In the film "The Hours" (I'm such a film buff, is it obvious?), Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is in the midst of being lectured by her husband about eating a proper luncheon, when she stares at him and says, "Leonard, I believe I have a first sentence." Her mind has not been on luncheon and pudding; it's been on the first sentence of "Mrs. Dalloway."
The first sentence is the hardest part of anything to write. It carries so much weight: of reader expectations, of writerly skill. I'm reading student essays (lots of 'em) these days, and I see in their papers the pressure they felt to make the first sentence special. Sometimes they go the grandiose, rhetorical, bombastic route with a statement that tries to encompass all of art history in one swoop; sometimes they keep it simple and to the point. Sometimes their first sentence works, sometimes it doesn't. That's the challenge of anybody's First Sentence. Doesn't matter who or for what.
I've rewritten the first three pages of "The Sunflowers" I don't know how many times. I haven't liked the first sentence at any point. It's been one thing, it's been another. But then, last night, finally, with an almost audible CLICK...
I believe I have a first sentence.