Great First Lines

now playing on my iPod: Twin Rivers by Big Scary

Let me start by saying that I enjoy all sorts of first lines in books. Ironic, atmospheric, simple, poignant, funny. Writers, don’t think you stink because your first line is more basic than those listed below. Nope. You may still stink, but the first line isn’t a distinct litmus test, in my humble opinion. I’ve enjoyed MANY books whose (yes, they are like people to me) first lines are just simple, functional things. No biggie. One of my favorite books, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, begins with a functional first line that isn’t really up for any pizazz awards. And she’s doing just fine, if you haven’t noticed.


If you can craft a first line that gives us shivers, jolts a laugh out of readers, or has everyone nodding, you begin on a strong first foot.

Here are some of my faves:

I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other. —Water for Elephants

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die. —The Scorpio Races

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. —The Graveyard Book

Two Spanish soldiers swaggered up Tower Street towards William Shakespeare. —Ruled Britannia

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. —Bel Canto

I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. —Code Name Verity

I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. —Til We Have Faces

It did not surprise Fire that the man in the forest shot her. What surprised her was that he shot her by accident. —Fire

I found him in the garage on a Sunday afternoon. —Skellig

Blue Sergeant had forgotten how many times she’d been told she would kill her true love. (prologue) It was freezing in the churchyard even before the dead arrived. (1st ch) —The Raven Boys

Nicole Gunther-Perrin rolled over to turn off the alarm clock and found herself nose to nose with two Roman gods. —Household Gods

The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable. —A Discovery of Witches

Oh now I just have to go read these again!!! 

What are you faves?


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