#FirstLineFriday is a new feature for my blog. It’s a series I’ve been thinking about for some time and I hope to use it to highlight a book every month or so that has an amazing first line.
We all know how important first impressions are, and as a writer, I spend a lot of time sweating over that first line. Not only do I want to hook my reader, but I want my first line to say something about the character, or the story. It needs to be relevant. It also needs to set the tone for things to come.
More, though, I want my reader to get to the end of that line, to the end of the first paragraph, and not think, “I want to know more.” I want them to simply keep reading—because they didn’t have to think. I mean, a pause for a “Wow, cool first line” would be awesome, but more importantly, I want them already involved in the story. Therefore, a first line also needs to be easy to read and digestible. I’ve made the mistake of putting too flowery a line at the top, hoping to impress editors and readers with my literary brilliance, only to have them answer back with, “But what does it mean?”
So: simple, important, evocative, emotional… It’s a lot to ask of one sentence.
This month, I’m featuring a book that does all of that with the first line and the first paragraph, and I knew as soon as I got past the opening, that I’d be using this book to launch my new series.
Here’s what I mean:
Sometimes, when I’m listening to music, it’s like I’m standing in the middle of this whirlwind of sound, and it washes over me. Like I’ve fallen into the melody and it’s everywhere, surrounding me and inside me. And it clicks something on, some switch in my mind or my heart, and for those few minutes, everything is right. Good. Like it makes sense. And nothing else matters.
This is from Scratch Track (Escaping Indigo #3) by Eli Lang. The very first line pulled me right into a whirlwind of sound, as do all of Eli’s books. She’s a talented writer, whose evocative prose flows like the melody Quinn is falling into in the second line.
What I love most about this line and this paragraph, though, is that even before getting to know Quinn, I felt as though I knew Quinn. I identified with him immediately and I knew what his story was going to be about. Music, yes, and his love of it. But also about finding places outside the music where his life would make sense. The idea of that called to me because this is all of us. We all have our refuge—a space or activity that makes us feel safe. Most of us can’t exist inside our refuge forever, though. There’s this thing called life—and more often than not, it’s worth living.
The other element of this paragraph that really moves me is the “moment” of it. Eli’s books are full of moments. It’s one of my favourite things about her as a writer. Her characters are introspective and their thoughts often stumble through or pause at those same abstract thoughts as mine do. They’re thinkers and observers. What this means, over the course of the book, is that Quinn and Nick feel like real people. There is a scene where Quinn does not do what was probably convenient to the plot and I could fully imagine him putting his foot down and saying, “I’m not ready yet” or “I’m scared.” So when it comes time for him to confront his fears, there’s this real sense of gravity to the moment. I felt, as a reader, that Quinn had grown and changed. For me, this is everything. It’s what I want out of every book.
Finally, we have the musical element, which is present in this entire series, because it’s based around the band, Escaping Indigo. Even though Quinn is not a musician, it’s obvious he loves music and is very moved by it. The mood of that and his feelings carry the book and make it ring all the right notes. Again, this is something Eli does so well—carrying a theme throughout a story and keeping to it.
So, obviously, I loved Scratch Track. It’s a book I’ll be recommending, not only because it has an awesome first line, but because it’s just a damn good story. And it’s available tomorrow for early download if you order through Riptide Publishing—Monday everywhere else.
About the Book
Being a roadie isn’t everyone’s idea of a dream job, but it’s all Quinn wants. He loves touring, loves getting to hear amazing music every night and, more than anything, loves being someone the band members of Escaping Indigo can lean on.
When Quinn joins the band in the recording studio, it’s supposed to be fun, but it only seems to remind him of doubts he thought he’d left behind—doubts about his brother’s death, his place with the band, and his ability to care for and support his friends. So when his ex, Nicky, tumbles back into his life, Quinn’s completely unprepared.
The failure of his past romance with Nicky is yet another strike against Quinn’s confidence. But Nicky’s unassuming kindness makes it hard for Quinn to resist a new entanglement. Quinn isn’t sure they won’t make the same mistakes again, but he wants a second chance, even if that means facing the past, learning to let his friends support him, and proving to Nicky that, this time, he’ll be someone Nicky can rely on.
About the Author
Eli Lang is a writer, drummer, and origami enthusiast. She lives in Arizona with too many pets and too many books.