Miss Snark's First Victim
This is almost cliche and for the first line -- sorry I'd read no further.
I suppose, since I know nothing about the accused or the murdered, I really don't care yet what the jury decides. So I'd probably not read on.
This isn't a genre I tend to read, but this surely has been done before? And without any sense of who's in the dock, I just don't care, unfortunately.The title is interesting!
Maybe show something about the MC's personality or how the MC is feeling as he/she awaits the verdict so that the reader can connect right off the bat. Is he standing and shaking? Smirking at the jury?
I'd agree with the other comments but if I'm just taking this first line of dialogue as dialogue, you don't need anything other than 'How does the jury find?' to immediately inform the reader of what's happening (you can work the charge in to the jury foreperson's response: 'On the charge of first degree murder, we, the jury, find the defendant...')In order to succeed with a dramatic 'cliche' like this, the following paragraph really has to sing...
I don't mind this. A murder? Exciting. The end of a trial? Nice. But...I watch a lot of TV, and a lot of that is Law & Order. I'm not saying L&O is the expert or anything, but I think it should say, "On the sole count of MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE, how does the jury find?" In fact, I read it like that, because that's what it would have been on L&O...:)
I know it's a cliche, but I'd read on. Just one teeny tiny quibble, or suggestion, to drop the 'sole'. I think it runs better as, “On the count of first degree murder, how does the jury find?” Maybe it's just me, but the 'sole' just leaps out at me and I think of fish or shoes. Not that they can't, strictly speaking, be in some way connected with a first degree murder.
I like the title, but the first line isn't a grabber, sorry. c.e. lawson's right - we don't know the accused, so we aren't invested.
This feels like you are giving me the ending and then will reveal what led to this point. If that is the case, I wouldn't read it. If this is the catalyst for the story, then I'd read on.
Thanks everyone for your comments. The next para gets into more detail, but I felt this line introduces the story better. I've tried other first liners, but this one has been well received in winning and finalling in several contests, as well as attracting the attention of agents and editors. I'm torn. :) Once again, thanks. I'm processing all of your comments. :)
It's cliche, BUT...we know exactly where we are, who is talking, and what is going on all in one simple sentence. I like it and would read on, but the rest of the paragraph/page better grab me.
All the comments of "cliche" make me wince. It's just the first sentence. There's no context yet.I don't mind this opening line at all. I would keep reading.
I'd keep reading, but only a little bit.
It may be a line that's done a lot before, but as another poster mentioned, it does set it up right away--I can figure out who's speaking and want to know who's on trial.Not entirely hooked, but I'd read on a bit.
I love law and order stories and murder trials, but I think you could develop a better hook. You might consider starting with a main character's reaction to the scene in the courtroom rather than a line of dialogue -- that would hook me more. This line of dialogue is so familiar in criminal settings, it doesn't give me any sense of what is unique about your story.Good luck!
Going by the first line alone, I feel as though I'm coming in at the wrong point. I don't see what big thing would happen at the trial (guilty? not guilty? daring escape via hot air balloon?) to get the story going at this point as opposed to earlier or later. If we're going with the court scene, starting things off with the protagonist of view-point character's dialogue might work better... say a violent outburst after the verdict, etc?For the sentence itself, I agree with the mention above of cutting it to "How does the jury find?" Now, if you were starting it off with something truly shocking like mass murder, some long, horrendous list of crimes, or something equally snaring, it would be a good hook to start with the charge. It would still feel more natural to come, as Peter suggested, from a direction of "on the charge of ____, we, the jury, find the defendant.."
The line in and of itself is intriguing, but I think it could've been written much better.Why "sole"? Is that some trial lingo I'm not aware of? Or are you trying to imply that's the only count against the defendant? And I'm not so sure the first line has to show the uniqueness of your story exactly, but it definitely has to be written less awkward and prompt sudden interest. In other words, the subject matter of your sentence gets my interest, but the way it's written throws me off.
Actually, I'm intrigued. You've started us right in the heart of some action and someone's life/future is on the line. I'd definitely read on to see where this is going.
I'm not hooked, but I'm not putting it down either. You get a reprieve. Fred
"This line of dialogue is so familiar in criminal settings, it doesn't give me any sense of what is unique about your story."This from a person defends the right to be cliche. And author. It's a first sentence. Agents will usually give you a page or five. You attribute your success to this one sentence. That's not a good thing. A first sentence should hook the reader, but good writing throughout sells the novel. I know it's hard not to defend your choices when people are saying we don't like this. Don't do it. Right now I'm under the impression this is the best your book has to offer and that makes me not want to not want to read more. The question isn't whether this is a good place to start, the question is whether you can do better. If you can then you should but if you can't there isn't anything wrong with it. I'd start with the title- begin with the echo of the gavel, the impact of guilty.