First lines. They’re important, right? I know they are. When I click on the ‘look inside’ facility on Amazon, I’m already judging the quality of the writing from those initial words.
The full line from A Tale of Two Cities, quoted above, is actually much longer than just those first dramatic words. In full:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
It breaks a few modern writing rules, but I really like it 🙂
Show Me Your First Lines
The last sharing post I did was quite a success, with people buying and discussing the books. Feel free to add to it too if you like. These posts will be brought to the front of the blog every so often, so they won’t just vanish into oblivion.
But for today, here, let’s see those first lines. They can be lines from your published books, or works in progress, or from a book that you love. I think it would be fun to not say much more about the book other than the title and author. Feel free to add buy or information links too though, so we can click through if we like what we read.
I’ll share the first line of THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR.
“The first time the sea killed me, my brother brought me back to life.”
90 Replies to “Share Those First Lines with Me!”
My book is called Aludra, to another star system. I am writing on part one of a series.
My book starts like this.
“They had no dragons on Rodez, the only thing that got burned were witches. And it was not the dragon but the inquisitor who lighted the fire.”
“I am not even going to look,” I screamed as Mark hugged the caravan as far as he could into the high stone wall to our left and I hugged Kai, wrapping my fingers tightly in his fur.
The first line of my first travel memoir, Year 1: Fur Babies in France – From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream.
It sounds like you’ve had quite an adventure!
Indeed. And that was only half an hour in!
interesting, when I write, I write to put the words on paper so that I can reflect on them.. no rules.. just words to explore
That’s a wonderful way to write too.
“Katerina Stavonic sat in the Presidential Suite contemplating the events that had brought her to the role of dictator for life of Transania.” From my novel ‘As Life Dictates’.
First line from my short story “The Power of No”:
The guitars played the flamenco and the women, in their clinging red dresses, danced, tapping out the rhythm with their shoes and the snapping of their fingers.
I appreciate this description. You’ve summoned both dance and music in just a few words.
“It started out like any other Thursday night for John Rioli. He had just gotten done eating a quick dinner, showered and headed out the door. His slicked back black hair, still wet from the shower began to harden around his head as he walked through the frosty, December air. It was cold, but a comfortable cold. The type of cold that made you feel alive and confident.”
Nice. I like the inclusion of frost.
From ‘Elbert: AjJivadi – Book 1″
IT WAS AN HOUR BEFORE SUNRISE, TOO FOGGY TO SEE MORE than a couple of feet. An Edison bulb glowed from a lamppost at the end of the walk, making a rainbow in the mist. As Tom Bjornson drew closer, he spied a possum, drawn by the aroma of dairy products.
The possum slinked away, babies hanging on for dear life. Within the delivery box, a wire basket and empty bottles. Tom’s appointment with the dairymen was on schedule.
The milk truck, a Ford Model T with an overlong cargo bed, tended to shimmy when loaded heavy in back. Its headlights bobbed and weaved, easy to spot through pea soup, though distance was hard to judge. Sooner than expected, the vehicle brushed up close.
Great. Thanks for sharing.
Laura Jordan knew that Sherd Goff was afflicted with incurable wanderlust when she married him in early 1890.
From “Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots”
An enticing beginning, suggestive of wanderings to come.
My book is Pride and Prejudice-“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. It’s such an iconic line and I also happen to be reading that book currently!
Such a classic! Thanks for sharing it 🙂
isn’t it? it’s such a good book’. yeah, no prob!
She’d been fired. Again. – from my current WIP
Siren. The word pulses in my head, forcing fresh speed to my slippered feet. – from a Fantasy w/ a Scottish tie (unpublished)
It wasn’t my plan to get kidnapped, but here I was, stuck with sweaty Teddy Randolph puffing his Cheeto breath in my face. – from Sliver Moon, another Fantasy w/ a Scottish tie as yet unpublished.
Thanks for letting us share. So fun!
Dramatic! Thank you for sharing 🙂
The second line is really all-telling in “Sisters on the Edge” by Allish — the generous author who lets us speak. That line is “And I speak.”
Thank you so much for posting it, Julie 🙂
From my published novel, “Covered With Snow,” by Art Hutchinson:
“Cece Paine, Professor of Glacial Geology at the University of British Columbia, is not sure, when she crunches out of her tent in unlaced, crampon-clad boots, if a spot of bright green deep in the crevasse lit by her headlamp is not a dropped hat or mitten.”
bit.ly/CWS-p (Amazon) or http://www.gospelfiction.com
Chilling! Thanks for sharing.
I like this one from Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book: “First, I got myself born. A decent crowd was in hand to watch, and they’ve always given me that much: the worst of the job was up to me, my mother being let’s just say out of it.” If it look a little familiar that’s because the book is a transposition of David Copperfield to modern day Appalachia. I’ll look for others — I love first lines!
Interesting sounding adaptation.
This is a fun idea! From my current WIP, The Tale of the Drakanox: “It used to be, when Hawk Squad marched into a village, the people would scatter in fear.”
Nice line, raising a question in the reader’s mind.
This is from my novel “Honey Ko.” Nearly 65 literary agents didn’t think too much of it
“It’s funny how the heart aches the same way in grief and love.”
I self-pubbed with Amazon KDP.
Poignant. I hope it does well in KDP.
From my web-serialized romance, “Knowing You.” When Stephanie Woods heard she wasn’t getting married today, she pulled the veil out of her updo and tossed it on the cherry wood dressing table. The comb hurt her head anyway.
Good for her. She sounds feisty 🙂
From my novel, The Valley Walker:
He’d been used.
He was a soldier, fighting in a war he truly believed in, so devoted to its cause that he was willing to sacrifice everything. But doubts rose in his mind, and then he knew for sure. He’d been manipulated by men so empty they could only think of profit and power, men who exploited the toil and suffering of others to their own advantage.
Truthful and sad.
Jonathon couldn’t decide whether real earthquakes or his recurring earthquake nightmare scared him more, but he sure wished they’d both go away. (Opening line of my 2020 YA novel EARTHQUAKES.ISBN: 978-1-7345094-0-3)
A high concept beginning!
How about the worst sentence that’s used more than any other that instantly turns me off—New York Times best selling author—by the way, it’s never actually true!
I want to know what it is now, but maybe don’t name the author or book 🙂
“New York Times best selling author” is a sentence that’s repeated endlessly in inside cover blurbs that makes be close the book and put it back on the shelf
Ah, of course. I didn’t realise that was the line. There do seem to be a lot of them about!
This is from my collection of short stories, Long Walks on Short Paths.
It opens the main story, ‘The Passenger at Hornbeam Halt’, a story about an eerie railway station. I will write more dramatic first lines but I like the element of foreshadowing this one offers.
The hills cradled the village in a small valley. In response, the handful of houses nestled close to the gentle green countryside. Despite the stone which formed each home, and the sturdy lanes that interlaced them, the village seemed small and vulnerable. The woods, streams and vast swathes of grass surrounded it, threatening to engulf it.
The words vulnerable and threatening definitely add a dark expectancy.
Thank you! I must admit, I felt quite sorry for the poor village whilst I wrote these lines.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
The first line of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Long before I read the book, I had read the first line, and it intrigued me!
Another classic! Thank you for posting.
From a famous writer: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” From the novel “Scaramouche,” by Rafael Sabatini (1875 – 1950), published in 1921. Sabatini’s most famous novel, “Captain Blood,”would come out the next year.
From a not-famous writer: “I can tell it’s going to be a bad day when I see my own grave.” From the short story “Dead Cellphone,” by yours truly, on my blog, Sillyverse, from 2014. I wanted a Halloween story that year
Thank you for sharing these. Yours does, indeed, prepare the reader for a really bad day!
I love Scaramouche and I love this first line!
‘The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog.’
These are the opening lines from chapter 1 of a popular book that I recently read, any guesses to what it is?
Let me know if you need me to reveal all.
I do not know, but I’m going to guess ‘Where the Crawdads Sing.’
Ha, ha, Correct!
I must get round to reading it 🙂
While Dickens created nearly a one line paragraph with his first line from Tales of Two Cities, some first lines are short, like this one from my YA WIP, THE G*ME:
“If you are reading this you have lost.”
I like it.
Thanks. Hope it holds form.
The opening sentence from my current project, Becoming Clare:
“Clare walked between the banks of shoveled snow on the side of the red brick walkway, careful not to slip on the icy spots from water that melted during the day but refroze after dark.”
From my book Inspirational novel “On The Edge” .
“John and Mary had known each other for as long as they both could remember.”
Nice introduction. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again–Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. (As a matter of fact, I have done a post on first lines on a different platform https://lindaggeova.blogspot.com/2020/04/novel-openings.html).
Wonderful. I love Rebecca. And you have some fantastic lines over on your blog too. I’d forgotten the opening of 1984.
“If you and I had sat on a park bench for an afernoon a couple of years ago, catching up, talking of this and that, and you had asked me the “what-are-you-thinking-and-writing-about-these-days?” kind of question, I would have answered, “rituals.” And I would have added, “If that surprises you, it surprises me, as well.”
– Robert Fulghum, From Beginning to End: The Rituals of our Lives
A good opening.
The opening lines from a autiobiography I recently read:
Along with teaching us that lamb must be cooked with garlic and that a lady never scratches her head or spits, my mother taught my sisters and me that it is a wife’s bounden duty to see that her husband is happy in his work.
The Egg and I – Betty McDonald
Bounden duty is tough! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I guess this is cheating but I have the first line of the prologue and the first line of the story.
There was a ‘whoop’ and a splash and then silence.
The front door seemed to echo as Valerie closed it and shook off her coat. The house was so empty without James.
“More Fish in the Sea” is a story about an Introduction Agency which I had published in 2020..
Wonderfully evocative of sound.
It’s late at night and I’m somewhere in Ethiopia – one of the world’s most ancient countries – in the back of a beat up, decades-old taxi, clutching a seat held together more by strips of old electrical tape than upholstery, nervously pondering the situation I’ve gotten myself into. I have no idea what the two men up front jabbering away in Amharic are saying to one another, nor am I sure where they are taking me. They don’t know, either.
Kristin Fellows, “Lions, Peacocks & Lemon Trees”
Perilous. Thanks for sharing 🙂
My favorite first sentence of all time is from Gary Corby’s “The Pericles Commission”:
A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud.
That is an attention grabbing line!
This is the first paragraph of a short story I wrote called “Sisters’ Hell”.
I already knew what to do. Nobody told me to do it. In fact, they all told me not to. Don’t do it, they said. It’s too late, they said. I heard their words. But I didn’t listen. Running full speed back into the burning hotel was my decision, and mine alone.
On a mid-spring day in 1869 Angus Teague discovered he did not have what it took to commit casual murder.
The first line of a book I’m writing on the Frontier Wars – and focused on the activities of the Queensland Native Police – in 19th century Australia.
More of my books are available via https://www.amazon.com/author/sjkimber
This sounds really interesting.
Surely one of the most compelling beginnings of all time must be George Orwell’s ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ (1984)
It is a wonderful line. You’re the second person to mention it 🙂
Not being a published author but rather a blogger I sure can’t quote myself! I do get the allure of a first line.
There’s some good ones about 🙂
The first lines from my book ‘Lucky Jack (1894-2000)’:
My name is Henry John Rogers, but I’m known to most people as Jack. I was born at the very end of the nineteenth century, on 21st March 1894, in a room above my father’s boot repair shop, in Hammersmith, London. Most of my nine siblings (I was the second eldest) were born in the same room. Of course, I had no idea then that my life would be full of adventure, that I would live through two world wars – serving in one – and that I would even be a (relatively) famous newspaper columnist! My life has been full of love, laughter, music and comedy, all 106 years – yes, I’ve managed to live in three different centuries! I’ve known hunger, fear, and loss, but I’ve also had the privilege of a happy marriage, and wonderful friends. I hope you enjoy my story.
You know I love The Mermaid and the Bear! <3
Here's the first line from The King's Inquisitor:
The business of witchcraft is a foul trade and only a scrupulous man is fitted for the task.
And I love The King’s Inquisitor! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Two favourites. Both sum up the book completely.
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”. The Gunslinger by Stephen King. The first book in The Dark Tower series. King’s constant readers will know it appears a second time in the series.
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.” Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.
Great quotes. I’ve read the first one 🙂
From my novel ‘Between Wars’
‘Gradually the woman by the window transfigures into a silhouette. Although fashion dictates otherwise, she still wears her hair up. He can see her slender neck, slightly curved.’