Yesterday I posted a Match the Genre task. I have heard that your first sentence should scream genre. The object was to match the first sentence of some Best Seller Top Ten novels to their respective genre.
My conclusion is that this might be more myth than rule. It may be true for certain genre, but not all.
Here is the key:
- Paranormal Romance, B. “Women have always been the property of men.” Given to the Pack, Abby Weeks
- Fantasy, D. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.” Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
- Horror, F. “In one way, at least, our lives really are like movies.” Revival, Stephen King
- Mystery, H. “Midnight fell at The First Bank of Cleveland with the lonely clang of the great clock in the lobby.” The Dead Key, D.M. Pulley
- Science Fiction, E. “Karl Selig steadied himself on the ship’s rail and peered through the binoculars at the massive iceberg.” The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle
- Historical Fiction, A. “I believe in ghosts.” Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
- Crime Fiction, G. “Zoe recoiled from the nightmare only to find it still existed in the waking world.” The One That Got Away, Simon Wood
- Romance, C. “That fucking prick.” Prick: A Step-Brother Romance, Sabrina Paige
Certainly you could have switched the Historical Fiction and Science Fiction around. I could see the Crime Fiction one as Horror. I might have made the Mystery one as Historical Fiction (After all who hears a grand clock chime in contemporary times?). Paranormal Romance and Fantasy I might have expected, but “That fucking prick,” doesn’t sound very Romantic. Nothing much Horrific about Stephen King’s opening line.
I went back online to see some more Crime Fiction, because Crime Fiction, Horror and Mystery can be so close. Here’s what I found in some other novels in the Top Ten:
“Lori Kimball had three rules for the death race home.”
“There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks.”
“Five figures formed a pentagram around a freshly dug mound.”
“In April 2008, Neal Lagiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury.”
“After his arrest at Galaxy’s casino, Billy was handcuffed and transported to the Clark County Detention Center, where he sat chained to a chair while a knuckle-dragging deputy two-finger-typed the charges against him into a desktop.”
“Six years ago, my band’s bassist was shot dead in a New York night club.”
“Patrick sat alone.”
“’You just got out of jail?’”
“Arnie Milhouse never considered himself much of a hero.”
Running through most of these I could see Crime Fiction, but I don’t think but one or two actually screamed to me. Not like the Odd Thomas book screams paranormal suspense:
“Alone in the vastness of the Mojave, at two o’clock in the morning, racing along at seventy miles per hour, I felt safe and believed that whatever terror might await me was yet many miles ahead.”
Do you struggle with your first sentence?
Just write it until you get it right!