What makes a good first sentence?
Shannon Yarbrough
112

A Story Says Hello in the Street

More effective than the yanking claw, a clue clinks before an instant of silence, then a nigh-imperceptible crescendo goads and promises.

That’s what I’d like to do with first sentences.

Music uses the effect often. This song demonstrates it:

There’s some whisper, and then a long quiet. You know something’s about to happen. The seconds tick away. You pressed play. There’s something about to happen. It isn’t happening, though. You begin to wonder if there’s something wrong, maybe with the technology or your ears. You grow agitated. You develop a need to know.

By then, the song has captured your mind. You are lost to it, whether you want to hear the rest or not, because you have simulated your own urgency to continue. You have invested. You have created your own need.

I want to write that kind of first sentence. The kind that paraphrases Alfred Hitchcock quote. Captivating attention isn’t a forceful act; it’s the act of creating a need to know and stoking it.

It’s a relationship thing. It ain’t the writer forcing the situation. It’s the writer encouraging a scenario where this kind of need to know would blossom.

I shall not claim to know how to do it. I do know this is what I want to do.