Today, I decided to do one of my favorite things and take a look at outstanding (in my humble opinion) first sentences. I usually do novels, but this time I'm going to focus on short stories. To narrow it even further, I'm selecting only crime stories. No analysis, no comments, just opening lines. So, here we go.
"You asked what kind of record could be worth killing someone for, and if you were smarter you would know the answer is an old blues record." ..........Kevin Guilfoile, O Death Where is Thy Sting?, from the collection Chicago Blues (Bleak House Books, 2007)
"Harry Chase sat in the back of a small casino chapel watching as bikers dressed in wedding casual--black leather, chains optional--exchanged prayers for endless roads, a long happy life together." ..........John Wessel, Neighbors, from Murder in Vegas (Forge, 2005)
"If God (or Whoever's in charge) had wanted Dr. Netta Bernstein to continue living, He (or She) wouldn't have made it so easy for me to kill her." ..........Harlan Ellison, Killing Bernstein, in A Century of Great Suspense Stories (Berkley Prime Crime, 2007)
"Contrary to popular belief, the human cranium isn't a single helmet-shaped bone but eight bones fused together, and the facial mask is fourteen bones fused together, and these, in the victim, had been smashed with a blunt object, smashed, dented, and pierced, as if the unknown killer had wanted not merely to kill his victim but to obliterate her." ..........Joyce Carol Oates, The Skull, originally in Harper's Magazine and reprinted in The Best American Mysery Stories 2003 ( Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
"Stubborn and mean are a lethal combination, a perfect case in point being Conroy Bittune--an old coot of sixty, as skinny and dried-up as a stick of jerky." ..........Faye Kellerman, Malibu Dog, in Sisters in Crime 3 (Berkley 1990)
"I became a prostitute because I was bored." .........Faye Kellerman, Bonding, in Sisters in Crime (Berkley, 1989)
That's it. Just a few sentences that would draw me into a story and make me read on to see what comes next. Does an exercise like this make you check back to the first sentence in your own current project to see if it measures up?