First Lines

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When you have a novel, the cover is what attracts a potential reader's attention, but what keeps it is usually a combination of the back cover copy and the first lines of the text itself. Of those three things, only one is in the author's direct control - which is why those first lines are so desperately important.

Even before a novel is published, the first lines need to shine. They're an agent's first taste of a writer's style and voice if you go the commercial publishing route. If you choose to self-publish, then it's those lines that will be showcased in the "Look Inside" feature to allow readers to decide if they want to read any further.

It shouldn't take more than a page, and ideally no more than a couple of sentences, to establish the age group and genre a novel is targeted for. To that end, I've pulled the following lines out of my WIP folder. They each come from a different novel. Some are MG, some YA. Some are 1st person, some are 3rd. Some are contemporary and some are fantasy or sci-fi. I've decided to put the first line theory to the test.

Can you tell, from just these opening lines, and without the context of a title or cover image, which of these are MG and which are YA?

  1. The whole thing began rather simply, as is often the case in bizarre or fantastic circumstances.
  2. The voices of the dead never truly leave - they become the wind, and roam the barren places of the world seeking solace. 
  3. It's said that the children of Rhin are born with bells  in their hair.
  4. A storm was raging, and for this O'Keefe Sinclair was grateful.
  5. Some say you can tell when a person died by the color of their soul.
  6. I suppose it's no one's fault, but I choose to blame the boys.
  7. Micah was already running when the building exploded.
  8. It takes 1800 mg of Ketamine to knock out a draft horse.
  9. The snow came down in a swirl of rain and ash and blood, and in the distance, the Golden City burned.
  10. "It's like life, only more exciting, with better clothes, and a nicer car.
  11. No matter you may have heard, it was not Tanner's idea to fly Bobby Steiner's jersey from the flagpole with Bobby still inside it.

2 Chiming In:

Michael Seese said...

My guesses:

(FELLOW READER: Stop here if you want to offer your $0.02)

1 MG
2 YA
3 MG
4 YA
5 YA
6 MG
7 YA
8 YA
9 YA
10 MG
11 MG

Zoƫ said...

My guesses... (Let us know?!)

1. MG
2. YA
3. MG
4. MG
5. YA
6. YA
7. MG
8. YA
9. YA
10. YA
11. MG

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