Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

First Sentences

A week or two ago, I read a comment suggesting that the people who go through the slush pile of story submissions often only read the first sentence of each submisssion. If you don't grab them in the first sentence, that's it.

So, I was trying to think of opening sentences that would "grab" a reader right from the start. I came up with a bunch, and mixed in some from stories I've already written. (No telling people if you recognize an opener, now!) :)

I decided to make a poll of it (what the heck, I've had a paid account for over a year and I've never yet used this "poll" feature). So, here's my question:

Pretend you're an editor for a magazine that publishes fantasy & science fiction short stories. You're going through a stack of 300 submissions, of which you need to publish maybe one or two. Which, if any, of the following would you be likely to read more of, based solely on the first sentence? Assume you know nothing whatsoever about the author; all you're going to make your decision on is this first sentence. (You do know that the length of the story falls within your publication's guidelines.)

EDIT: A few people have pointed out obvious spelling errors in these. O.O;;; I can't edit the poll itself, but please, for the purpose of this exercise, pretend that I ran these through a spell-checker. (What's really embarrassing is that I think one of these was actually submitted to a publication with an obvious spelling error in the first sentence. Argh!)

I've set this up on a scale of 1-10, with "1" as the "definitely would read". Please don't rank more than one of the options with a "1" And honesty will be appreciated more than cheering, just this once. :)

Poll #190802 That First Sentence

His last thought, just before the bullet hit his chest, was Man, I hate this part.

Mean: 4.36 Median: 3 Std. Dev 3.14
1
3(27.3%)
2
1(9.1%)
3
2(18.2%)
4
1(9.1%)
5
0(0.0%)
6
0(0.0%)
7
1(9.1%)
8
2(18.2%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
1(9.1%)

Before Michael had even come through the door and slammed his lapboard on the dining room table, his mother knew something was wrong.

Mean: 6.36 Median: 6 Std. Dev 2.77
1
1(9.1%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
1(9.1%)
4
0(0.0%)
5
2(18.2%)
6
2(18.2%)
7
2(18.2%)
8
0(0.0%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
3(27.3%)

You'd think having the powers of a god would make things easy, but somehow, it never did.

Mean: 4.73 Median: 4 Std. Dev 2.42
1
1(9.1%)
2
1(9.1%)
3
0(0.0%)
4
6(54.5%)
5
0(0.0%)
6
0(0.0%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
2(18.2%)
9
1(9.1%)
10
0(0.0%)

Although the dance club was all but deserted, it looked ready for business.

Mean: 5.73 Median: 5 Std. Dev 2.80
1
0(0.0%)
2
1(9.1%)
3
2(18.2%)
4
2(18.2%)
5
2(18.2%)
6
0(0.0%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
0(0.0%)
9
3(27.3%)
10
1(9.1%)

Aritficial Intelligence Program Selene-32J had wanted, for years, to conceive and raise a child of her own.

Mean: 5.00 Median: 4 Std. Dev 2.30
1
0(0.0%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
4(36.4%)
4
3(27.3%)
5
0(0.0%)
6
1(9.1%)
7
1(9.1%)
8
1(9.1%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
1(9.1%)

The ground beneath her cheek shook, its damp, earth scent filling her nostrils.

Mean: 5.91 Median: 7 Std. Dev 2.27
1
0(0.0%)
2
1(9.1%)
3
1(9.1%)
4
2(18.2%)
5
1(9.1%)
6
0(0.0%)
7
2(18.2%)
8
3(27.3%)
9
1(9.1%)
10
0(0.0%)

Dust motes float in the jagged amber sunlight that peeks through the broken slats on the shutters covering tall, narrow windows.

Mean: 6.55 Median: 7 Std. Dev 2.71
1
1(9.1%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
0(0.0%)
4
2(18.2%)
5
1(9.1%)
6
1(9.1%)
7
1(9.1%)
8
2(18.2%)
9
1(9.1%)
10
2(18.2%)

She would have traded her self-respect for two loaves of bread and a half-gallon of milk, but after the grocry clerk checked its worth, he had to turn her offer down.

Mean: 4.64 Median: 4 Std. Dev 2.31
1
1(9.1%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
4(36.4%)
4
1(9.1%)
5
1(9.1%)
6
2(18.2%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
1(9.1%)
9
1(9.1%)
10
0(0.0%)

Starving for ten days, it turned out, wasn't nearly as bad as she would have thought.

Mean: 5.18 Median: 5 Std. Dev 2.33
1
1(9.1%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
2(18.2%)
4
1(9.1%)
5
2(18.2%)
6
2(18.2%)
7
2(18.2%)
8
0(0.0%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
1(9.1%)

I have come to watch the world end.

Mean: 4.64 Median: 4 Std. Dev 2.90
1
0(0.0%)
2
4(36.4%)
3
1(9.1%)
4
2(18.2%)
5
0(0.0%)
6
2(18.2%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
0(0.0%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
2(18.2%)

The Weekly Wolrd News was the one who got it right.

Mean: 4.82 Median: 4 Std. Dev 1.95
1
0(0.0%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
3(27.3%)
4
4(36.4%)
5
1(9.1%)
6
1(9.1%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
1(9.1%)
9
1(9.1%)
10
0(0.0%)

Tachtli had hoped, when she sacrificed her right hand to the god, that it would be enough.

Mean: 5.00 Median: 5 Std. Dev 2.26
1
1(9.1%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
2(18.2%)
4
2(18.2%)
5
2(18.2%)
6
1(9.1%)
7
1(9.1%)
8
1(9.1%)
9
1(9.1%)
10
0(0.0%)

None of the above -- I'd keep going through the slush pile looking for something more interesting.

Mean: 7.40 Median: 8 Std. Dev 3.32
1
1(20.0%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
0(0.0%)
4
0(0.0%)
5
0(0.0%)
6
0(0.0%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
2(40.0%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
2(40.0%)

Make up your own!



I figure, whichever one is the most popular, I'll try to craft a story around. :) I hope this poll code works. :)

[EDITED 3:57PM: addressed a couple of questions Level_Head had about the poll.]
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