Once Upon a Time

There are any number of reasons why we choose the books that will land on our reading piles.  Personally, I love first lines.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …

A great first line doesn’t guarantee that what follows will be a a great book, but it does make me optimistic. And although I’ve never actually bought a book because of an intriguing opening sentence, it helps.  A lot.  Because if I find myself intrigued by those very first words an author puts on the page, then I’m likely to read the first paragraph. Hum…still good?  Okay, now I’m in for at least another couple pages, at which point I’m most often ready to make the commitment as to whether said book is coming home with me, or maybe going into my online shopping cart for later.


“We can’t believe the house is on fire.”  That first line, from the novel, In Zanesville, caught my interest. (The second line is even better-It’s so embarassing first of all, and so dangerous second of all.)  It was enough to get me reading further, and then to buy the book. For an author, that’s pretty much the plan.

Yes, you’re absolutely right, a genius opening  line can go bad soon enough if the story falls apart at any point beyond that gorgeous First Line. But that’s a topic for another post. The focus here is the grand attempt to grow a beautiful garden from that first planted seed. It’s about a first line that catches attention and holds on. A line that at it’s best, intrigues, raises curiosity, sets  a mood, or is just quirky or odd enough that it’s impossible to resist.


 “Call me Ishmael,” sometimes we even know the first line better than the rest of the book. (Yes, yes, I know, something about a whale.)  For a reader, that’s the stuff that will help you win at Trivial Pursuit, but for a writer the goal is more about creating a story and characters that are recalled long after the last page is turned. And a stellar opening, is or course, pretty much the place to get it all started.


This is the opening of my debut novel:   “Maybe it’s the raw brilliance of the pale white moon suspended in a hard black sky that somehow makes everything about this night feel harsher”.   The Secret of Lies

This from my current WIP: Sometimes just looking at him breaks my heart.”   Untiltled

Okay, your turn. What’da’ya got? Come on, lets see your stuff ! If not your own, than something from the tip of someone else’s pen that you just happen to love like crazy.



21 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time

  1. From Coming Home, the book I’m releasing soon: Twenty-five hundred miles later, and Isabela could finally breathe.

    From Justified, the next one: Killing him wasn’t the hard part.

    And from my most recent WIP whose draft I recently finished To Capture Peace: Everyone discriminates against smokers.

    Thoughts? Be honest…nicely. LOL

  2. Virginia Kate says, “I turn away from what’s unseen beyond the dirty window to gaze upon the sleeping man.”

    Love both your first lines! But you know I loved SECRET OF LIES and can’t wait to read the next!

  3. That’s a beauty! And I know for certain I’m ready to find out the rest of what’s on Virginia Kate’s mind! (Yippee … and coming soon … folks!)

    In addition, and I hope you don’t mind, but I do want to add this first line from SWEETIE, “Wake Up.” Since, very often, it’s these compact little stand alone lines that are so effective in pulling the eyeballs directly into the next line or paragraph.

    And thank you most sincerely 🙂

  4. Wow…pale moon in the hard black sky…cool image!
    I find I can’t really get started writing a piece unless I have a good first sentence. Like, the POV character’s voice is either there from the first word, or not. Here’s the opening line of my novella, A Vampire’s Deadly Delight…

    So when I came to, I was handcuffed to a bed.

    Okay, out of context it sounds a lot kinkier than it really is, but there you go.

  5. I haven’t got my notebook to hand, but my favourite first lines ever are from The Hobbit. Tolkein introduces a hole in the ground and the word Hobbit and goes on to describe the hole not the creature. It never fails to make me smile – even though the whole world (it seems) now knows what a Hobbit is.

  6. Oh, let’s see! From CARPE DEMON, I have “My name is Kate Connor, and I used to be a demon hunter.” And from THE GOOD GHOUL’S GUIDE TO GETTING EVEN, “If he weren’t already dead, I swear I would kill Stephen Wills.” And from TAINTED, “Can I just say that dying sucks?” I seem to do a lot of dying related stuff. Hmmm.

    There are tons of awesome first lines out there. Love PRIDE & PREJUDICE’S opening: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” and soooooo many others.

    Great topic!

    • Not only are your first lines terrific, (I’m especially fond of “If he weren’t already dead, I swear I would Kill Stephen Wills.”) I’m loving those titles as well 🙂

      You are so right! There are just so many really really terrific opening lines that have stood the test of time. So often I’ve heard the lines, and know them well, (as is the case of Pride & Prejudice) long before I’ve ever read the book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s