Can you guess the author by their first line? The power of voice!

For authors, voice is that certain something, the way in which they unspool a story that gives them their unique style. It’s grammar, and syntax, and worldview and dialogue and tone all rolled together. Donald Maass, agent and author of Writing the Breakout Novel, defines voice as “not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world.” Some writers have very distinct voices, so distinct that you could probably ferret out their identity from a scant few lines of writing.

Want to give it a try? Here are four first lines from some famous writers (Erma Bombeck, Agatha Christie, John Steinbeck, Jan Karon.)

Can you match the line with the writer? Are there any writers in the batch whose voice you admire? Any fave authors that aren’t on the list? Do share. Posts get you entered in the July drawing for an Amazon gift card.

Pen with flowers
1. Mrs. Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a First at the flower show.
2. Once…just once…I’d like to be dressed for an emergency.
3. A preacher with a lead foot, driving a red Mustang convertible with the top down, could make a state patrolman pretty testy.
4. To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bn100 on July 27, 2013 at 2:57 am

    got some of them; haven’t read all these authors

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  2. Posted by JOYE on July 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I think it is Karon, Christy, Bombeck,Steinbeck. I have read all of Agatha Christie’s books. I especially liked reading about her Hercule Poirot character.
    One of my favorite writers is not on the list-Daphne du Maurier. If you have not read her book THE SCAPEGOAT you are missing a treat. Really identified with that one.

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  3. 1. Agatha Christie 2. Erma Bombeck 3. Jan Karon 4. John Steinbeck. How’d I do?

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  4. Posted by JackieW on July 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    I think I matched them all up correctly. I love to read John Steinbeck’s books. I have only a couple to go and will have read all of his. I like how he describes the times and places of which he wrote. I went to a luncheon in Phoenix once where Erma Bombeck was the speaker…a very funny lady. I enjoy reading….all kinds of stories. Well, two exceptions are paranormals and Stephen King-type books….they are not on my list of to be reads.

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