What the first sentence must do

Schrieb den ersten Satz so, dass der Leser unbedingt auch den zweiten Satz lesen will. – William Faulkner

I saw this German quote, purportedly by an American writer, plastered across my hotel room. It translates to

“Write your first sentence so that the reader will read the second one as well.”

The first sentence sets the tone for whatever has to follow. Literary classics often have immortal first sentences.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984, George Orwell

Getting from rest to motion is always harder than sustaining existing motion. While starting a car, the maximum torque is needed to move the first couple of meters. On waking up, putting one’s feet on the ground is what requires the greatest effort. The first steps also have a disproportionate influence on the result. Our brain develops for the most part in the first three years of our lives. What we receive during this time compounds over our lives to makes us the people we are.

Regardless of its veracity, the German quote makes a compelling point, because the first sentence is that which alters the state of rest or motion of the readers’ mind – their inertia.

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