(CLUBHOUSE TIME MACHINE: 5/6/2022) I write this sitting in the kitchen sink – Emily Gale

I didn’t really write this sitting in the kitchen sink (however that is my kitchen sink, and my cat, Harry) but that is one of the most famous “first lines” of a novel. It’s fromĀ I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and I have always loved it.

You may love it or you may not – that’s okay! – but let me tell you why I do: I love it because it makes me think… WHY? & WHAT?

  1. WHY are you sitting in the kitchen sink? That’s weird! (I like weird.)
  2. WHAT is it that you are writing? WHAT have you got to say?

And that means my brain is already engaged. It took 8 simple words. It’s the “kitchen sink” that makes it special. “I write this sitting on a chair” wouldn’t have had the same effect.

Sometimes first sentences are a bit more complicated. Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the most famous writers in the world, said: “First sentences are doors to worlds.”

Here’s one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s first sentences, from A Wizard of Earthsea:

“The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast sea, is a land famous for wizards.”

This 24-word sentence looks simple but it is working hard:

  1. We get a name to store: Gont.
  2. We get a mental picture: a single mountain.
  3. We get a mood: “storm-racked” / stormy.
  4. We get a very interesting statement: “a land famous for wizards” – okay, yes, I want to see this land!

Sometimes writers stare at the page for ages trying to work out the best first sentence. Here’s what I do: I write a very simple first sentence just to get going. Then, when I’m deep into telling my story, or even when I have finished the whole thing, I go back to look at that first sentence. I prod it and poke it and ask myself if this is the right “door” to the world I’ve created.

Have a look at the first sentences in your favourite books. What makes them work for you?

Here are three of mine:

“The doorbell pierced the grim quiet of our house.” (from The Other Side of Summer)

“It’s midnight and I’m alone in the kitchen eating a cold potato scallop.” (from Elsewhere Girls)

“Dear Diary, we’ve been banished to the lab, FOR EVER.” (from Eliza Boom’s Diary)

Until next time,



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