Ignore the classics. I am lying, of course but, if you are still reading, then that first sentence was a success. The only thing a first sentence needs to do is keep the reader moving down the page. But somehow it is the most stressful sentence of almost every text.


I can’t tell you how many times I have given up an idea for a story because I could not move beyond the first sentence until it was perfect. The single most important piece of advice I can give about first sentences is that you can not force them. You can’t squeeze your fingers around the words and will them into existence. There is an art to writing a first sentence, and it’s actually a lot easier than you might think.

First, you must ask yourself what you want from that first sentence. There are  some important elements that should be present in your first paragraph, and you should aim to have at least one of these in your first sentence:

  • A desire to keep reading
  • A sense of urgency
  • A voice

Every writer wants their first sentence to be groundbreaking, to be remembered along with all the Ishmaels, all the best of times, and all the worst of times. Forget it. Allow the idea of greatness to leave your mind, let yourself spend your energy on writing, not on dreaming. The words will come, in your own voice, if you let them. Remember; no author will ever find their work to be perfect (unless they are a liar).

If you are still stuck, write a few pages of dribble. Eventually, your mind will turn to your story, and then something golden will surface in the mud. This might take longer than you expect. But you must let it flow, or else that first sentence might be your last.

What is your favorite first sentence? Why do you think its so damn good?