As promised in the previous post about first lines, here are the elements I think make a first line work. First, do I get a sense of who the character is from the first line? I am looking for hints and clues of personality, demeanor, stress or tension, anything that gives me the feeling that, although I am reading a work of fiction, this character is believable and real. Second, do I get a sense of conflict? The first line does not have to describe a life or death struggle at its most critical moment. It could be internal struggle. It could be a sense of inevitable conflict that I know must soon unfold because of the personality, demeanor, stress, or tension I detected about the character. Third, am I filled with questions after that first line? Not questions like, "What is this person talking about? It makes no sense!" But, rather, questions like, "Why is the character happy they are imprisoned?" or "What does the character fear will happen to her father if she tells her secret?"
If the first line intrigues me with an interesting character, sparks my curiosity about a conflict that character faces, and leaves me with questions I must have answered, I will read the next line of the story. And if each paragraph unfolds more of the same three elements, I will read the entire novel.
How about you? What first lines have you read and loved? No posting bad ones here unless they are your own and you want to laugh about it.