Monday, August 8, 2011

Opening Lines

If you've ever taken a writing class, you probably have had it drilled into your head how important your opening pages are: you're supposed to grab the reader, set up your story in the most brilliant way possible and give the audience an honest sense of your voice.

Yeah, that's hard. It's not entirely surprising to me that most authors (this one included) spend the most time working on their beginnings.

I've started writing six different novel-length manuscripts so far in my writing career and have completed drafts of four of them. I thought it might be fun to go and look at the first lines of all of them.

Here are the opening lines as they now stand--in the order they were written in.

If ignoring unpleasant situations could be defined as an art form, then Sara Taober was an artist and had been one ever since she first recognized somebody as beautiful and realized that she never could be.

My father died today.

Goldenrod Moram had a first name that sounded like it belonged in the middle of a fairy tale, where she would be the dazzling princess in need of rescuing.

Rox Whitby sat on the catwalk above the school auditorium.

The class president is balding. 

The idea came to Davood the djinn on a perfectly ordinary day as he was sitting on a windowsill high above the bazaar, bored out of his mind.

Whoa, that first one is wonky! The manuscript it comes from was really just an experiment, though, to see if I could actually finish writing a novel. The novel itself wasn't good...but I finished it. And I definitely learned from it. In fact, I think I could say I learned something from every first line, last line, and all the lines in between I've ever written. Getting those lines as good as I can make them, and hopefully getting even better each time, is what keeps me going.

Any first lines from your work that you care to share? Or is there a published first line that you just love? Hit me up in the comments section!


  1. The first line to my current WIP: "Tonight, Brendan would kiss me." Does he? *Spoilers* ;)

  2. "When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping."

    The first few lines of The Hunger Games. Love.

    I'm glad you wrote this post :)

  3. Stellar example. Man, those books are amazing through and through.

    I'm glad you read this post. :-)

  4. The opening of "Pride and Prejudice" is always great:

    "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

    And I've always been a fan of Carrie Fisher's "Postcards From the Edge" opener:

    "Maybe I shouldn't have given the guy who pumped my stomach my phone number, but who cares? My life is over anyway."

  5. great post... I'll have to get back to you on this one!

  6. It took me a bit to think of what lines I wanted to post. Of course how could I not think of the opening to The Little Prince:

    Once when I was six years old I saw a beautiful picture in a book about the primeval forest called True Stories. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.

    Accompanied by a super cute drawing of a boa constrictor swallowing an animal, I immediately loved this crazy little prince.