|Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon|
Here are the first two lines of her book:
The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink.
Now, let’s look at everything we know from these lines.
- The pipe’s leaking – The house is old.
- It’s leaking again – This is a recurring problem, and Nick has apparently fixed it before.
- Nick thinks it’s not so bad – He’s not living in luxury, leaky pipes are the norm for him.
- That’s where Nick keeps his favorite sword – He likes swords more than the average guy. He has more than one sword, enough to make this one his favorite. He has to hide it, rather than carry it out in the open or keep it in some sort of weapons safe. Might indicate he’s on the run.
- We also know the world’s going to be a mix of fantasy (sword) and reality (indoor plumbing)
That’s quite a lot of info for two lines, and it's doubly powerful because those lines do an awesome job of pulling in the reader, too.
Look at your own first line. Or, if you’re ambitious, the first couple lines of each chapter. Write down what readers learn about your characters and world from those sentences alone. Are there opportunities to do more? The trick is not to go overboard with cramming in detail, but rather to leave enough intrigue that we want to continue reading to get the full picture.