While every great novel I've read hasn't had a memorable first line, fabulous first lines tend to stick with me. And more than once, I've purchased a book based on a reel-me-in first line or paragraph.
Here are just a few favorite openings:
“As an interactive horror experience, with beasts from Hell, mayhem, gore, and dismemberment, it was an impressive event. As a high school prom, however, the evening was marginally less successful.” – Prom Dates from Hell, Rosemary Clement-Moore
“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
“I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods.” – Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
“Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.” – Red-Headed Stepchild, Jaye Wells
"Trevor Dunham talked quite a bit about his man part just before he drowned." – The Lifeboat Clique, Kathy Parks
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
If you want some great advice on writing a winning first line, check out Laura Drake's wonderful posts on that topic here and here.
But today, we invite you to share the opening lines of your current WIP (work-in-progress) or recently finished novel in the comments! Or share a favorite from someone else. Give us the title and genre, then your opening lines. Feel free to comment on others' as well!
We'll get you started.
The Six-Percent Baby, a memoir
My dreams died on a sunny April afternoon. There would be no baby for me. Not from this body.
Book 2 in the Rx for Love series (Thea's story)
If she didn’t have sex this year, her girly bits were gonna stage a revolt. Thea Armstrong stared at the magazine in her hands, contemplating her love life.
When did I last have sex? Oh hell. When did I last go on a date?
Definitely not this year. Her BFF almost died this year. Last year, she’d raced to finish her degree. The year before was speed dating. What a bleeding disaster.
She did a frantic mental count.
Six years? Six years since she’d kicked Mr. Oh-so-wrong Keith out of her life. Almost seven years since she’d been with a man.
Holy smokes, I’m practically re-virginized.
Fire on Roof, a speculative fiction book
What had seemed like an exceptional decision a year ago, now reeked like month-old garbage in the settlement’s incinerator hole.
Compromising Harmony, a Keep sphere book
“Behold—the unwilling virgin.” The sputtered words escaped from between Harmony MEcar’s clenched teeth. Flipping up the farview lens of her tactical helmet, she watched her laughing target emerge from the pool.
Untitled contemporary romance
The universe could not have found a worse match for her.
Prepare to Meet Your Undertaker, cozy mystery
When someone asks me to arrange a Viking funeral for them, I deliver.
You can’t just toss a corpse in a boat and light it on fire anywhere. It takes event planning, coordination with legal authorities, and knowledge of the proper disposal of dead bodies.
Thankfully, I’m an expert at making dream funerals come true.
My fave of my own work will always be The Sweet Spot:
The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was grateful for the bull semen.
The Road to Me, women's fiction
I was born to be a hippie. I resisted. - Jacqueline Oliver
As-yet untitled western romance
“Hon, we’ve talked about this. I can’t ride bulls forever. Why not go out on top?”
When Lacey’s brow furrows, I know the jig is up. She doesn’t expend a wrinkle for minor irritations.
Share your opening lines—or a favorite from another author below!
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Love yours, guys! And Jenny, I love your new title - it's perfect!
We can thank Rebecca Forster for that! She's a genius. 🙂
The cloying scent of honeysuckle has reminded me of rotting flesh ever since the spring of ‘28 when I had to exhume the body of Mrs. Olivia Evelyn Pumphrey Hunt. -- Forgotten is Forgiven, WIP paranormal mystery.
Love it! Great voice.
Well, that creates a lot of questions in my head...which would keep me reading! Nicely done.
I've got questions, too!
Nicely done, lrtrovi!
Yikes! Love that!
“Hell must be empty,” Megan Swensen murmured into her wineglass as she gazed around the Manhattan bookstore her publishing house used for their launches, “because all the demons are at this party.” The Demon Wore Stilettos, WIP
Love it, Jeanne! I'll skip that party. 😉
What a fabulous line of dialogue!
Jeanne, that title is fantastic! Sounds like you've got a great book on your hands. 🙂
Cold and damp beneath me. Warmth blanketing me. A sweet and earthy smell, the smell of life, in my nostrils. I inhale deeply, smile, and open my eyes--
The Butterfly Gate, WIP
Curiosity piqued! And I adore your novel's title.
Thank you for your kind words!
The walls of the dower house rose before him, higher now, obscuring the stone house beyond. The sturdy wooden gate had a double lock to make sure the woman inside could not escape.
--Scandal's Bride, releasing in July.
Great tension. I want to read more, Pamela!
Ooooh. Intriguing opening! All the best on your release!
Y'all grabbed me! These are good. My own? Not ready yet. I'll refer back to Laura's posts. Thank you!
Thank you! And yeah, Laura's posts on openings are great.
From my upcoming romantic comedy, DYING TO MEET YOU . . .
Google told me I was forty-five times more likely to die from flesh-eating bacteria than win the lottery, so it seemed only natural for me to ignore the winning numbers on the television screen and inspect my body for abnormalities.
Love it, Rick. Very comedic. Fits your brand!
Funny. Love that voice!
Ha! Love that!
Funny! I would keep reading.
I have a whole list of potential first lines to kick off a story. Whether they'll ever come to fruition remains to be seen. Here's three from the list:
1. The day Dominick Petrillo walked into Bickford’s Resale shop, Vanessa knew she had two choices—give an Oscar worthy acting performance or die.
2. While she’s suspected it for some time, Julie Berry could tell you the day she knew for certain her husband had fallen out of love with her. If Davis had to use a tissue to pick up and dispose of her matted hair at the shower drain, the spark of love had surly been doused.
3. Thanks to the Superman and Thor, people think that everyone born on another planet must have superpowers. If only that were true. They’d be so disappointed to learn that my so-called “superpower” is_____ (TBD)
Great list! #1 especially had me wanting to read more.
Of course, I'm going with #3 for more!
#1 was the one that really, really caught me too! I can't wait to see these in print, Tracy.
From my recent short story:
"I learned to cook in self-defense."
That's a wonderful first line, Michelle. What is the book about?
Ooh, I like that!
Love everyone's first lines!! From a very old, old story of mine, Fooling Mommy Nature: She was the best damn up-chucker he'd ever seen. Into a plastic baggie, all neat and clean and almost silent.
Great one, Barb!
Why haven't I heard about this one?
Oh my, that oozes strong voice!
The night was ripe for reiving. Cold, crisp, clear. Even the moon colluded, hanging low over the Eildon Hills like a jewel waiting to be plucked.
That's awesome! Nice opening for your genre. 🙂
Argh. How do you get your own first lines wrong. Here is my the latest draft. How can you tell I'm a writer?
The night was ripe for reiving. Cold, crisp, clear. Even the moon colluded, dangling between the Eildon Hills like a jewel waiting to be plucked.
(Historical fiction, set on Scottish Borders c. 1500.)
I really like this post, and the openers. Hooks can be difficult, so good examples are great to read!
Here's mine from my 2017 Technothriller/Comedy eConscience Beta
It’s good to have choices. It sucks when one of them is ‘go to prison.’ It sucks worse when you start to think that might have been the better choice.
Oh, that's funny. Love it!
Wow, that's great!
These are from fantasy WIPs I'm working on.
Rain dripping off the brim of her hat, Riparia Dellbane weighed the possibilities, but any explaining the charred corpse in the middle of a Coving street weren’t good, and the worst was the most likely. —Trust in the Forgotten, a Riparia novel (Bk1)
Vorthen Laust shivered in the steady rain while a dog barked at a hissing gargoyle, thunder sounded, and inside his head her voice returned.
"You’re panicking again, Vorthen. Please, let me out. I’m not afraid of the streets in Vernathia and can help you reach the library." —Torment Surfacing, a novel set in Carrdia
In his hilltop home in north Arthune, Verker Rendcide stood on a bedroom chair to see out his window, the bars marring the view, the burns on his arms marring his flesh. —Stealing Light, a novel set in Pannulus
Oh, do I have questions for you
Being more of a mystery reader, I admit that the first one gave me the best tingle. Great lines!
"I wish she'd hurry up and die," Charlotte said. "I'm bored."
What's the next line or two?
Hi. Great reading here. Such fun. I’m deep in Margie’s FAB 30. Nothing like pressure to get the book done. Here’s the opening line to my first set: (a title eludes me).
I know things children aged nine and three quarters shouldn’t have to know. Because I’m a girl, I had to stop helping Dad around the farm. Because I’m a girl, I had to start looking after the house and everybody in it.
Because I’m a girl, I had to learn to be stuck in the house.
Have fun WITS. Love you guys x Jay
Absolutely NOTHING like a deadline! I need to go hurry and catch up in Fab30!!
Ooohhh, I definitely want to read on!
No bull, Laura? You can head the stampede to the book store in about two years. I'll even give you a copy if you come up with a title for me...
Thanks, your comment means a lot to me. BUT I just saw the last line. It should have read: 'I had to learn to be stuck inside (not stuck in the house - I had that already). =:(
Once a year, Jay plans to visit you in the Gold Coast. x
That was meant for Andrea Grigg. I don't know why it kicked back there....
Very nice! I like it.
Great post Julie! Lots of fun. So many splendid first lines.
I'll play along. Here's the first lines in my latest WIP, book 4 in the Stranje House series; Harbor for the Nightingale:
ALL THE WORLD IS SOUND. Even if I were blind, I would still be able to see. It is as if everything hums—the trees, the air, stones, and people—especially people. They all sing songs.
Some songs are more dangerous than others.
Intriguing, Kathleen! You got me hooked.
Oh, I love your lyrical writing. And that series is fabulous!
The captain 's long tail with a tiff of fur at the end moved with the roll of the Anglish frigate H.M.S. Falcon as a wave passed under. He could hear rear pad padding from the quarter deck above. His fire paws rested at his side. He gazed out the stern Windows that ran the whole length of his day cabin at the wake the Falcon made in the shark blue Carolingian sea. (Wip)The Frigate Duel's young adult fantasy
Very descriptive! I would have questions after reading that opening. 🙂
Hot Chocolate. It all started on a quest to find hot chocolate sans salted caramel or pumpkin spice. ‘Tis the season for all things autumn, and the search for good, old-fashioned hot chocolate began to look futile. Tori had been to two different chain coffee shops in the past week, and the last hope was a local place recommended by her best friend Kara: Brewed for You.
I'm in! Partly because I relate to wanting hot chocolate without pumpkin spice and caramel. 😉
It began with voices in the darkness: distant, then closer, then closer still. He could hear them, and he should have been able to understand them; but he was drifting again, sinking back down even as they grew louder. He was vaguely aware of a hand on his shoulder, of his body rolling over, of the word that meant, "Alive." He was being moved, lifted, turned...
Then there was only the darkness.
That's really great! But may I suggest one teeny thing? Not sure you need "It began with," because the rest of it is in deep POV, where the reader sees it all from the character's perspective.
Love this post. Some fabulous first lines here for sure. Here's mine, from 'Just the Way You Are', my women's fiction/romance WIP...
Once a year, Grace McConnell was unfaithful to her husband.
Once a year, Jay plans to visit you in the Gold Coast. x
Oh, that's a great line. Because of course, we want to know with whom and why.
These are all fascinating reads 🙂 Please finish your books so we can see how they go on!
From my WIPS-
Folktale-inspired: 'The first thing the earthing-kind did when they caught me was take my skin. They're superstitious like that.'
Fantasy (1): 'Nina dreamed in colour, it was her secret.'
Fantasy (2): 'Footbeats. Heartbeats. Always in twos.'
Superstitious taking of skin? I'd totally read that.
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"For the lucky living, the night was ripe. It was the year of the Tiger—Nixon was running scared, Ted Bundy was just getting started, and the tallest buildings in the world had opened down on Wall Street." Prophets Tango
Great way to establish both setting and mood. Nicely done!
"Death waited, smiling."
My first thought was "that's good and creepy." But for all I know, it's an angel story. 🙂
The breath of the passengers created a layer of condensation on the windows of the plane obscuring his view of the city. ...Nicolás had an innate sense of when it was time to move on, and that time had come for him in more places than he cared to remember. Still, each move brought a certain tingle of anticipation. He craved novelty…new life…new energy. Most of all, he craved new women. first lines of THE SLEEPING SERPENT
Death irreversibly changes a person.
I know what you’re thinking… of course it does. If someone’s dead, that’s pretty freaking irreversible. And even if zombies exist—which they don’t, by the way—the person you loved is never coming back.
But neither is the one left behind.
I'm late to this party, but what wonderful first lines! I smiled all the way through every post. Here are the first lines to my untitled WIP, Historical Fiction set initially in Birmingham, UK, in 1880:
"Life to me meant a growling stomach, chilblains, fighting the rats for food, and Dad beatin’ the living tar outta Mum and me, whenever he felt like it.
We lived in a tumbledown tenement in St. Mary’s Ward, Birmingham. The walls leaked water in the rain. The floor was rotten boards, an’ we had to get water from a pump in the courtyard, us and ten other families. That was a girl’s job though, so me sisters had to do it. My job was to find food any way I could, by doin’ odd jobs or stealin’. Mum didn’t like me stealin’ but she didn’t like havin’ nothin’ to feed us either, so she took whatever I brought and didn’t ask questions."
Aliens are stupid, The 5h Wave, Rick Yancy, sci-fi dystopia