Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Reality Blog Challenge #1

Can you feel my words wrapping around your neck, a noose of meaning pushing against your trachea, focusing your attention on their very existence and how they have taken your breath away?

The opening line of any writing is very important. With mysteries, it can also immediately create suspense or just be wicked good fun.

The first sentence can establish an instant connection with the reader. Take Pari Noskin Taichert‘s beginning in The Socorro Blast:

If hell exists, it’s filled with old boyfriends…and a cat.

Just from those 11 words, I bought the book!

Wayne Arthurson began Fall From Grace with:

“Do you want to see the body?”

The speaker of these words is not identified in this first line. So a reader wants to know who is saying this. Yes, I’m taking it for granted we mystery lovers were expecting a body, and frankly are delighted to have found one so soon! Wayne earned bonus points with me, because, having read the book, I know these words actually drive a great deal of the plot, suspense and character. Who can resist wanting to read more?

Your challenge, should you choose to rise to it….Find and post a gripping first line from a mystery.

I encourage all of our team to rally around good examples or razz any weak ones. Deadline is June 27th.

With this dare, I hereby relax the verbal rope snaked about you. As your heart pounds and your lungs fill, remember the thrill. Go forth and seek it anew!


  1. "If it hadn't been raining and blowing that raw Tuesday morning in March, I would have been out, walking to the bank to deposit a couple of checks, when Austin Byrne phoned me, and he might have tried someone else."
    Champagne for One, Rex Stout

  2. Have to mention it. One of my favourite opening lines is for a mystery that never gets finished.

    "It was a dark and stormy night..."

  3. "The thing that shocked Emily was how incredibly easy it was to hide a murder."

    (I may be cheating. It's from my own "Life Without George")

  4. One more:

    "I duck into the parking garage, hoping to escape."

    From The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz

  5. First lines are key to getting a novel going. Thanks for mentioning my line from Fall From Grace. I would also plug my first line from my previous published novel Final Season, which read, "They carried the body in a blanket, using the four corners as handles." This is not a traditional mystery, but like in Fall From Grace, the body and the carrying of it, resonates throughout the book. But one of my fav first lines comes from William Gibson's Neuromancer, the book that coined the term "cyberspace". The line reads, “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Although it doesn't establish the plot, it's brilliant in setting the atmosphere and mood to the work.

    Having a good first line is very important but writing one (and sometimes final ones) are relatively very easy. It's the stuff in the middle that's really hard.

  6. She woke in the dark. Through the slats on the window shades, the first murky hint of dawn slipped, slanting shadowy bars over the bed. It was like waking in a cell. From Naked in Death by J.D. Robb.

  7. @Alison - I looked through some Rex Stout as well. I love the Nero Wolfe mysteries. Several had first lines that were funny, if you already know the relationship between Goodwin and Wolfe. Glad to see another Rex Stout fan!

  8. As both I and the century approach the beginnings of our ninth decades, I have been forced to admit that age is not always a desirable state. The physical, of course, contributes its own flavour to life, but the most vexing problem I have found is that my past, intensely real to me, has begun to fade into the mists of history in the eyes of those around me.
    From The Beekkeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King.
    I have a distaste for pastiches, and had resolved not to read Sherlock Holmes as imagined by anyone but Conan Doyle, but scores of people recommended this book. I reluctantly checked it out of the library and began it when I finished the other book I had brought for a plane ride. She had me from the opening. I have no idea why this resonated so strongly for me. I was about 40 at the time! But it did. It is the only time that I have ever considered, at the end of a long plane ride, asking if I could just stay seated while they cleaned the plane, because I didn’t want to stop reading.