The power and potential of your opening sentences
Featuring live critiques and a guest appearance by Dani Shapiro (Part I)
This is the paid version of Before and After the Book Deal in which I offer critiques of subscriber’s work. Upgrade to participate!
Yesterday, I read Dani Shapiro’s new novel “Signal Fires.” It is the kind of book that you must read in a day: it is that urgent and that intimate. It’s moving, it’s epic, and it will yank on your heartstrings.
I want to share the first sentence of Dani’s Book with you. Spoiler alert: it’s a stunner.
If you read “Signal Fires,” you will understand how much of the plot, character development, and emotional thrulines depend on this first sentence—it’s masterful work, truly. Additionally, the doubt and hope reflected in this opening vacillation (“And it’s nothing, really, or might be nothing, or ought to be nothing,”) will run through the entire novel in monumental ways.
Should all first sentences read like this? (Virtuoso, stretchy, all encompassing.) Should all first sentences function like this? (As a welcome mat for the whole book.) Well…yes? Or if not yes, you should at least aim for this level of intention in your creative writing.
It was this opening sentence that inspired me to ask for yours, and my goodness, did you deliver! I got an astonishing number of submissions, so many that I’ll be breaking some of them down into themes. Today, we’ll be looking at what I’m classifying as “Pinch of salters”—opening lines that are almost nearly there, but need a little something and “the long-haired” sentences that need a trim to shine.