What Makes a Good First Sentence?

Some thoughts on first sentences in a novel or short story (Descriptions, not prescriptions (or proscriptions)).

-It grabs the reader. Makes them want to read the second sentence.
-It reveals character.
-It establishes tone.
-It might establish the setting.
-It carries some thematic weight.
-It takes the top of your head off.
-It puts the top of your head back on.
-The whole story is contained within it.
-The whole world is contained within it.
-It contains some action – or some kind of movement.-
-It is short.
-It is long.
-It contains some kind question mark with the promise of revelation.
-It is a pure delight to say outloud.
-Its rhythms and pace and volume are striking.
-It shifts or contradicts itself.
-It holds sensory info – smells, colors, flavors, sounds, texture.
-It is flat, deadpan, no-nonsense.
-It is an understatement.
-It is an overstatement.
-It states an idea.
-It reveals the voice of the narrator.
-It draws attention to itself.
-It pushes attention away from itself and serves the story rather than the writer.


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