration and let things build. Normally something will eventually come along, even if I force myself to sit down and begin I've given it enough space to have something ready. 
What consequences, if any, do you think there are in having a badly written first line?
I put the book down. The end.

What's your favourite first line that you've ever read? And can you recall a worst?
"The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." - The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Series), Stephen King. It was the moment when I realised the power of a first line because I picked the book up in the book store, read it, read no more but bought it straight away and went home and demolished the whole series.
What is one of your own best first lines?
"Aroset put a bullet into his head." Clean, immediate conflict, someone's gonna die.
We're all sharing here! What's one of your worst first lines?
"Oh my God, what the hell is Brett doing?" This beginning grates me to the core. All I hear is a whiny teenager, probably because that's exactly what I was at the time I wrote it!
Do you have any suggestions for other authors on how to write a great first line? Have you heard any great advice yourself?
I think one of the best things I learned in writing in general was to bring action in to the present. Make it punchy, and alarming. Don't be afraid to shock your reader! 
What are some things a first line *shouldn't* be? What are some things that you've read in first lines that really rubs you the wrong way?
Info dumping. No matter what the genre of the book- and it happens more often in things like fantasy and sci fi, which is probably why I don't read a lot of it- it shouldn't start with a hill and a half of information.

Scarlett Rugers (writing as Scarlett Archer) has just released a book 1001 First Lines which is now available at Amazon! You can purchase a paperback, .lit, .epub, .mobi and PDF versions here:
She has been writing for over fifteen years, completed over eleven novels, and her main drive is in speculative fiction or its contrasting opposite romantic comedic novels. She has a passion for studying the art of story telling and is a grand lover of movies. Her focus in work is book cover designs which enables her to put all her energy in to the area she loves most- literature. You can get in touch with her about getting a book cover designed for you at


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