Chapter 10 of 22 from James Patterson

First Lines

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Grab your reader's attention quickly and make them hold on for dear life. James shares his tips for getting your reader hooked from the very first line.

Topics include: Favorite first lines • Keep pulling the reader in • Get your reader invested • Involve the reader quickly • Don’t be afraid to rewrite

James Patterson

James Patterson Teaches Writing

James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.

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I don't want to over stress the importance of first lines. It's just that they can really give you an advantage. You're reaching out from that book, grabbing a hold of that reader, and sucking them right into your book-- or not. And if you pull them right in, you've got them. You've got that agent. You've got that editor. You've got your reader. Suck them right in, and insofar as if they're staying right there and you haven't pulled them at all, you probably lost them. If you get them this far, that's probably good too. OK, there now, I'm leaning. I'm leaning with you. You know, so far, so good. So far, so good works. That's OK. If the reader is going, OK, yeah, what happens next? I'm cool with it. And sometimes it is just like, boom, I am in hook, line, and sinker. And that's the best. Especially trying to sell that first novel. Here we are again. The dreaded first page-- what to do about it. A really terrific sportswriter name Red Smith, and he said writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. So that's kind of what that first page is about. Obviously one of the keys is just the first line. Along Came A Spider-- first Alex Cross book-- starts, "Early on the morning of December 21, 1992, I was the picture of contentment on the sun porch of our house on 5th Street in Washington, D.C." That was my first line. Yeah, it gives you a lot of information. Not a great first line, but, you know, I'm-- so far, I'm OK. I'm getting into it. You've Been Warned, which was a horror book, the first line there in the prologue, "It's way too early in the morning for dead people." Once again, give me an idea of what kind of book it is. Private series about a private investigation company and a relatively young guy that runs it. And the first line is, "To the best of my understandably shaky recollection, the first time I died, it went something like this." That's a pretty cool first line actually if I do give myself some credit. In Kiss The Girls, the first line is, "For three weeks, the young killer actually lived inside the walls of an extraordinary 15 room beach house." For me, I'm there. The idea of somebody living in my house-- a killer inside the walls-- and what you'll find out in the next couple of chapters is the people are in the house while he's living inside the walls. That's very dramatic. It's very scary. It would scare the pants out of most readers. And if it happened in real life, it'd really scared the hell out of you. I always feel that if I haven't given them something in the first chapter, it's bad news. I have to have grabbed them a bit. Maximum Ride-- once again, in terms of what you can do in a scene. We open up with children, and they range from seven years old to 14 or 15. They're running like banshees, they're esca...

Set out to write a best-selling book

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade for the very first time. In this course, he guides you through every part of the book writing process.

22 lessons totaling 3+ hours of video from James covering everything from starting your outline to getting published.

Each video lesson is paired with notes, reading materials, and assignments to make sure you get the most out of your class.

Submit your rough drafts and assignments for feedback from other students taking the class (and possibly James himself!).

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James Patterson

James Patterson Teaches Writing