The Sword Under the Sink

Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon
One of the authors I really enjoy reading is Sarah Rees Brennan. The opening of her Demon’s Lexicon series is a great example of how to set the stage and establish character within only a few sentences.

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.


  1. I agree. It's a great opening. It gives off a vibe of humour for me, too, and indicates this won't be too heavy handed of a fantasy novel.

  2. It's that last element in your list that got me -- the juxtaposition of the mundane (leaky pipes) and the fantastical (swords, and my mind jumping to conclusions about the reason that Nick might have to hide a sword under the sink).

    I agree -- Great opening!

  3. I love that opening! I know it's going to be 1) humorous and 2) about fantasy. Two things I like!

  4. Great opening and I would definitely read more... intrigued for sure :)

    PS.... Hey I got my winning prize from your recent Olympic Blog Relay Contest today.... Thanks... WOOT!

  5. Those are great lines. It does pull the reader in well.

  6. That is a really good opening. Definitely has me wondering why he'd put the sword under the sink. And when I start wondering, I'm pretty much drawn into the story. :-D

  7. Excellent opening! I definitely hooked me. I'll add this one to my TBR list. :)