May 28th, 2021

Dear Readers - Share Your First Lines

Fabulous first lines tend to stick with all of us. We ponder them, agonize over them, rewrite them, and rewrite them again. And more than once, we've actually purchased a book based on breathtaking first line or paragraph.

Plus, a good first line is quotable. Who doesn't remember these?

“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

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

"Call me Ishmael." Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

Also, our own Laura Drake has offered some great advice on writing a winning first line 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 line(s). Feel free to comment on others' as well, and tag your writing friends on the post!

We'll get you started.

Ellen

"Jack Schmidt ambled into the main office of the lumber mill carrying his father's lunch pail. Sounds of rage poured through the inner office walls." The Hobo Code, YA historical Fiction

"Chairman Meow, our feline ball of fluff, occupied my bedroom window seat." Crystal Memories, work in progress

Jenny

"Computer work and the Pill almost killed me." The Best Morning of My Life, a short story

"Boaz pushed open the door to the tiny shop and inhaled the magic that never got old." Brotherly Love, a short story

"He’d been seduced by space travel. He'd testify on it if he had to." What Comes After Doomsday?, a short story 

John

"It had been two days since we left the Ice Palace in the frozen tundra of Arctus." Max and the Isle of Sanctus-Book 2, Secrets of the Twilight Djinn

Kris

"Ellie held Rocky's fishbowl on her lap, watching stars from the forest ridge overlooking their remote Earth town. This has been their nightly tradition during their furlough, but tonight she had business to discuss with him." Star Tracker, a New Beginning, a sci-fi short story

Now it's your turn. Share your opening lines—or a favorite from another author below!

We hope this helps kick off a great weekend of writing!

Ellen, Jenny, John & Kris

117 responses to “Dear Readers - Share Your First Lines”

  1. Julia Archer says:

    Our generation was going to save the planet. Then one Tuesday morning as we sat in class the ungrateful planet bucked and shuddered and shook under our feet for sixty-seven seconds, and some of us couldn’t even save ourselves.

    • Kris Maze says:

      Hi Julia,
      This sounds like a great intro to a dystopia story. Is there significance for the sixty-seven seconds reference? It makes me curious!

  2. barbtaub says:

    I always knew my office was haunted. I just never knew I was the ghost.

  3. deb says:

    For the lucky living, the night was ripe.

  4. LauraDrake says:

    From my WIP WF, Amazing Gracie

    'When released from hell-hole duty overseas, most soldiers raced home. ‘CJ’ Maxwell, trudged.'

  5. densielwebb says:

    "I hate sirens at night, slicing through the silence, sharp as a scalpel." From my WF novel, WHEN ROBINS APPEAR

  6. D.K. Wall says:

    I never knew the world could be so damned cold.

    Jaxon with an X

  7. Terry Odell says:

    The cloying odor of death wasn’t what bothered me as I signed the patrol officer’s clipboard and ducked under the yellow tape fastened across the door. It was seeing the name Frank McCoy printed on the sheet. ... From my short story collection, "Seeing Red."

  8. Great thread! Here's mine from my unpublished memoir: TOO NICE: MY LIFE OF NOT SPEAKING UP AND THE SON WHO PAID THE PRICE.

    The child psychologist sent my son to the waiting room and pulled his chair close to mine. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.

  9. Love the variety, with each promising a unique story. This is from my unpublished fantasy The Garden Witch:

    All around her the life of the garden sang.

  10. Beverly Turner says:

    From my WIP, Suspense, A Fall of Roses:

    Outside the grimy window of the abandoned house, morning slid a pink finger between the leaden December clouds and the dark smudge of the skyline. He turned away, dropping onto the bare mattress at his feet. Dawn was a liar, with her promise of hope and new beginnings.

  11. As unlikely and unbelievable as it may sound, Marilyn Monroe invited me into her bedroom. --from my novel MY FRIEND MARILYN

    "Do you think we'll get away with it?" My voice wasn't the least bit wobbly, through my stomach jerked with seismic shocks. --from my novella BLOSSOM ON THE ROAD OF DREAMS

    Vivienne Sheridan learned firsthand—and far too young—that there are two kinds of survivors: those who don’t die and those who live. --from my WIP, either UNDER THE SURVIVOR TREE or THE HIROSHIMA SEAMSTRESS

  12. thewriteedge says:

    From my short story "Infinity Band":

    The smuggler ran for his life.

  13. From my suspense novel, The Ferret.

    The father, mother, and five children stood on the hillcrest and marveled at the Great Salt Lake Valley below, their 1300 mile trek from Illinois completed.

  14. “The fog hangs thick and low in the air. My aunt says it’s a perfect day for a walk through the redwoods.” A Walk Through the Redwoods, my picture book WIP

  15. DLWillette says:

    I clamped my mouth shut, flipped to another page of the newspaper, and ignored my sister. --From my WF WIP: When There's Snow on the Peaks

    At 4:00 a.m., Joe yanked up the zipper of his manure-stained work pants. --From the historical coming-of-age I'm currently querying: We Are Brothers

  16. Maggie Smith says:

    "Murder trials are sexy, I'll give you that."

  17. "…Fascination with how celebrities mate, marry, and break up runs rampant in the decadent American culture."

    From the faux New Yorker article that is the prologue (173 words) to Pride's Children NETHERWORLD, the second volume in the mainstream PC trilogy.

    A similar prologue (145 words) from earlier in the same fake New Yorker article starts the first volume in the trilogy.

    The prologues and epigraphs detail the outer world part of the world building - "A novel of obsession, betrayal, and love," creating the envelope for a story set in the intersection of the world of novelists with the world of Hollywood.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Definitely intriguing, Alicia. I always love to hear about these epic tales you weave.

      • So far, it's just the one epic tale - which I am labeling 'The Great American Love Story' - and all the pieces are part of it.

        Let me know if you'd like to read the first volume in the trilogy, PURGATORY, and would ever consider writing a review (I don't nag - the reviews are truly optional). Then all the excerpts you've seen might coalesce.

        The offer is general - I'm still at the 'acquiring readers' stage (stupid disease has made me so slow).

  18. Barb DeLong says:

    Fabulous first lines in this post! I'll admit, I'm a first line junkie. This is from my fantasy short story in the Truth That Can't Be Told anthology: I stole from her warm bed before dawn cracked open a jaundiced eye. Before my voracious love for her bade me stay. Before the old castle stirred and stretched. The day would end in a fearless full moon and I had the witch in the woods to kill at midnight.

  19. Eldred Bird says:

    "Like most days, April twelfth arrived with little fanfare beyond the warbling tone of a cell phone piercing the air." - Current WIP, working title "Atticus"

    "As he headed down to the beach, I heard someone call him Brooks. His silver hair, tanned leather skin, and sun-faded long-board spoke of a lifetime riding the waves." - From "Wave Walker," a short story.

    • Kris Maze says:

      'Warbling tone piercing the air' - very descriptive, Bob. April 12th... I get the feeling this isn't just a regular spring day!

  20. From my WIP The Buried Chameleon: It had been his first violence on a smaller bundeltje and the thought kept growing that his victim would murder him in his bed.

  21. "How fortunate for the visitor at her door that Tharlise Martavien was a professor and not given to violence." – from Stealing Light, a Pannulus fantasy novel

    "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." – from Trust in the Forgotten, a Carrdia fantasy novel

    "Ametha Dremm fell forever and not at all, her plummet from nothing to something arrested when she contacted a solid surface. It was her first." – from Following the Essence Stone, a Pannulus fantasy novel.

  22. Yvonne Müller says:

    From my WIP Apple Blossoms in November, mainstream fiction

    Colton lay on his side, nausea rolling through his empty stomach, and took shallow breaths.

  23. From my first book, The Scribe's Daughter: I NEVER IMAGINED my life would end this way. Not today. And certainly not in this place. Yet here I was. It was midday, and had I the ability to tilt my face toward the sky I would have been blinded by the early summer sun, a silent observer of my murder.

  24. paws4puzzles says:

    From my WIP, Akash (P.A.W.S. 8) that I expect to release in December:

    Deep in the battlefield Akash lay. He’d been lying in the same spot for twenty years, waiting. Today was the day, he could feel it. The war raged around him. He loved the glorious smell of death and flames. He longed to be part of it all.

  25. My favourite first line from my own books:
    “I don’t believe in curses. It comes with the job.”
    ~ Baptism of Fire

    My favourite first line from another author (or: other authors, as the case may be!):
    It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn't been invented yet.
    ~ Good Omens

  26. Karen (K.S.) Jones says:

    The horizon over the Willamette Valley glowed fiery red, shooting daggers of sunlight through the fine glass windowpanes. (From my new historical fiction, releasing Feb 2022.)

  27. Paul Briggs says:

    From "Locksmith's War"
    Locksmith sat in the arrivals lounge at BWI, his luggage at his feet. He was trying not to get too worried.

    From "Altered Seasons: Age of Consequences"
    The year was forty minutes old. As far as Isabel Bradshaw was concerned, it had gotten off to a very weird start.

  28. Dorothy says:

    --Mystery at the Lake Manor: Dark Beginnings (Adventures of Eli Frost Book 3)
    --Faith based Mystery and Adventure Fiction for Grades 3 - 8
    --How am I going to survive? Sitting on the front porch swing, Eli kicked his dangling feet. How can I escape? He closed his eyes, escaping into his imagination.
    (Finishing self-edit at this time)

    • Kris Maze says:

      Hi Dorothy,
      I love imaginative kid lit! This is a compelling start, ' escaping into his imagination' ❤

  29. I always love seeing first lines from other authors. They can be so thought provoking, so intriguing.

    Here are a couple of mine:

    From current WIP:

    I never asked to be trapped in Hell. It’s all my fault, of course. But I didn’t mean for it to end this way.

    XXXXXXX

    From The New Truth (Completed YA Contemp MS looking for a home):

    Last Friday, everything I know about life changed.

    Forever.

    If I’d been told that in just one week I’d be crouched in a dark corner, ducking from flashlights streaking through my bedroom window, watching red and blue lights from a police car swirl across my walls, I would’ve laughed.

    But right now it isn’t funny.

  30. Gwen Gardner says:

    I attempted to ditch the old ghost at the wedding reception.

    From my Paranormal Cozy Mystery due to release Jan 2022, Something Borrowed, Something Booed.

  31. KJ Cockrill says:

    I see how I shall drown him.

  32. Lee Conrad says:

    The setting of the sun brought a particular gloom to the hospital ward full of wounded and damaged German soldiers of the Great War. Moaning of the injured and gasping breaths of the ones who didn’t put their gas mask on in time sounded like a symphony of the damned. From my story Night Doctor

    • Kris Maze says:

      Hi Lee,
      What a good way to open into a historical fiction. I feel transported to the front lines. 🙂

  33. Black thunderheads spewed white lightning and a rumbling tirade across the field where Angus Whitaker kept watch over his cotton field, his hired pickers, and the weather.

    From Second Son, to be released by Touchpoint Press July 20, 2021. HIstorical fiction set in 1938 Mississippi).

    The painful throbbing in her lower back made her stifle a groan. Kathy was only twenty-nine, but sometimes she felt like forty and all used up.

    From my WITS, Southern Woman, historical fiction set in 1953, sequel to Second Son).

    • Ellen Buikema says:

      Great weather descriptions, KC.
      I am a big fan of historical fiction and look forward to reading Second Son.

  34. WIP Bitter Harvest Science Fiction:

    There are a thousand ways to die and she didn't want to be conscious for any of them.

    • Kris Maze says:

      An in sci-fi there are all sorts of ways to make that happen, right Brenda? Sounds like a great opener with so many questions attached.

  35. wilaphillips says:

    From In the Palm of Her Hand, a WIP by Wila Phillips

    It had been morning when mother and daughter began digging the hole, with the sun setting and the work nearly finished, the mother looked across the gap at her daughter; there was no acknowledgement of a job well done, just the silent message that it was deep enough.

  36. Jillian lies on her back nude, hardly breathing as she wiggles her wrist out of the last knot. Jake has finally rolled over facing the wall. Slowly, quietly, she sits up and unties her feet, hoping that she won't disturb her husband.

    Jillian's Journey by P.J. & S. E. Turner

  37. Linda Ruggeri Editor says:

    Mrs. Evans pulse was still irregular, coming and going. Her soft warm wrist reminding me so much of my mother's, when the buzz in my pocket brought me back to the outside world. The world of the "living." It was from Gretchen. “Can you take a a few weeks off and come to Norway? I could use your help.” (WIP, "Beyond the Fjords")

    • Kris Maze says:

      Wow, Linda. This is poetic and lovely. I also always enjoy a northern setting. One of my current WIPs is set in a fjord-like wharf town.

  38. From my WIP Phone Call from a Stranger

    When I moved to Stonefield, I didn't know anyone but the school principal and I only knew him because he hired me. A brisk business-like man, I didn't bother to ask him about housing. I was too eager to leave his office for a breath of fresh air. I pitied the kids sent to him for a reprimand and the parents who had to deal with him when their kids were in trouble.

    • Ellen Buikema says:

      Sharon, these lines give me a really good feel for the darkness waiting within the pages. Wonderful.

  39. juliegloverwrites says:

    Love these lines! Great starts. Here's my opening to a cozy mystery (Prepare to Meet Your Undertaker) I hope to get back to writing later this year:

    "Most of the gala’s attendees had come for the hobnobbing, the media exposure, the champagne. I’d come for the coffins."

  40. On the tenth anniversary of the worst day of her life, Ellie Middleton loaded everything into her car, and headed for the old cabin up in the mountains.

  41. 'Once a great grey wolf, his fur touched by blue like a cloudy sky, wooed a doe, ochre like a steppe horizon.'
    -- my historical fiction Amgalant. I cheated as it's a jazzed-up version of the first line in the Secret History of the Mongols, my primary source.

  42. JL Nich Author SFF says:

    Book 1 - “Children of the clan, come listen to the tales of the favored," an old man’s voice scratched across the air and penetrated the walls of endless chatter and festival atmosphere noise.

    Book 2 - Ten-year-old Herman Drayton watched as his mother drew one ragged breath after another from the filtered oxygen mask, her shrunken body battled for each precious moment.

    Book 3 - The thirty treasure hunters aboard the floating Mars contracted craft felt a slight deceleration as their ship, just like the Pecune star system’s second sun, submerged into the small world of Ataxs gravitational pull. Gaining alignment with the nearby smaller planet the sun dwarfed the closest of the nine planetoids with its spectacular size and the heat index climbed.

    Book 4 - Salor Deshik pointed his fur covered muzzle, the jagged cut scar and all, into the air. He sniffed his nose at the intrusive metal scent as he stood before the massive towering gates that gleamed in the spring sunlight falling down across the entrance, framing its gleaming bars.

  43. Ken Saik says:

    from The Caretaker: Influencing Decision Makers "You see, that's why we need housing developments around the park," says Walter Kohlberg, jabbing his finger at the daily paper sitting On the Aspen Grove'sdevelopment officer's desk.
    The news article which catches the developer's eye is "Elderly Lady <ugged by Teen."

  44. Patrick Hodges says:

    From my first book Joshua's Island: Only one more year of this crap, I thought as I looked out the window of the school bus.

    • Ellen Buikema says:

      Patrick, this is a great set up. Sounds like he's prepping himself for a heck of a year.

  45. Patrick Hodges says:

    From Book One of my Wielders of Arantha series: "Richard's dead."

  46. dholcomb1 says:

    It had been a godawful day with the worst customers.

    denise

  47. Chris Cannon says:

    Opening Line from Demon Bound: There are days where I wonder if everyone else on the planet is batshit crazy...and if they’re not, does that mean I am?

  48. Canny says:

    Here's an opening line from an older draft of mine, I've started it up again, but it doesn't start the same way (rather it ends where this one starts), It's a modern fantasy type thing

    'Brody Wood didn't always wake up in a puddle of his own blood, but tonight was a little different.'

    I'm a new and young writer, so I uh doubt my works gonna get out in the world soon but it's certainly fun

  49. Darlene says:

    Some awesome first lines here. This from my latest, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady -
    Amanda brushed the snow away, removed a glove, gripped the icy cold key and opened the mailbox.

  50. Susan Haught says:

    What fun! I so love reading first lines/paragraphs and those above are dynamite!

    Here's one from The Other Side of Broken, book 3 in my series.

    The envelope trembled in her hands. Maybe if she didn’t open it, the darkness would stay hidden in the creases. Maybe it wouldn’t burst open and scatter bits of her sanity across the snow. And maybe the memories wouldn’t threaten to consume her.


  51. It's really neat to read first lines of stories, as they spark your imagination for what could happen next. Here's one of mine:

    "At first, Bradley Boothby dismissed the odd sensation when he passed the Randolph-Turley building on his commutes to and from work" -- from my novella "Other Lives of the Boothbys"

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