The First Line

Ladies of Mystery

In every creative writing class the instructor is sure to note at some point the importance of the first line. These few words should grab the reader, and lead her into the rest of the story. We all know the classic first lines by Tolstoy and Chekhov and Chandler and Christie, but those don’t really help us with writing our own. I didn’t always recognize the brilliance of some first lines, which made coming up with my own even harder.

At first the issue seemed to be to write something intriguing. For the first book in the Mellingham series, I wrote and rewrote the first line along with the first chapter, writing, in the end, three first chapters and stacking them one in front of the other. In the end I was persuaded to cut most of them, and I ended up with what I thought was a pretty good…

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