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First Sentence is Hardest

Hi. I'm new here to Lulu but have been writing unprofessionally (no books published) for almost 9 years. I love to write historical fiction and my favorite area to write about is Ancient times. However, I want to try something new by writing about a British soldier during World War 2. The book, or what little I have planned of it, will be told through letters this soldier will write back home to his disabled younger sister. I know this will consist of a bunch of research in an area I am not familiar with, but I have a bit of a problem. I have no first sentence to begin writing the book. Any tips or suggestions on how to start the book? Thank you for all your help and I am sorry if this is in the wrong place. I am just figuring out how Lulu works.


  • Call me Lt. Ishmael.



    Black Cat Studios
  • Haha, thank you, but I think that's already been taken. It made me laugh though. In fact, I already have the brother and sister's names: Anthony Warden and Edith (Edie) Warden. The title of the book will be "Letters to Edie." "Edie" is Anthony's nickname for his younger sister.

    See, I know all of that about the characters, but I have no first sentence. Thank you so much for your reply!
  • At most, I think Anthony would be a Private in the British Army. Thank you though!
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Teacher

    My Dearest Edie,


    How do I speak to you of what I've seen?  Do I raise a shadow born of war in your eyes or protect your innocence as I would protect your life?

  • I'm going to struggle to beat Ron's reply, but my initial advice would be to not worry about it too much. Just write the book. You'll probably be writing multiple drafts anyway, so write down what comes to you for now and then go back and worry about the killer first line later. Then you'll have the whole of your book to think about it.


    If I could make one more suggestion, even though you haven't asked for it: keep the title as a working title for now. First impression for me was that it's a bit generic. Something a bit more dynamic will probably occur to you as you go along. My current WIP has had 4 titles so far and I'm still only researching it. I'm fairly sure that none of those 4 will end up being the actual title. Come to think of it, it's had 3 first sentences as well, and I haven't even got to the stage of typing the first sentence yet.


    Best of luck with the book.

  • Thank you, SphinxCameron! My problem is that I want to make Edie and Anthony's relationship clear as it pertains to their life while dealing with her disability, which I am not sure about yet either. Thank you for your reply!
  • Thank you, Richard_Coady. I usually get snippets of the story that I fit together later, but this time I have nothing in mind. I thought that if I could get a first sentence down, I could work from there. I will also make the title a working title for now as you suggested. The only things I am sure on are the characters' names and ages. Anthony is 22 and Edith is 19. I am not even sure what disability Edith should have. Thank you for all your help.
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Teacher

    Perhaps 'My Dearest Sister Edie'?


    If you have Edie, her brother, or a descendant looking over their correspondence at the start you can ease into it.

  • That's an idea. I could have Anthony, when he is older, find the letters put away somewhere, and remember all the events that led to all of them. However, I wanted to have the letters be presented as Anthony wrote them. Thank you, SphinxCameron. I was also thinking "My Sweetest Edie" would be the opening to all of Anthony's letters. That way, Edith would know that they came from her brother.
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Teacher

    Another thought is Anthony explaining to a son or grandson why he wrote the letters, then remember events and the resulting letters.


    Kind of "Hey, Grandad, who's the girl and what are all the letters about?"


    I've talked to enough vets who outlived close family and those they served with, sometimes all it takes is a simple question to have things come flooding back.


    Good luck

  • Thank you, SpinxCameron. I was actually thinking of having a scene in the book where Anthony and his comrades are in the barracks for the night and one of them sees that he is writing a letter to Edie and teases or asks him about missing his girl back home and Anthony tells him that she is his sister, not his girl back home (in the sense of a girlfriend).
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Teacher

    That would work.


    I know when my wife was in basic and her flight was finally deemed worthy of receiving mail she had a stack of letters from me.

  • That is so sweet. I'm so excited to get writing now! I'll start tomorrow!
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Teacher

    Letters (both to and from a member of one of the services) during times of war do tend to hold some importance in later years.  They help later generations understand the humanity of people who were once young with dreams of their own.


    Individuals often hold onto them and place them in a safe place, sometimes forgotten for years, until they're ready to take them out and remember a time both frigthening and exhilirating and totally lost to them.


    One of the saddest things about today is how many people think military service is a joke because they are mostly insulated from seeing the aftermath, the damage, and the personal costs to those who served during a time of dire need.


    Good luck with the story as it sounds interesting, and if you need some help with perspective, contact me via PM.


    Happy New Year


    Semper Praesto

  • Ron Miller wrote:

    Call me Lt. Ishmael.



    Smiley Very Happy


    It was the best of wars; It was the worst of wars.

  • As a serious response:


    With most stories, a common principle is to begin "In Media Res," so to speak -- in the middle of the action, with something to catch the attention and draw the reader into the story.


    Homer begin the Iliad in the seventh year of the Trojan war. All of the details about how the war began, and what has taken place earlier on, are either told as remembered fragments or else it is assumed that the reader already knows them. Many thrillers begin with gunfire or an explosion, and then work backwards into who is shooting at whom, and why.


    In this specific case... And without knowing the content of the letters, it's hard to give a good example... but as a suggestion...


            Dearest Edie,


                 It seems profane to tell you the horrors that were mine to witness today.


    The young solider stared at the page. After a moment he bit his lip, crumpled the paper, and tossed it towards the wastecan. He tried again.


           Dearest Edie,


                  Oh, joy! the bullet meant for me went far astray!


                  Not so lucky, Private Dunskill, standing behind me...


    This letter he crumpled also.


            and so on...


  • Thank you SphinxCameron. I completely understand about the letters. I will PM you if I need anything or want to talk about the plot of my (currently) nonexistant book. Smiley Happy
  • Thank you, Skoob_Ym. I am aware of "In Media Res" as a writing technique. However, I don't think this would work, or maybe not at the point you have so graciously written out as an example. Maybe I could start the story the night before Anthony goes to training after being drafted. Maybe his first letter, written in the barracks a few weeks after he left Edie, is an apology, as he knows his going away was sudden and that she probably feels abandoned by him after 7 years of being taken care of by him.
  • Hahaha, Skoob_Ym! Made me giggle. Smiley Happy Thank you so much.
  • For those of you that want to know, I have begun to write my book! Yay! Thank you for all your help.
  • Thank you, kevinlomas! I'll check them out tomorrow.
  • This whole discussion has me curious now. What are some of the first lines in our own books?





    Black Cat Studios

  • Ron Miller wrote:

    This whole discussion has me curious now. What are some of the first lines in our own books?



    My Technical Manual:

    "Sometimes, the worst that could happen actually does happen."


    My Theology Book:

    "Many people are cowed by the very idea of theology and philosophy."


    My Novel:

    "My car exploded."


    I am working on a biography which will begin something like, "The ancient world surrounded the Mediterranean sea." (to be determined). I am also working on a novel which will begin with, " 'This is not Stout.' " (Concerning a disputed document alleged to be an unpublished manuscript by Rex Stout).

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