Great First Lines

This prompt is one of my favorites, and one I’ve found to be incredibly effective while writing on my own or in a group. How it works is you choose seven opening sentences from short stories or novels and type them on a single page, numbering them from one to seven. Once you have your page of seven, read each sentence closely and choose one to use as a springboard for your piece — that is, as the opening line in a piece of prose or poem. For example, here’s a list of seven sentences I’ve used over the years:

 

 1. In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.

 2. He woke, and remembered dying.

 3. As I write, night is falling and people are going to dinner.

 4. It was a bad beginning.

 5. In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.

 6. To be sixteen on a July Saturday was heaven.

 7. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

Of course, feel free to use the above list (a quick Google search of any of these sentences should tell you where each comes from). However, I do encourage you to come up with your own list, as you’ll find that a byproduct of this prompt is you grow familiar, if you’re not already, with the type of evocative and compelling opening lines that hook a reader (as well as a writer).

I should also point out that when I use this prompt in a group setting, I like to give each writer their own page with the seven sentences on it and let them keep it. So, if you plan to use the prompt in a group setting, make sure to print out a bunch (on recycled paper, of course).

As always, I welcome any and all comments (including other great first lines to use) on the above prompt or on any other. I can be reached, any time, at prompts@nywriterscoalition.org.