The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence? To participate in this weekly book meme is extremely easy.

  1. Grab the book you are currently reading and open to the first page.
  2. Write down the first sentence in the first paragraph.
  3. Create a blog post with this information. (Make sure to include the title & author of the book you are using. Even an ISBN helps!)
  4. Did this first sentence help draw you into the story? Why or why not?

The dangerously high level of the stupidity surplus was once again the lead story in The Owl that morning.

The only reason this sentence didn’t draw me into the story is that I’ve read all the other Thursday Next novels and knew I would read this one. If I didn’t already have that relationship with the books, this sentence would have drawn me in.

There are so many ways that sentence could have been structured, most of them inferior. Look at it: The first meaningful word is “dangerously”. Danger is always an attention-getter. “Dangerously high levels” is a common news construction, one we all recognize instantly. It focuses our attention when we hear an announcer say it–dangerously high levels of what? where? here? how high is dangerously high?–and it focuses our attention here. Three words (well, four, including “the”), and we’re hooked. Then what? “The dangerously high levels of the stupidity surplus”. Now we’ve tripped, stumbled, slipped on a banana peel. Oh, ha, ha, the author made a joke. But before we can dismiss it as mildly clever, Fforde continues, “was once again the lead story in the Owl”. No, it wasn’t meant to be a joke, it was meant to be taken seriously. In the world of this book, stupidity–which we all know exists–can be measured and deemed to be dangerously high–which we all know is often the case–and is cause for serious reportage. The last two words, “that morning”, grounds us firmly into the narrative.

Even if I didn’t already know it from the previous books, I would now know–or, at least, sense–that this world works like this world, only differently. That paradox is a great part of the relish of the series. I would also know that Jasper Fforde is a wonderful technician in addition to his imaginative powers. I’m always happy to go on a ride with him, though some of his characters are, yes, dangerous drivers.


writing prompt: Do your own analysis of a first line.