First Lines (again!) And ‘Sunlounger’ Short List

Real CoverLast week in my class we talked about writing a gripping first line – ‘a hook’.

Whether you’re writing a short story or a novel, the first line is pretty important.

On that recent BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘Suspended Sentence’ (which is still available to listen to here, if you’re quick), someone says that the first line of a novel should be the equivalent of a ‘come hither’ look. (ooh err). Ideally, it should entice, tease, tantalise and make you want more…

I gave the class some first lines from novels that they probably wouldn’t recognise (ie: not ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…’) and asked them to ‘write on’ for a line or two. And then we read the ‘real’ ones to see how they compared. Although I say so myself, it was fun.

And if you want to have a go, how about this one (which isn’t one of those that I gave the class):

‘I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man’.*

(I’ll ‘reveal all’ at the bottom of the post).

Bridport Prize – closing date 31st May

There are just 10 days to get your entry/entries in to the Bridport Prize! Eeek – as usual, I have left it all too late but I have an existing story that I might be able to polish up a bit.

You can listen to the winning short story, flash fiction and poem from last year here. And if you only have time for one, listen to Claudia Daventy’s beautiful poem about love – ‘Alakazam’ – which conjures up (ha!) so many pictures, uses so many senses, is deceptive in its simplicity and is just…well, enviably good. (*sighs*)

And In Other News

I’ve got an interview for a part-time job (yes, another part-time job, on top of the class and my ‘tutoring’ for the Writers Bureau. If I get enough of these little jobs together, it might all add up to a half-decent income..)

PLUS, I’ve made the shortlist of a ‘chick lit’ short story competition! It’s the ‘Sunlounger’ competition. Stories had to be set in ‘a sunny destination outside the UK’ and the winner ‘will have their story published in the SUNLOUNGER (e-book) anthology alongside 30+ of the hottest names in women’s fiction as well as receive a consultation with esteemed literary agent Madeleine Milburn and take home a pink carry-on case filled with 21 travel goodies (including a Pan Am flight bag and a luxury cashmere Travelwrap!)’

Ooh ooh, exciting!

The winner will be announced on 1st June (when, funnily enough, I will be overseas myself – in Milan, hopefully in the sunshine).

Anyway, they’ve published the first few lines of each of the shortlisted stories – scroll down the page a bit. As they’re in alphabetical order, needless to say, mine is last – and they’ve spelled my name wrong but hey, I’m used to that!

There are some great first lines there. A stolen super-yacht! ‘You may have missed your wedding but you’re not going to miss your honeymoon..’ .. yes, impressive.

I’m afraid my first few lines are pretty un-hooky (yes, I’ve just made up that word) BUT the story hots up, honest and it has a rather nifty little structure which they haven’t revealed in the paragraph they’ve printed. Anyway, it’s great to be in the 10 shortlisted, even if my story doesn’t get any further. It’s a story I wrote a while ago (probably, ahem, when I was still young enough to be a ‘chick lit’ writer!!) and I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for it.

I will keep you posted….

* The opening line is from Harlan Coben’s new novel ‘Six Years’. You can read the opening few pages here.

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11 Responses to First Lines (again!) And ‘Sunlounger’ Short List

  1. Congratulations on the short-listing, Helen!

  2. How exciting, good luck Helen; hope you get the job, I’m looking as well.

  3. Wendy Clarke says:

    The first line game you played is one I used to play with my year six class. I called it ‘The Hook’. They used to love playing it. I would read out all the first lines and they’d have to guess which was the real one – usually they’d get it wrong!

  4. Tracy Fells says:

    Ooh well done on the shortlisting for Sunloungers Helen. I read yours and was definitely hooked and wanted to read on so what are you whinging about! Good Luck!!
    I loved the R4 Suspended Sentences – really quite funny, but made me very nervous about first lines. And thanks for link to Bridport winners. My story is ready, just needs proof-reading and all that, this year I so want to make the shortlist (having been trying for 3 years…). Good luck with your entry too.

    • Tracy
      Yes, the Bridport is the ‘biggie’, isn’t it?? I always think the standard is impossibly high but then again, you never quite know what will impress a judge so it’s always worth a go…! Good luck with your entry this year!

  5. Downith says:

    Congratulations on the shortlisting Helen. Good luck!

  6. Clare Banks says:

    Many congratulations on the Sunlounger competition, Helen. Can’t wait to read the rest of the story. Totally “hooked” on the first lines. Looking forward to class on Thursday. x

  7. Linda says:

    Good luck with the job interview, although you won’t need it if you win the Sunlounger comp and get to meet that agent and she helps you to publish a bestseller and ….!
    (I’m going off to revise the first line of my novel.)

  8. Julia says:

    I’ve finally found time to listen to ‘Suspended Sentence’, which made me smile at his words and worry about my own writing in equal measure. How about: ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. (Little Women)

  9. Pingback: Writing the first line | Pen and I

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