I am certain by now everyone has seen the Facebook meme about eating chocolate cake for breakfast.


Growing up there were all sorts of rules about what you could wear, what you could eat when, what time you went to bed. You name it, there were rules about it. And when you are growing up, rules are probably a good thing. I know for a fact had I been allowed to do as I please growing up the results would have been disastrous at best and felonious at worst. (Assuming it was a felony to tie your baby brother to a Welsh pony and send it galloping across the fields of Suffolk. Not that I would know anything about that.)


In writing, as in life, there are also rules. But after twelve years of devoting hours of my life every single day to writing, I have to admit.



But I am in good company !!


‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’

W. Somerset Maugham


Do not, however, panic. There are some good rules out there. The best part? As a grown up and a writer, you get to pick the ones you use! That’s almost as good as chocolate cake for breakfast! Almost. And for the next couple of segments on this feature on FIRST LINES, we’re going to gather some of these rules as set out by writers making far more money than most of us make to help us hone some great first lines.

This week’s rule is :




Sounds easy, right? BUT, to quote one of those artisan money makers I spoke of earlier,

“A really bad first line can convince me not to buy a book — because, God, I’ve got plenty of books already — and an unappealing style in the first moments is reason enough to scurry off.”

Stephen King


Well, great. If Stephen King, who has more money than God, won’t buy a book with a bad first line, what chance do we have? Plenty!! VIVID. Remember that word. Look up the synonyms for it. Live with it for a while, and then write it. You want to see a vivid first line by someone you know, you say?


I stood beside the booth and poured coffee into a beige cup that had the words Firelight Grill written across it, wondering if I should tell my customer, Mr. Pettigrew, about the dead stripper sitting next to him. 

The Dirt on Ninth Grave

Darynda Jones


Do you see it, because I certainly do. It drops an image of the scene right into your lap and then drops a dead stripper in there to boot. THAT is VIVID !!


How about this one?


The bullet whistled past Sebastian’s ear, coming within an inch of solving all of his problems, and half an inch of making a significant mess instead.

The Traitor

Grace Burrowes


This one paints a vivid picture of the scene and of the character. Cool, right?


So how about it artisan wordsmiths? What makes a first line vivid for you? Tell us about it, and then post your most vivid first lines. We cannot wait to read them!


18 responses to “RULES? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ RULES !!”

  1. This one is a struggle for me. I don’t suppose I’m much of a vivid writer. I think I gravitate toward short, punchy first lines because I like something that intrigues. That raises a question. My current first line is literally two words. A sentence fragment. Not much vivid in that. I fail at this one! 🙂

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    Those are fabulous first lines, and a great rule to live by!!

    Remember, VIVID has its roots in “vivere,” the Latin verb TO LIVE.

    A good first line has to bring the moment TO LIFE.

  3. Wow! Thank you for sharing one of my first lines! I do like that one. And that one by Grace. Holy cow, that’s awesome. I want that book now.

    I always feel like my first lines are too long. The one in the upcoming A Bad Day for Sunshine tends to prove that. LOL.

    Sunshine Vicram pushed down the dread and sticky knot of angst in her chest and wondered, yet again, if she were ready to be sheriff of a town even the locals called the Psych Ward.

    Great post, Louisa!!!

    • That is another awesome first line, Darynda! It gives us an immediate sense of who she is and makes us want to know what on earth is in store for her!

      The thing about a vivid first line is, it doesn’t have to be short. It simply has to simmer with words that make the world of that book come instantly to life!

  4. EKBATTLE says:

    I hid by the edge of my old large wooden frame window, the coarse fabric of the curtain brushed my cheek as I peered out onto the street below slowly sipping my now cold morning coffee trying to assess him; slight build, jeans, gray cotton hoodie, my stalker was being brazen today.

    Not really sure if it’s just a big run on sentences. 🙂

    • That is a terrific first line, EK !! You paint this VIVID picture of a scene to which we can all relate. You evoke the senses – touch, taste. You anchor us in this normal little scene and then WHAM!! there is the “Holy shit!” moment, as I call it. GREAT JOB!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      “my stalker was being brazen today”…yeah, that’s a good one!!!

  5. Interesting thought on first lines.

    I’m going to be brave and post one of mine–from Perfect Moments. It’s probably my most vivid first line, since I too like to start with lines that makes the reader ask a question.

    From Perfect Moments

    Under the watchful eyes of the Frankfort authorities, the C-130J’s engines roared to life as Corporal Elizabeth Kincaid and twenty other members of her U.S. National Guard unit and two platoons of army personnel made their way across the snowy tarmac.

    Can I have cake now?

  6. Thanks for this one, Autumn, as it puts me in Frankfurt in the snow. Something I would dearly like as the temp tomorrow in Hellabama is supposed to reach 99 degrees!

    This line touches on the sound of the engines roaring and the chill of the weather to set a scene of beauty juxtaposed against the obvious images of war. Great job!

  7. And yes, Autumn! You can have cake now !!


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