Here are the first lines for the first issue:
- "Open the pod bay doors, Hal . . . Do you read me, Hal? . . . Hello, Hal, do you read me? Do you read me, Hal? . . . Hal, do you read me?"
- The bedside phone trilled, dragging me though several layers of warm slumber.
- I sank needle-tipped buckyfibers into the boy's naked chest, connecting the Steel Diagnostician to his metabolic system.
- "I must go, Mrs. Hansen," said Helen. "I'm late as it is."
- Looking out through a broad window into the cheerless gray sky of nineteenth century London, I realized I hadn't turned off the simulator last night.
- Simple things.
And issue number 2 . . .
- Rhonda Minestra walked into the office, and after shutting the door, grinned and bounced on her toes.
- Catching God is the tough part.
- Matirsutrus shone full on the waters of Malibar, his face mournful and pockmarked as he crept along the canals.
- Edward thought he knew every part of the library, but he was perplexed to find he was wrong.
- "Small people are tragic," Rain said.
- Kyril Ague, the only Diplomat Class passenger aboard the starship, hefted his zipbag and stepped out early from the exit valve, hoping to see a standard local reception committee.
- Ursula sported quite a shiner when she arrived at work bright and early the Monday after her vacation.
Yup, no adverbs. What else do these opening sentences have in common? Very few adjectives, lots of strong verbs (except for stories starting with dialogue), and an element of mystery that draws the reader into the story. They all match the tone for the rest of the story as well, but you'd have to read the story to verify that. Can anyone spot other similarities?
This list also highlights that many approaches work. You can start with setting, dialogue, or character. You can start with complex sentences or short fragments. You can include world-specific words or everyday vocabulary. Lots of choices.
This should not imply that first lines are more important than the rest of the story. I've read first lines that I've loved only to be disappointed later on. A sure rejection. I've also read stories that didn't work well at the beginning but were worth trying to fix because of the rest of the tale.