Great Openers

"That's torn it!" said Lord Peter Wimsey. 

7363117.thbSusan here, and that's a great start for a great book–The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers.

When I write the closing line of a book, it grows organically until it feels like just the right note to end the story. The last couple of lines can be easier than the opening line. Sometimes it comes to me early and entire, and it sticks. With other books, it changes again and again as I search for the way into the story–a descriptive line that sets a tone or a mood, a narrative line to open an action situation, or a little dialogue that evokes a character or a situation quickly. I looking for an intriguing line to catch the reader's interest–and more, I want that first line to be unique, immediate, intriguing. I want the reader to step right in, to catch a glimpse of what's inside the book. One line is not always enough for an opening hook, it might take more. But it's a crucial sentence, the magnet that pulls the reader further, line to line, page to page, into the story. 

109583271.thbThat proverbial hook—the line or few lines that pull you into another world, catch your attention, tap your emotion or stir your curiosity …and invites you to read on to find out more is all-important to the writer and the reader. If it doesn't quite hit the mark, the reader may bow out quickly. I used to slog through a book once I opened it, but I gave that up a long time ago. If a book doesn't catch me quickly, I'm out and away and on to the next book. Often I'll go back and give it another try, and often enough discover that if I just push on, there’s a great read there. Sometimes the hook is a subtle thing. It doesn’t always grab immediately, yet there is a quality that makes the reader curious to continue.

It was a dark and stormy night.   — A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle 


A great book might have a deceptively simple opening line to a deep and wonderful story.  It might tell you some small yet significant clue about character, situation, setting. Sometimes it is just the power or beauty of the author's voice that brings you along. Simple or complex, hang on – you may discover an amazing world within.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

—The Hobbit, J.R.R. TolkeinPublish

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

31122I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

Or the opening might be layered and longer with elements of the whole book hidden in that first sentence.

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

–Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine and several other things besides, smoked a pipe and tended the geraniums boxed on the sill of his window above Water Lane in the town of Bridgewater.

— Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini

When the east wind blows up Helford River the shining waters become troubled and disturbed and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores.

– Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne du Maurier

Some opening lines set up tone, character and a key situation all in a few words:

When the girl came rushing up the steps, I decided she was wearing far too many clothes. 

51PAarM21RL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Silver Pigs, Lindsey Davis

Or it could be subtle and intriguing:

It was the egret, flying out of the lemon grove, that started it. 

The Moonspinners, Mary Stewart

The lad had the deep, burning eyes of a zealot.

— The Prince of Midnight, Laura Kinsale

It could open a narrative that draws you along, always wanting to know more.

I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house.

— Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson 

And I’ll toss in one of my favorites among books I've written:  

SusanKing_TheSwordMaiden800
Wild as blackberries she was, sweet and dark and unruly, and she would never be his. Lachlan MacKerron knew it, had always known it.

The Sword Maiden Susan King 

So there you go, a few story portals — what are some of your favorite opening lines in novels you've read (or written!)? 

Susan 

120 thoughts on “Great Openers”

  1. Just a few:
    “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” — Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave.
    “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
    “Nothing ever happens to me.” I wrote the words slowly, look at them for a moment with a little sigh, then put my ballpoint pen down on the cafe table and rummaged in my handbag for a cigarette.– Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael
    “I met him in the street called Straight.” — Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds
    Growing up, I always loved how Nancy Drew mysteries started out with some dramatic line that Must Be Explained.
    There is a game called “A Dark and Stormy Night” where you identify the first lines from books, plays, poetry, etc.

    Reply
  2. Just a few:
    “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” — Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave.
    “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
    “Nothing ever happens to me.” I wrote the words slowly, look at them for a moment with a little sigh, then put my ballpoint pen down on the cafe table and rummaged in my handbag for a cigarette.– Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael
    “I met him in the street called Straight.” — Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds
    Growing up, I always loved how Nancy Drew mysteries started out with some dramatic line that Must Be Explained.
    There is a game called “A Dark and Stormy Night” where you identify the first lines from books, plays, poetry, etc.

    Reply
  3. Just a few:
    “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” — Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave.
    “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
    “Nothing ever happens to me.” I wrote the words slowly, look at them for a moment with a little sigh, then put my ballpoint pen down on the cafe table and rummaged in my handbag for a cigarette.– Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael
    “I met him in the street called Straight.” — Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds
    Growing up, I always loved how Nancy Drew mysteries started out with some dramatic line that Must Be Explained.
    There is a game called “A Dark and Stormy Night” where you identify the first lines from books, plays, poetry, etc.

    Reply
  4. Just a few:
    “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” — Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave.
    “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
    “Nothing ever happens to me.” I wrote the words slowly, look at them for a moment with a little sigh, then put my ballpoint pen down on the cafe table and rummaged in my handbag for a cigarette.– Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael
    “I met him in the street called Straight.” — Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds
    Growing up, I always loved how Nancy Drew mysteries started out with some dramatic line that Must Be Explained.
    There is a game called “A Dark and Stormy Night” where you identify the first lines from books, plays, poetry, etc.

    Reply
  5. Just a few:
    “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” — Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave.
    “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
    “Nothing ever happens to me.” I wrote the words slowly, look at them for a moment with a little sigh, then put my ballpoint pen down on the cafe table and rummaged in my handbag for a cigarette.– Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael
    “I met him in the street called Straight.” — Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds
    Growing up, I always loved how Nancy Drew mysteries started out with some dramatic line that Must Be Explained.
    There is a game called “A Dark and Stormy Night” where you identify the first lines from books, plays, poetry, etc.

    Reply
  6. Truth to tell, I don’t normally notice first lines all that much. I couldn’t think of any special one off the top of my head, so I turned to the first page of my current read – THE LADY MUST WILLING…A NOVEL IN THREE PARTS by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway.
    The first line goes: “Some said the legendary storm of 1819 that screamed down from the north pushed madness ahead of it.”
    But I think it is the second line that sets the tone for this book: “Others said the only madness exhibited that night was born inside a bottle of contraband whiskey.”
    This book has some real laugh out loud moments.

    Reply
  7. Truth to tell, I don’t normally notice first lines all that much. I couldn’t think of any special one off the top of my head, so I turned to the first page of my current read – THE LADY MUST WILLING…A NOVEL IN THREE PARTS by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway.
    The first line goes: “Some said the legendary storm of 1819 that screamed down from the north pushed madness ahead of it.”
    But I think it is the second line that sets the tone for this book: “Others said the only madness exhibited that night was born inside a bottle of contraband whiskey.”
    This book has some real laugh out loud moments.

    Reply
  8. Truth to tell, I don’t normally notice first lines all that much. I couldn’t think of any special one off the top of my head, so I turned to the first page of my current read – THE LADY MUST WILLING…A NOVEL IN THREE PARTS by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway.
    The first line goes: “Some said the legendary storm of 1819 that screamed down from the north pushed madness ahead of it.”
    But I think it is the second line that sets the tone for this book: “Others said the only madness exhibited that night was born inside a bottle of contraband whiskey.”
    This book has some real laugh out loud moments.

    Reply
  9. Truth to tell, I don’t normally notice first lines all that much. I couldn’t think of any special one off the top of my head, so I turned to the first page of my current read – THE LADY MUST WILLING…A NOVEL IN THREE PARTS by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway.
    The first line goes: “Some said the legendary storm of 1819 that screamed down from the north pushed madness ahead of it.”
    But I think it is the second line that sets the tone for this book: “Others said the only madness exhibited that night was born inside a bottle of contraband whiskey.”
    This book has some real laugh out loud moments.

    Reply
  10. Truth to tell, I don’t normally notice first lines all that much. I couldn’t think of any special one off the top of my head, so I turned to the first page of my current read – THE LADY MUST WILLING…A NOVEL IN THREE PARTS by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway.
    The first line goes: “Some said the legendary storm of 1819 that screamed down from the north pushed madness ahead of it.”
    But I think it is the second line that sets the tone for this book: “Others said the only madness exhibited that night was born inside a bottle of contraband whiskey.”
    This book has some real laugh out loud moments.

    Reply
  11. I love this game. I have a running collection of favorite first lines. The ones below are a small sampling.
    The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she’d had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned white as bleached cotton.
    The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
    Cal Toleffson saw the love of his life for the first time at 5:47 p. m. in the Dew Drop Inn, downtown Konigsburg, Texas.
    Venus in Blue Jeans, Meg Benjamin
    The end of her own perfect world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, erapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax.
    Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne
    This story begins with a carriage that was never a pumpkin, though it fled at midnight; a godmother who lost track of her charge, though she had no magic wand; and several so-called rats who secretly would have enjoyed wearing livery.
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James
    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
    124 was spiteful.
    Beloved , Toni Morrison
    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
    1984, George Orwell
    The April I was thirteen, I went to sleep a good Catholic schoolgirl and woke up the next morning burning.
    No Place Like Home, Barbara Samuel
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
    Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
    Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
    Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

    Reply
  12. I love this game. I have a running collection of favorite first lines. The ones below are a small sampling.
    The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she’d had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned white as bleached cotton.
    The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
    Cal Toleffson saw the love of his life for the first time at 5:47 p. m. in the Dew Drop Inn, downtown Konigsburg, Texas.
    Venus in Blue Jeans, Meg Benjamin
    The end of her own perfect world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, erapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax.
    Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne
    This story begins with a carriage that was never a pumpkin, though it fled at midnight; a godmother who lost track of her charge, though she had no magic wand; and several so-called rats who secretly would have enjoyed wearing livery.
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James
    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
    124 was spiteful.
    Beloved , Toni Morrison
    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
    1984, George Orwell
    The April I was thirteen, I went to sleep a good Catholic schoolgirl and woke up the next morning burning.
    No Place Like Home, Barbara Samuel
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
    Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
    Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
    Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

    Reply
  13. I love this game. I have a running collection of favorite first lines. The ones below are a small sampling.
    The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she’d had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned white as bleached cotton.
    The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
    Cal Toleffson saw the love of his life for the first time at 5:47 p. m. in the Dew Drop Inn, downtown Konigsburg, Texas.
    Venus in Blue Jeans, Meg Benjamin
    The end of her own perfect world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, erapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax.
    Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne
    This story begins with a carriage that was never a pumpkin, though it fled at midnight; a godmother who lost track of her charge, though she had no magic wand; and several so-called rats who secretly would have enjoyed wearing livery.
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James
    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
    124 was spiteful.
    Beloved , Toni Morrison
    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
    1984, George Orwell
    The April I was thirteen, I went to sleep a good Catholic schoolgirl and woke up the next morning burning.
    No Place Like Home, Barbara Samuel
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
    Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
    Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
    Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

    Reply
  14. I love this game. I have a running collection of favorite first lines. The ones below are a small sampling.
    The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she’d had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned white as bleached cotton.
    The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
    Cal Toleffson saw the love of his life for the first time at 5:47 p. m. in the Dew Drop Inn, downtown Konigsburg, Texas.
    Venus in Blue Jeans, Meg Benjamin
    The end of her own perfect world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, erapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax.
    Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne
    This story begins with a carriage that was never a pumpkin, though it fled at midnight; a godmother who lost track of her charge, though she had no magic wand; and several so-called rats who secretly would have enjoyed wearing livery.
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James
    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
    124 was spiteful.
    Beloved , Toni Morrison
    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
    1984, George Orwell
    The April I was thirteen, I went to sleep a good Catholic schoolgirl and woke up the next morning burning.
    No Place Like Home, Barbara Samuel
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
    Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
    Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
    Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

    Reply
  15. I love this game. I have a running collection of favorite first lines. The ones below are a small sampling.
    The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she’d had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned white as bleached cotton.
    The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
    Cal Toleffson saw the love of his life for the first time at 5:47 p. m. in the Dew Drop Inn, downtown Konigsburg, Texas.
    Venus in Blue Jeans, Meg Benjamin
    The end of her own perfect world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, erapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax.
    Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne
    This story begins with a carriage that was never a pumpkin, though it fled at midnight; a godmother who lost track of her charge, though she had no magic wand; and several so-called rats who secretly would have enjoyed wearing livery.
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James
    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
    124 was spiteful.
    Beloved , Toni Morrison
    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
    1984, George Orwell
    The April I was thirteen, I went to sleep a good Catholic schoolgirl and woke up the next morning burning.
    No Place Like Home, Barbara Samuel
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
    Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
    Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
    Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

    Reply
  16. Well the P&P line is my very favorite of all time (says the Janeite). But there are a few others I can think of…
    It wasn’t chance. There wasn’t any part of it that happened just by chance. – Susanna Kearsley, The Winter Sea
    Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. – Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
    Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. There are others. I love the way a good first line can make you immediately sit down and begin to read.

    Reply
  17. Well the P&P line is my very favorite of all time (says the Janeite). But there are a few others I can think of…
    It wasn’t chance. There wasn’t any part of it that happened just by chance. – Susanna Kearsley, The Winter Sea
    Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. – Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
    Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. There are others. I love the way a good first line can make you immediately sit down and begin to read.

    Reply
  18. Well the P&P line is my very favorite of all time (says the Janeite). But there are a few others I can think of…
    It wasn’t chance. There wasn’t any part of it that happened just by chance. – Susanna Kearsley, The Winter Sea
    Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. – Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
    Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. There are others. I love the way a good first line can make you immediately sit down and begin to read.

    Reply
  19. Well the P&P line is my very favorite of all time (says the Janeite). But there are a few others I can think of…
    It wasn’t chance. There wasn’t any part of it that happened just by chance. – Susanna Kearsley, The Winter Sea
    Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. – Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
    Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. There are others. I love the way a good first line can make you immediately sit down and begin to read.

    Reply
  20. Well the P&P line is my very favorite of all time (says the Janeite). But there are a few others I can think of…
    It wasn’t chance. There wasn’t any part of it that happened just by chance. – Susanna Kearsley, The Winter Sea
    Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
    Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. – Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
    Those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. There are others. I love the way a good first line can make you immediately sit down and begin to read.

    Reply
  21. What fun, Susan! And what great examples you picked, including your own book. Mary Stewart, not surprisingly, was really good at opening sentences.
    I’m not. I think I’ve written maybe two that are particularly memorable: “She needed a husband and she needed one fast.” from Shattered Rainbows. And “He was going to be hanged on Tuesday.” from my novella “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.”
    I need to work on doing other ones that are good. *G*

    Reply
  22. What fun, Susan! And what great examples you picked, including your own book. Mary Stewart, not surprisingly, was really good at opening sentences.
    I’m not. I think I’ve written maybe two that are particularly memorable: “She needed a husband and she needed one fast.” from Shattered Rainbows. And “He was going to be hanged on Tuesday.” from my novella “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.”
    I need to work on doing other ones that are good. *G*

    Reply
  23. What fun, Susan! And what great examples you picked, including your own book. Mary Stewart, not surprisingly, was really good at opening sentences.
    I’m not. I think I’ve written maybe two that are particularly memorable: “She needed a husband and she needed one fast.” from Shattered Rainbows. And “He was going to be hanged on Tuesday.” from my novella “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.”
    I need to work on doing other ones that are good. *G*

    Reply
  24. What fun, Susan! And what great examples you picked, including your own book. Mary Stewart, not surprisingly, was really good at opening sentences.
    I’m not. I think I’ve written maybe two that are particularly memorable: “She needed a husband and she needed one fast.” from Shattered Rainbows. And “He was going to be hanged on Tuesday.” from my novella “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.”
    I need to work on doing other ones that are good. *G*

    Reply
  25. What fun, Susan! And what great examples you picked, including your own book. Mary Stewart, not surprisingly, was really good at opening sentences.
    I’m not. I think I’ve written maybe two that are particularly memorable: “She needed a husband and she needed one fast.” from Shattered Rainbows. And “He was going to be hanged on Tuesday.” from my novella “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.”
    I need to work on doing other ones that are good. *G*

    Reply
  26. Huh! Think my comment disappeared…
    Anyway, I loved this, Susan. Putting craft rules into context with examples is always so helpful, so this one’s going into my writing craft files as a keeper.
    Thank you!
    Cheers, Faith

    Reply
  27. Huh! Think my comment disappeared…
    Anyway, I loved this, Susan. Putting craft rules into context with examples is always so helpful, so this one’s going into my writing craft files as a keeper.
    Thank you!
    Cheers, Faith

    Reply
  28. Huh! Think my comment disappeared…
    Anyway, I loved this, Susan. Putting craft rules into context with examples is always so helpful, so this one’s going into my writing craft files as a keeper.
    Thank you!
    Cheers, Faith

    Reply
  29. Huh! Think my comment disappeared…
    Anyway, I loved this, Susan. Putting craft rules into context with examples is always so helpful, so this one’s going into my writing craft files as a keeper.
    Thank you!
    Cheers, Faith

    Reply
  30. Huh! Think my comment disappeared…
    Anyway, I loved this, Susan. Putting craft rules into context with examples is always so helpful, so this one’s going into my writing craft files as a keeper.
    Thank you!
    Cheers, Faith

    Reply
  31. “On the day that his grannie was killed by the English, Sir Wiliam Scott the Younger of Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
    “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Ringed Castle.

    Reply
  32. “On the day that his grannie was killed by the English, Sir Wiliam Scott the Younger of Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
    “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Ringed Castle.

    Reply
  33. “On the day that his grannie was killed by the English, Sir Wiliam Scott the Younger of Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
    “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Ringed Castle.

    Reply
  34. “On the day that his grannie was killed by the English, Sir Wiliam Scott the Younger of Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
    “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Ringed Castle.

    Reply
  35. “On the day that his grannie was killed by the English, Sir Wiliam Scott the Younger of Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
    “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.” Dorothy Dunnett, The Ringed Castle.

    Reply
  36. One of my favorite opening lines is from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask: “Penitence Hurd and the plague arrived in London on the same day.” It’s an excellent line that draws you right into this excellent book.

    Reply
  37. One of my favorite opening lines is from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask: “Penitence Hurd and the plague arrived in London on the same day.” It’s an excellent line that draws you right into this excellent book.

    Reply
  38. One of my favorite opening lines is from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask: “Penitence Hurd and the plague arrived in London on the same day.” It’s an excellent line that draws you right into this excellent book.

    Reply
  39. One of my favorite opening lines is from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask: “Penitence Hurd and the plague arrived in London on the same day.” It’s an excellent line that draws you right into this excellent book.

    Reply
  40. One of my favorite opening lines is from Diana Norman’s The Vizard Mask: “Penitence Hurd and the plague arrived in London on the same day.” It’s an excellent line that draws you right into this excellent book.

    Reply
  41. Although I agree that your examples are memorable, I don’t personally depend on such short examples. Of course, I remember some starting lines; but not others. Over the years my decision on the “value” of a book to me lies in the first chapter, rather than in the first few words.
    I also wish to point out that a reader’s personal situation — health, family “crisis”, or other outside influence — may influence the reader against (or for) a book, that a different situation might have created a different reaction. I have had this happen to me.
    That having been said, I DO enjoy what others notice as great lines.

    Reply
  42. Although I agree that your examples are memorable, I don’t personally depend on such short examples. Of course, I remember some starting lines; but not others. Over the years my decision on the “value” of a book to me lies in the first chapter, rather than in the first few words.
    I also wish to point out that a reader’s personal situation — health, family “crisis”, or other outside influence — may influence the reader against (or for) a book, that a different situation might have created a different reaction. I have had this happen to me.
    That having been said, I DO enjoy what others notice as great lines.

    Reply
  43. Although I agree that your examples are memorable, I don’t personally depend on such short examples. Of course, I remember some starting lines; but not others. Over the years my decision on the “value” of a book to me lies in the first chapter, rather than in the first few words.
    I also wish to point out that a reader’s personal situation — health, family “crisis”, or other outside influence — may influence the reader against (or for) a book, that a different situation might have created a different reaction. I have had this happen to me.
    That having been said, I DO enjoy what others notice as great lines.

    Reply
  44. Although I agree that your examples are memorable, I don’t personally depend on such short examples. Of course, I remember some starting lines; but not others. Over the years my decision on the “value” of a book to me lies in the first chapter, rather than in the first few words.
    I also wish to point out that a reader’s personal situation — health, family “crisis”, or other outside influence — may influence the reader against (or for) a book, that a different situation might have created a different reaction. I have had this happen to me.
    That having been said, I DO enjoy what others notice as great lines.

    Reply
  45. Although I agree that your examples are memorable, I don’t personally depend on such short examples. Of course, I remember some starting lines; but not others. Over the years my decision on the “value” of a book to me lies in the first chapter, rather than in the first few words.
    I also wish to point out that a reader’s personal situation — health, family “crisis”, or other outside influence — may influence the reader against (or for) a book, that a different situation might have created a different reaction. I have had this happen to me.
    That having been said, I DO enjoy what others notice as great lines.

    Reply
  46. One of my favorites is “Call me Ishmael.” Not because Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a favorite but because of a wonderful cartoon showing the frustrated author at a desk the surface of which and the floor around him covered by wadded up sheets of paper with several false starts – “Call me Bill.” “Call me Sean.” “Call me ….” I taught junior and senior high classes for students with learning disabilities to earn their English credits. Many of my students were more right-brained and related to images rather than words. They had problems with reading, writing, spelling, etc. and using this cartoon and many others of a similar nature helped them get past the writing block the huge effort of beginning was to them. I’ve certainly enjoyed all the other beginnings folks have listed here as well.

    Reply
  47. One of my favorites is “Call me Ishmael.” Not because Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a favorite but because of a wonderful cartoon showing the frustrated author at a desk the surface of which and the floor around him covered by wadded up sheets of paper with several false starts – “Call me Bill.” “Call me Sean.” “Call me ….” I taught junior and senior high classes for students with learning disabilities to earn their English credits. Many of my students were more right-brained and related to images rather than words. They had problems with reading, writing, spelling, etc. and using this cartoon and many others of a similar nature helped them get past the writing block the huge effort of beginning was to them. I’ve certainly enjoyed all the other beginnings folks have listed here as well.

    Reply
  48. One of my favorites is “Call me Ishmael.” Not because Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a favorite but because of a wonderful cartoon showing the frustrated author at a desk the surface of which and the floor around him covered by wadded up sheets of paper with several false starts – “Call me Bill.” “Call me Sean.” “Call me ….” I taught junior and senior high classes for students with learning disabilities to earn their English credits. Many of my students were more right-brained and related to images rather than words. They had problems with reading, writing, spelling, etc. and using this cartoon and many others of a similar nature helped them get past the writing block the huge effort of beginning was to them. I’ve certainly enjoyed all the other beginnings folks have listed here as well.

    Reply
  49. One of my favorites is “Call me Ishmael.” Not because Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a favorite but because of a wonderful cartoon showing the frustrated author at a desk the surface of which and the floor around him covered by wadded up sheets of paper with several false starts – “Call me Bill.” “Call me Sean.” “Call me ….” I taught junior and senior high classes for students with learning disabilities to earn their English credits. Many of my students were more right-brained and related to images rather than words. They had problems with reading, writing, spelling, etc. and using this cartoon and many others of a similar nature helped them get past the writing block the huge effort of beginning was to them. I’ve certainly enjoyed all the other beginnings folks have listed here as well.

    Reply
  50. One of my favorites is “Call me Ishmael.” Not because Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a favorite but because of a wonderful cartoon showing the frustrated author at a desk the surface of which and the floor around him covered by wadded up sheets of paper with several false starts – “Call me Bill.” “Call me Sean.” “Call me ….” I taught junior and senior high classes for students with learning disabilities to earn their English credits. Many of my students were more right-brained and related to images rather than words. They had problems with reading, writing, spelling, etc. and using this cartoon and many others of a similar nature helped them get past the writing block the huge effort of beginning was to them. I’ve certainly enjoyed all the other beginnings folks have listed here as well.

    Reply
  51. You know, I have read some amazing first lines recently, but can’t remember them off the top of my head.
    The Pride and Prejudice one is so famous I think some people don’t even know where it came from!
    When I did a writing degree at university we were told 10 000 000 times over: first line, first line, first line…
    However, I think some people got so crazy over it they forgot the rest of the book!

    Reply
  52. You know, I have read some amazing first lines recently, but can’t remember them off the top of my head.
    The Pride and Prejudice one is so famous I think some people don’t even know where it came from!
    When I did a writing degree at university we were told 10 000 000 times over: first line, first line, first line…
    However, I think some people got so crazy over it they forgot the rest of the book!

    Reply
  53. You know, I have read some amazing first lines recently, but can’t remember them off the top of my head.
    The Pride and Prejudice one is so famous I think some people don’t even know where it came from!
    When I did a writing degree at university we were told 10 000 000 times over: first line, first line, first line…
    However, I think some people got so crazy over it they forgot the rest of the book!

    Reply
  54. You know, I have read some amazing first lines recently, but can’t remember them off the top of my head.
    The Pride and Prejudice one is so famous I think some people don’t even know where it came from!
    When I did a writing degree at university we were told 10 000 000 times over: first line, first line, first line…
    However, I think some people got so crazy over it they forgot the rest of the book!

    Reply
  55. You know, I have read some amazing first lines recently, but can’t remember them off the top of my head.
    The Pride and Prejudice one is so famous I think some people don’t even know where it came from!
    When I did a writing degree at university we were told 10 000 000 times over: first line, first line, first line…
    However, I think some people got so crazy over it they forgot the rest of the book!

    Reply
  56. I’ve loved many first lines from books over the years but of course put on the spot can’t recall most of them. However, there are two that stick in my mind, ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show’, from David Copperfield, one of my favorite Dickens novels.
    In complete contrast, ‘July 2nd 1943. From milk run to blood bath in half a second’, from Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe. A brilliant read I might add.
    Very enjoyable post.

    Reply
  57. I’ve loved many first lines from books over the years but of course put on the spot can’t recall most of them. However, there are two that stick in my mind, ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show’, from David Copperfield, one of my favorite Dickens novels.
    In complete contrast, ‘July 2nd 1943. From milk run to blood bath in half a second’, from Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe. A brilliant read I might add.
    Very enjoyable post.

    Reply
  58. I’ve loved many first lines from books over the years but of course put on the spot can’t recall most of them. However, there are two that stick in my mind, ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show’, from David Copperfield, one of my favorite Dickens novels.
    In complete contrast, ‘July 2nd 1943. From milk run to blood bath in half a second’, from Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe. A brilliant read I might add.
    Very enjoyable post.

    Reply
  59. I’ve loved many first lines from books over the years but of course put on the spot can’t recall most of them. However, there are two that stick in my mind, ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show’, from David Copperfield, one of my favorite Dickens novels.
    In complete contrast, ‘July 2nd 1943. From milk run to blood bath in half a second’, from Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe. A brilliant read I might add.
    Very enjoyable post.

    Reply
  60. I’ve loved many first lines from books over the years but of course put on the spot can’t recall most of them. However, there are two that stick in my mind, ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show’, from David Copperfield, one of my favorite Dickens novels.
    In complete contrast, ‘July 2nd 1943. From milk run to blood bath in half a second’, from Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe. A brilliant read I might add.
    Very enjoyable post.

    Reply
  61. I so agree, Sonya. I tried to teach my students that “You’re not done until you’re done.” One can always revisit that opening line as often as one likes all the way through the writing process. Revising was not their favorite part of the process, needless to say. One of my senior students was in danger of not earning his last English credit, but he was an excellent artist. I tasked him with creating overheads for me that would explain the writing process in a right-brained way. I do wish I had submitted his effort to a publishing company so he could have made some money on it. He started with a boy sitting at his desk thinking of topics for his paper (light bulbs around his head with dog in one, cat in another, etc.), then of the student settling on the cat. A very smelly, scruffy cat. The cat then had a bath (old fashioned tub, huge bar of soap) and visited the barber shop complete with barber pole and chair for a trim and pedicure. Finally, the cat with a first prize ribbon around his neck. Needless to say, Victor had his English credit.

    Reply
  62. I so agree, Sonya. I tried to teach my students that “You’re not done until you’re done.” One can always revisit that opening line as often as one likes all the way through the writing process. Revising was not their favorite part of the process, needless to say. One of my senior students was in danger of not earning his last English credit, but he was an excellent artist. I tasked him with creating overheads for me that would explain the writing process in a right-brained way. I do wish I had submitted his effort to a publishing company so he could have made some money on it. He started with a boy sitting at his desk thinking of topics for his paper (light bulbs around his head with dog in one, cat in another, etc.), then of the student settling on the cat. A very smelly, scruffy cat. The cat then had a bath (old fashioned tub, huge bar of soap) and visited the barber shop complete with barber pole and chair for a trim and pedicure. Finally, the cat with a first prize ribbon around his neck. Needless to say, Victor had his English credit.

    Reply
  63. I so agree, Sonya. I tried to teach my students that “You’re not done until you’re done.” One can always revisit that opening line as often as one likes all the way through the writing process. Revising was not their favorite part of the process, needless to say. One of my senior students was in danger of not earning his last English credit, but he was an excellent artist. I tasked him with creating overheads for me that would explain the writing process in a right-brained way. I do wish I had submitted his effort to a publishing company so he could have made some money on it. He started with a boy sitting at his desk thinking of topics for his paper (light bulbs around his head with dog in one, cat in another, etc.), then of the student settling on the cat. A very smelly, scruffy cat. The cat then had a bath (old fashioned tub, huge bar of soap) and visited the barber shop complete with barber pole and chair for a trim and pedicure. Finally, the cat with a first prize ribbon around his neck. Needless to say, Victor had his English credit.

    Reply
  64. I so agree, Sonya. I tried to teach my students that “You’re not done until you’re done.” One can always revisit that opening line as often as one likes all the way through the writing process. Revising was not their favorite part of the process, needless to say. One of my senior students was in danger of not earning his last English credit, but he was an excellent artist. I tasked him with creating overheads for me that would explain the writing process in a right-brained way. I do wish I had submitted his effort to a publishing company so he could have made some money on it. He started with a boy sitting at his desk thinking of topics for his paper (light bulbs around his head with dog in one, cat in another, etc.), then of the student settling on the cat. A very smelly, scruffy cat. The cat then had a bath (old fashioned tub, huge bar of soap) and visited the barber shop complete with barber pole and chair for a trim and pedicure. Finally, the cat with a first prize ribbon around his neck. Needless to say, Victor had his English credit.

    Reply
  65. I so agree, Sonya. I tried to teach my students that “You’re not done until you’re done.” One can always revisit that opening line as often as one likes all the way through the writing process. Revising was not their favorite part of the process, needless to say. One of my senior students was in danger of not earning his last English credit, but he was an excellent artist. I tasked him with creating overheads for me that would explain the writing process in a right-brained way. I do wish I had submitted his effort to a publishing company so he could have made some money on it. He started with a boy sitting at his desk thinking of topics for his paper (light bulbs around his head with dog in one, cat in another, etc.), then of the student settling on the cat. A very smelly, scruffy cat. The cat then had a bath (old fashioned tub, huge bar of soap) and visited the barber shop complete with barber pole and chair for a trim and pedicure. Finally, the cat with a first prize ribbon around his neck. Needless to say, Victor had his English credit.

    Reply
  66. Well, the obvious one that no one seems to have mentioned yet is from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
    “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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
    That first sentence is surely as recognizable as Austen’s “It is universally …”
    BTW, for the actual origin of “It was a dark and stormy night,” I refer you to this Wikipedia entry:
    “It was a dark and stormy night” is an often-mocked and parodied phrase[1] written by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.[2] The phrase is considered to represent “the archetypal example of a florid, melodramatic style of fiction writing”,[1] also known as purple prose.
    The phrase has often been used tongue-in-cheek by other authors, including most famously by Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
    I, too, love this quotation game. So many come to mind. I think my favorite is the Tolstoy epigram about families. It’s the basis for all those contemporary (and classic) lit stories about dysfunctional family life. Why are there so many of those? Because there’s so much less variety to be found in happy stories, perhaps?

    Reply
  67. Well, the obvious one that no one seems to have mentioned yet is from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
    “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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
    That first sentence is surely as recognizable as Austen’s “It is universally …”
    BTW, for the actual origin of “It was a dark and stormy night,” I refer you to this Wikipedia entry:
    “It was a dark and stormy night” is an often-mocked and parodied phrase[1] written by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.[2] The phrase is considered to represent “the archetypal example of a florid, melodramatic style of fiction writing”,[1] also known as purple prose.
    The phrase has often been used tongue-in-cheek by other authors, including most famously by Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
    I, too, love this quotation game. So many come to mind. I think my favorite is the Tolstoy epigram about families. It’s the basis for all those contemporary (and classic) lit stories about dysfunctional family life. Why are there so many of those? Because there’s so much less variety to be found in happy stories, perhaps?

    Reply
  68. Well, the obvious one that no one seems to have mentioned yet is from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
    “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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
    That first sentence is surely as recognizable as Austen’s “It is universally …”
    BTW, for the actual origin of “It was a dark and stormy night,” I refer you to this Wikipedia entry:
    “It was a dark and stormy night” is an often-mocked and parodied phrase[1] written by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.[2] The phrase is considered to represent “the archetypal example of a florid, melodramatic style of fiction writing”,[1] also known as purple prose.
    The phrase has often been used tongue-in-cheek by other authors, including most famously by Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
    I, too, love this quotation game. So many come to mind. I think my favorite is the Tolstoy epigram about families. It’s the basis for all those contemporary (and classic) lit stories about dysfunctional family life. Why are there so many of those? Because there’s so much less variety to be found in happy stories, perhaps?

    Reply
  69. Well, the obvious one that no one seems to have mentioned yet is from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
    “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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
    That first sentence is surely as recognizable as Austen’s “It is universally …”
    BTW, for the actual origin of “It was a dark and stormy night,” I refer you to this Wikipedia entry:
    “It was a dark and stormy night” is an often-mocked and parodied phrase[1] written by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.[2] The phrase is considered to represent “the archetypal example of a florid, melodramatic style of fiction writing”,[1] also known as purple prose.
    The phrase has often been used tongue-in-cheek by other authors, including most famously by Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
    I, too, love this quotation game. So many come to mind. I think my favorite is the Tolstoy epigram about families. It’s the basis for all those contemporary (and classic) lit stories about dysfunctional family life. Why are there so many of those? Because there’s so much less variety to be found in happy stories, perhaps?

    Reply
  70. Well, the obvious one that no one seems to have mentioned yet is from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
    “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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
    That first sentence is surely as recognizable as Austen’s “It is universally …”
    BTW, for the actual origin of “It was a dark and stormy night,” I refer you to this Wikipedia entry:
    “It was a dark and stormy night” is an often-mocked and parodied phrase[1] written by English novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.[2] The phrase is considered to represent “the archetypal example of a florid, melodramatic style of fiction writing”,[1] also known as purple prose.
    The phrase has often been used tongue-in-cheek by other authors, including most famously by Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
    I, too, love this quotation game. So many come to mind. I think my favorite is the Tolstoy epigram about families. It’s the basis for all those contemporary (and classic) lit stories about dysfunctional family life. Why are there so many of those? Because there’s so much less variety to be found in happy stories, perhaps?

    Reply
  71. He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm
    I also agree with the comment about Silent in the Grave!

    Reply
  72. He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm
    I also agree with the comment about Silent in the Grave!

    Reply
  73. He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm
    I also agree with the comment about Silent in the Grave!

    Reply
  74. He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm
    I also agree with the comment about Silent in the Grave!

    Reply
  75. He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm
    I also agree with the comment about Silent in the Grave!

    Reply
  76. I love the 1984 opening sentence, A Tale of Two Cities, and P&P.
    Here’s a great one from Donna Thorland’s “The Rebel Pirate”:
    “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.”
    And from Muriel Spark’s “A Far Cry From Kensington”, one of my favorite books: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  77. I love the 1984 opening sentence, A Tale of Two Cities, and P&P.
    Here’s a great one from Donna Thorland’s “The Rebel Pirate”:
    “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.”
    And from Muriel Spark’s “A Far Cry From Kensington”, one of my favorite books: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  78. I love the 1984 opening sentence, A Tale of Two Cities, and P&P.
    Here’s a great one from Donna Thorland’s “The Rebel Pirate”:
    “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.”
    And from Muriel Spark’s “A Far Cry From Kensington”, one of my favorite books: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  79. I love the 1984 opening sentence, A Tale of Two Cities, and P&P.
    Here’s a great one from Donna Thorland’s “The Rebel Pirate”:
    “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.”
    And from Muriel Spark’s “A Far Cry From Kensington”, one of my favorite books: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  80. I love the 1984 opening sentence, A Tale of Two Cities, and P&P.
    Here’s a great one from Donna Thorland’s “The Rebel Pirate”:
    “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.”
    And from Muriel Spark’s “A Far Cry From Kensington”, one of my favorite books: “So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.”

    Reply
  81. Some first lines are snappy, meant to pique your interest in a startling sort of way and convince you that the author is clever enough to entertain you. Others just tell you where you are and with whom. Children’s books are often particularly direct, and I like that about them.
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.
    “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” — L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
    Others set the scene, and I know that’s out of fashion now, but I still like it. It draws me into this new world before I meet the characters.
    “Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel’s high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.” — Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    “It was dusk when the London to Little Hampton stage-coach lurched into the village of Billingshurst, and a cold mist was beginning to creep knee-high over the dimly seen countryside. — Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow

    Reply
  82. Some first lines are snappy, meant to pique your interest in a startling sort of way and convince you that the author is clever enough to entertain you. Others just tell you where you are and with whom. Children’s books are often particularly direct, and I like that about them.
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.
    “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” — L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
    Others set the scene, and I know that’s out of fashion now, but I still like it. It draws me into this new world before I meet the characters.
    “Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel’s high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.” — Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    “It was dusk when the London to Little Hampton stage-coach lurched into the village of Billingshurst, and a cold mist was beginning to creep knee-high over the dimly seen countryside. — Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow

    Reply
  83. Some first lines are snappy, meant to pique your interest in a startling sort of way and convince you that the author is clever enough to entertain you. Others just tell you where you are and with whom. Children’s books are often particularly direct, and I like that about them.
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.
    “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” — L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
    Others set the scene, and I know that’s out of fashion now, but I still like it. It draws me into this new world before I meet the characters.
    “Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel’s high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.” — Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    “It was dusk when the London to Little Hampton stage-coach lurched into the village of Billingshurst, and a cold mist was beginning to creep knee-high over the dimly seen countryside. — Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow

    Reply
  84. Some first lines are snappy, meant to pique your interest in a startling sort of way and convince you that the author is clever enough to entertain you. Others just tell you where you are and with whom. Children’s books are often particularly direct, and I like that about them.
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.
    “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” — L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
    Others set the scene, and I know that’s out of fashion now, but I still like it. It draws me into this new world before I meet the characters.
    “Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel’s high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.” — Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    “It was dusk when the London to Little Hampton stage-coach lurched into the village of Billingshurst, and a cold mist was beginning to creep knee-high over the dimly seen countryside. — Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow

    Reply
  85. Some first lines are snappy, meant to pique your interest in a startling sort of way and convince you that the author is clever enough to entertain you. Others just tell you where you are and with whom. Children’s books are often particularly direct, and I like that about them.
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.
    “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” — L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
    Others set the scene, and I know that’s out of fashion now, but I still like it. It draws me into this new world before I meet the characters.
    “Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel’s high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.” — Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    “It was dusk when the London to Little Hampton stage-coach lurched into the village of Billingshurst, and a cold mist was beginning to creep knee-high over the dimly seen countryside. — Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow

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  86. And a classic one, from Rose Macauley’s “The towers of Trebizond” –
    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

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  87. And a classic one, from Rose Macauley’s “The towers of Trebizond” –
    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

    Reply
  88. And a classic one, from Rose Macauley’s “The towers of Trebizond” –
    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

    Reply
  89. And a classic one, from Rose Macauley’s “The towers of Trebizond” –
    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

    Reply
  90. And a classic one, from Rose Macauley’s “The towers of Trebizond” –
    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

    Reply
  91. Another one, although I’m not sure I have it exactly right, is the opening of Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche: “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

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  92. Another one, although I’m not sure I have it exactly right, is the opening of Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche: “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

    Reply
  93. Another one, although I’m not sure I have it exactly right, is the opening of Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche: “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

    Reply
  94. Another one, although I’m not sure I have it exactly right, is the opening of Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche: “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

    Reply
  95. Another one, although I’m not sure I have it exactly right, is the opening of Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche: “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

    Reply
  96. The second reminded me of the first line of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going Postal’;
    “They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.”

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  97. The second reminded me of the first line of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going Postal’;
    “They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.”

    Reply
  98. The second reminded me of the first line of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going Postal’;
    “They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.”

    Reply
  99. The second reminded me of the first line of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going Postal’;
    “They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.”

    Reply
  100. The second reminded me of the first line of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going Postal’;
    “They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man’s mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.”

    Reply

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