First Line Test: YA Part 1

Amidst posting advice from the writing conference I attended in February (which I have been slacking on lately—YEEKS!), I want to start a series of first line tests on featured novels at the bookstore. After posting these, I’d love to hear your feedback if the first line hooked you and why it did.

The goal? Help you discover what first lines work, which ones don’t, possible ways to improve, etc. It’s always about growing as a writer, right? And the best way is to see what’s out there.

Definition of a First Line: A first line doesn’t necessarily have to be a single line but a few phrases that encompass the preliminary emotion/tone/imagery a reader is introduced to.

Note: I will be posting the first line then the title and author. This way, you won’t have any biases when you analyze the content/style/writing.

Your task: Give it all to me: the good and the bad. What can be improved? Could you possibly rewrite it to enhance it? Don’t be afraid to practice and see ways we can enhance it. Let’s play!

Let’s see if these published books hook you enough to buy them. Let me know in the comments below.

Analysis #1:

“As they ascended, retreating farther from the winding trails that marked the way to nearby villages, the world opened to him in its purest form: silent, ancient, mysterious.

Deadly.”

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

What do you think? For me, the writing is concise, vivid, and emotionally fueled. Even though I’m not quite sure of the conflict, the writing itself captures such an enticing tone that I’d read on.

And the conflicting ideas of ascending, retreating, and the world opening. Just the back and forth of all this, love it. Then add that the opening of the world is not something filled with rainbow and sunshine but one that is “silent, ancient, mysterious” and (my favorite part) “deadly.”

Yes, please.

Analysis #2:

“When the white noise went off, we were in the Garden, pulling weeds.

I always reacted badly to it. It didn’t matter if I was outside, eating in the Mess Hall, or locked in my cabin. When it came, the shrieking tones blew up like a pipe bomb between my ears. Other girls at Thurmond could pick themselves up after a few minutes, shaking off nausea and disorientation like the loose grass clinging to their camp uniforms. But me? Hours would pass before I was able to piece myself back together.

This time should have been no different.

But it was.”

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Whoops! Chose the same author, but that’s what happens when you select books at random on the featured shelf. This one took a few more lines to build, but just like the first one, tension is introduced right away. However, unlike Analysis #1, the first line inspires a multitude of questions:

  • What is this “white noise”?
  • How did it affect her differently this time?
  • What the heck is the white noise?! Tell me!

The only thing I would clean up is the ambiguous pronoun of “it.” Before “it” is used in the second line, we are introduced to three things: white noise, Garden, weeds. So what did the MC react badly to?

But then afterwords, love the way tension is set up by going from “this time should have been no different” to “but it was.” 

Poignant.

Analysis #3:

“We have three rules for being Alicia: always wear the diamond pendant; never sleep with any of the guys; and after five dates, they’re history, no matter how hot they are. Right now, I’m especially glad for rule number three, because this particular guy seems determined to break rule number two.”

The Third Twin CJ Omololu

Good tension right away. The first part of the first line had me curious: “We have three rules for being Alicia.” SAY WHAT?! I immediately thought, how can three people be one person, and what the heck is going on?

I sense a wonderful psychological mess in this, and I love me so psychological messes lol (please mind trip me all day!)? Why the rules? And what is so particular about this guy? And why five dates? Yes. Yes. Yes.

————

So what do you guys think? Share below and let me know 🙂

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I think this is a great idea. I always know whether or not I’m gonna like a book by the first line. I particularly liked Bracken’s lines and now I’m gonna google her, which means her first lines are doing their jobs correctly. Look forward to seeing what else you choose! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah! I was pleasantly surprised by Bracken’s consistent intriguing opening lines. I will definitely be buying some of her works.

      And thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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