But now, on to first sentences! Some story starters and what I think of them, below.
As a reminder, the first sentences here are being judged as first sentences, using my patented HEITSIBPMFTSIATRAEMTCR ("how effective is this sentence in both preparing me for the story I'm about to read, and encouraging me to continue reading") scale. On that scale, a five equates roughly to "immediately evokes a specific tone, prepares the reader for the rest of the story, and encourages me to continue reading," a one is "makes me less likely to continue reading," and a three is "a perfectly adequate first sentence, which neither inspires great excitement or great dread." For each story, I'll give the title with a link to my review of it, and the star rating I initially gave that story.
Note that, as part of my ongoing tweaking/developing of these posts, I'll be taking a fairly liberal definition of "first sentence," so some "sentences" may be two (or more!) sentences long; "first complete idea" might be more technically accurate, but it's not as catchy. Additionally, the review of each sentence will be split into two parts. The first part will be my thoughts after reading ONLY the first sentence, and the second, my thoughts on it after having read the story, graded as BETTER, WORSE, or THE SAME when taken in its larger context.
A Perfectly Ordinary Day In Ponyville, by The Equestrian Gentlecolt (story: 2 stars)
The first line: A long, shrill note pierced the veil of dreams. It arced across sunny meadows, shattered the surface of placid lakes, and tore through deep forests, leaving a trail of the rapidly-fading memories of slumber in its wake.
Initial thoughts: I've decided that I have a least favorite type of opening to review: it's the "sweeping visual which doesn't culminate in a deflating gag until, like, 100 words in." Not because I think they're bad openings, mind, but because they're hard to evaluate as openings. Do I take the punchline into account? That takes me significantly farther into the story than "first sentence" really suggests... but on the other hand, how can you evaluate a setup without its punchline?
Anyway, the punchline here is "Twilight gets smacked awake," even though that bit didn't make it into the quote, this is still properly evaluated as a grandiose setup. I think it's clear enough (in conjunction with the Random/Comedy tags) from the get-go, and it's perfectly fine at that, so I'll give it a 3: it does its job, while neither encouraging me forward more than a typical opening, nor doing anything to dissuade me from continuing.
After reading: It's about THE SAME, in that it still does exactly what you'd expect it to, with perfect competence. Not much else to say down here!
The Party Hasn't Ended, by Butterscotchsundae (story: 1 star)
The first line: Pinkie Pie stood in the middle of Sugar Cube Corner and surveyed her handiwork. "Pinkie Pie," she said to herself. "I know I say this to you... Or do I mean 'me'?... every month, but you've gone and outdone yourself." She cocked her head in thought. "Or do I mean 'myself'? Oh, I can never work that out!"
Initial thoughts: PONIES DON'T HAVE HANDS IT SHOULD SAY HOOFIWORK -900/10
Sorry, sorry. On a more serious note: This is a pretty low-stakes introduction, but not only does it present us with a character and setting quickly and efficiently, it also displays some excellent Pinkie dialogue: whimsical, but not aggressively dumb. A very solid 4 stars.
After reading: It's close, but I'd say it's slightly WORSE in a fuller context, to whit: Pinkie is filled with unrequited pining, and shortly after this first line, breaks down into tears. That doesn't really fit the tone I was set up for by this opening.
Living Forever, by whateverdudezb (story: 2 stars)
The first line: In the glittering palace of Canterlot, where sat both the sun and moon princesses that ruled over the lands of Equestria, there resided a grand hall decorated with beautiful stained glass windows.
Initial thoughts: There's a certain staid elegance to that last phrase, though it is undermined a bit by using "resided" to describe a nonliving object (hall, whatever). That elegance does help move me forward toward the presumed comic payoff (this is another comedy, after all) in a way that A Perfectly Ordinary Day's opening doesn't, but balanced against that is that this phrasing lacks the grandiosity to really make said deflating joke pop. Another 3.
After reading: It's WORSE, because the payoff is a literal Lavender Alicorn bit of LUS-ing. More broadly, this doesn't ever really turn its joke, instead making a gradual, vague transition towards goofiness. The first line's not bad in and of itself, but it doesn't have any real payoff.
Insomnia, by Pale Horse (story 2 stars)
The first line:
My faithful student Dear Princess Twilight Sparkle,
Initial thoughts: This is actually preceded by the date and some titles, but to me this feels like the "first line." Unfortunately, it's got a giant red flag in the form of my least-favorite epistolary convention, the "crossed-out but still perfectly readable words which offer insight into the writer's thoughts." Would you send a letter like that? No, you would get a new piece of paper. I almost always find this kind of shortcut immersion-breaking, and seeing at the very start of a story sets me on edge. A 1: this makes me less likely to keep reading.
After reading: It's BETTER, because it soon becomes clear that Celestia has no intention of sending this story, which ameliorates the realism complaint. There's still a LOT of this kind of cheating-to-show-character-thoughts, though, and it still isn't my favorite way to communicate a character.
The Assassination of Twilight Sparkle, by Rated Ponystar (story: 2 stars)
The first line: Celestia could remember the first book she had ever given Twilight Sparkle.
Initial thoughts: I like it. It immediately evokes a wistful mood by calling back to a (presumably) treasured memory, invites the reader to continue reading both with the obvious hook (what book?) and the more general expectation of finding out more about their early relationship, and gives us our principal character right off the bat. The one flaw with it as a first sentence it that it's rather bland--this isn't one I'm likely to remember, let alone quote off the top of my head. Still, a very solid 4.
After reading: It's WORSE, because the subsequent scene (and story, for that matter) are so cliche. To its credit, it's sincere, but still. Also, I'm just now realizing that I was on a real run of 2-star stories in June and July.
Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons, by Somber (story: 4 stars)
The first line: War. War never changes.
Initial thoughts: Well, it starts by quoting a video game, which is usually not a good thing. But there are a few ameliorating factors here. First, this is (more or less) a video game crossover. And second, the tagline is a key part of that game, rather than a cheap callout. Still, I'm giving this a 2, in that the primary feeling it evokes is "Ah yes, I know that line from the Fallout games," which doesn't exactly set one up for a immersive reading experience.
After reading: While I still may not personally be a fan of the opening, I will admit that it's BETTER used than I might have expected, turning around and tying quickly in to the central theme of the first chapter--that is to say, moving beyond the derivative and into original storytelling.