Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Killer First Sentence Whiparound

What seems like a compelling first sentence on your laptop may look, well...puny, when you send it out into the Sea of Query.



I've been marking up some memoir queries for an upcoming podcast (details to come) and almost every single query stumbled at the start.

The only way to get better is to practice, so let's.

Post the first sentence of your query letter in the comments column.

I'll take a look and make some comments about what worked, what didn't and hopefully some cogent reasons on why.

I'm not going to do a zillion of these; when there are enough I'm going to close the comments.

Comments are now closed.
To see my take on the first lines, go here

51 comments:

Sarah G said...

Wheelchair-bound Michelle sees the world from a different angle, and is the first to notice her city is slowly disappearing.

Kitty said...

Susie’s sixteen-year-old son told the school his mother had died.

Timothy Lowe said...

Hit man and part-time alpaca farmer Gabriel Garcia has got problems.

Kate said...

In twelve months, the supercomputer grafted to eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah’s brain will kill her.

Stothers said...

When his father walks out on the family, Ryan assumes it is his fault.

LynnRodz said...

It's a time of hope and change in France, but for Michel it's a daily struggle to survive on the streets of Paris.

c. sciriha said...

Seventeen-year-old Maia doesn’t remember her past lives.

Melissa said...

Claire Luddig needs a makeover--What Not to Wear applied not just to her clothes, but to her life.

Aphra Pell said...

Rebecca Lydney knows the death of her maid will be called a suicide - she fears a murderer is counting on it

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Landscape shutterbug, Addison McDonel, hadn’t counted on having to enter a hospital again.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Miguel sets out to sabotage Emily Dunhill's nomination for the Cascadia Humanitarian Prize.

JulieWeathers said...

April 1861 and the nation teeters on the brink of war.

DB said...

Professor Peter Wright remembers everything.

SimonFrancisDowling said...

With his Dad in a comma, Francis Carter finds himself reflecting on his own childhood, and the strange events that landed him in New York City.

C. Dan Castro said...


Trisha Leiferkus read 103 degrees on the “borrowed” thermometer.

Jenn Griffin said...

Batty Betty finds an abandoned young boy in her woods and takes him home--for keeps.

Kat Waclawik said...

Ryena wants to go home.

Mister Furkles said...

Miranda doesn't want to be a witch.


[Okay, so I like short sentences. Sometime without a verb. Here is one from a published novel: "Dogs, undistinguishable in mire." Got an adverb--dictionary says adjective--but no verb. This is the novel's first sentence: "London." Missing a lot, but does identify location without pleonasms.]

Richelle Elberg said...

A pile of dead coyotes rotting in the desert is shocking, but it’s the discovery of two bloated human bodies--hidden amidst the carnage--that really gives Detective Em Thayer a jolt.

Dena Pawling said...


The other kids on the bright-white planet call her Smudge.

Cheyenne said...

Elowen smiled as the needle punched her skin.

Fearless Reider said...
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Megan V said...

If sixteen-year-old theater aficionado Murphy Doherty wants to keep her leprechaun magic, then she must grant three wishes to the next person that captures her heart.

CaroGirl said...

A mentally-ill black man dies during a violent arrest, and a city erupts in protest.

Luralee said...

Being on display in a spiked iron cage on the hottest day of the year is painful and humiliating, but not as serious as his other problem.

Four lights said...

Ashley should have been dead already.

Sherryl and Meredith said...

DS Mal Forrest, on sick leave after being stabbed by an informant, is forced to return to his derelict childhood home to clear up the mess left by his dead father.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Gloria was crying when she called to tell me Dana was gone.

from Roll Away the Stone
growing up in the 60’s

Colleen said...


Unlike the first line of other posts, my query is not the start of the story. So, maybe my first line (below) is a problem.

Complete at 79,875 words, LOSING IT? is a thriller with the flavor of Agatha Christie and Gillian Flynn mixed in equal parts, and topped off with a splash of Stephen King.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Phaedra damned herself by chasing her murderer straight into Hell.

Fearless Reider said...
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french sojourn said...
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travelkat said...

When a misfit South Dakota farm girl discovers that her mysterious blood disorder is really the result of magic, she decides to attend a supernatural boarding school on Martha’s Vineyard to try to find a cure for her curse, but when the school is attacked by dark forces, she must choose to embrace her true nature so she can save her school and the magical creatures in it that she has grown to love.

Just Jan said...

All Cecilia Brown wants is to enjoy Easter dinner with her family.

french sojourn said...


Dragonfly and Mir;

When Col. Charles Lockhart saw the fire burning in her eyes, he bought her, forever to be his little Dragonfly.

Kate Higgins said...

This time she was absolutely, positively going to win, this time she was going to cheat the right way.

Lmnoyes said...

It’s not that I don’t love the men I sleep with. I just don’t love them after we get out of bed, or off the couch, the rug, or wherever we’ve satisfied ourselves”

Unknown said...

You said "memoir" so...

At the age of eight I ran away from home – all the way to my backyard.

Jeanne said...

Schoolteacher Alison Bountiful has a little problem and he's buried in her backyard.

Kelly said...

Seventeen-year-old Coralie Jones thought she knew what love was.

NLiu said...

Carmine longs to be swallowed by a black hole; she hasn't reckoned on finding one at the back of a DIY store.

Jennifer Delozier said...

Dead men tell no tales—unless their photos hang on the walls of Cassie McConnell’s crumbling Philadelphia mansion.

Fearless Reider said...

Franny knows she can't keep dodging the sheriff.

Fearless Reider said...
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MacCarey said...

Stanton Porter realizes even her latest job with a traveling circus can't help her escape the shadow of her famous artist father when she receives a postcard from him, two weeks after he died.

Jen said...

Autumn wants nothing more than to live a normal life, but that’s hard to do when your dad is the Grim Reaper.

Curt David said...

Thiago is pushed through a portal to a magical world...by his father

Kregger said...

Twelve-year-old Calvin Jones speaks to birds.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Widowed Lizzie Christopher is building a new life as an interior design shop manager in Jericho, a small Ohio college town.

Rip it to shreds!

Mindy said...

The fate of every child is cast the moment they're born.

Sara said...

Rebecca wants to be a real detective, but for now, she uses her sleuthing skills for geocaching, following GPS coordinates to hidden treasure.