Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lisa Yee: First and Last Sentences

Lisa Yee is the the award-winning author of many novels for children, including Millicent Min, Girl Genius, which won the first Sid Fleischman Humor Award in 2004.

You might also know her because of her famous pal, Peepy.

Lee Yee works the room.

The crowd is playing a game with Lisa Yee: Name That Line. After reading through well-known first lines and trying to name the title, the room now goes through, choosing their favorite three, and thinking about why they chose them.

Here's a sampling:

"All children, except one, grow up." ~ Peter Pan

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." ~ The Graveyard Book

"If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it."~ The Teacher's Funeral

First lines are very personal. They sets the tone for your story. With that line you're giving a clue as to who is telling the story.

There's no formula for the perfect first line. Lisa likes to think of first lines like food. They can be an appetizer (a bit of a taste or a tease), an entree (nice and meaty), or dessert (really lovely and delicious). A first line needs to wet the appetite.

Check out Nancy Pearl's Book Crush to find lists of things in books for kids/teen, like great first lines. You'll find the first line of Millicent Min, Girl Genius included in that list of great first lines.

Here it is:

"I've been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like that's a bad thing."

Definitely worthy of that list.

What makes a great last line?

If your first line is the promise of the story, your last line is the payoff.

When you write your last line it can be helpful to know what you are writing towards as you draft.

Don't ignore that you have first and last lines within a book. Pay attention to those too, like the first and last lines of a chapter.

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