Monday, May 7, 2012

Opening Lines

photo credit

I began a new manuscript the other day. It was an accident. Truly, it was. I had meant to simply write down (because I've learned the lesson of If Thou Writeth It Not, Thou Shalt Forget) a first sentence which jumped into my head before I went to sleep the night before. I wrote the sentence. Then I wrote the next one. Then I wrote another. You know where this is going, don't you? Before I knew it, I had over 5,000 words in one sitting.

I was (to use a good English expression) gobsmacked. This has never happened to me before. I took it as a good sign. I shall tease you with this - it takes place in modern day Canada. It's a comedy. No one dies. Not even by choking on a rubber chicken.

Here are some of my favourite first lines from authors far more talented than myself. 

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.
A.A. Milne - Winnie the Pooh

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?'
Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
J.R.R. Tolkien - The Hobbit

Who's there?
William Shakespeare - Hamlet

"Mrs Whitaker found the Holy Grail; it was under a fur coat."
Neil Gaiman - Chivalry

"All children, except one, grow up"
J.M. Barrie - Peter Pan

Early this morning, 1st January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenous Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days.
PD James - Children of Men

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell - 1984

James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.
Ian Fleming - Goldfinger

The last camel died at noon.
Ken Follet - The Key to Rebecca

They both wore thin rubber masks.
Dick Francis - Bonecrack

Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
Ruth Rendall - A Judgement in Stone

Please share your favourite first line - or your favourites!



  1. Elspeth - Oh, I'm so very happy that you've gotten inspired for a new novel! That is absolutely wonderful! I can't wait to read it. And thanks for sharing those wonderful first lines. You've already mentioned my very favourite - the first line of A Judgement in Stone. But here's another one I love: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again., from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. A classic!

    1. A classic indeed. Will I ever read a book again where I don't analyze the effectiveness of the first line? I doubt it. Ah well.

  2. I usually write my first sentences somewhere after Chapter 3. Congrats on your blitz! Days like that are golden.

    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

    1. Aren't they? No bets are being taken on whether the sentence survives! But, it's a beginning.

  3. No rubber chickens?
    You disappoint me!

  4. Great first line choices!

    And BTW- I love the word gobsmacked. I don't think it's used nearly enough!

  5. I love your choices!

    The perfect first sentence can take me FOREVER (months) and with great struggle...or it comes to me immediately. I love that yours came to you and kept going. What a lovely surprise novel! :)

    But, hey, I demand a rubber chicken. ;)

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