Every so often, we open the doors of WITS to our readers. We like hearing what you're up to in your writing, and October, the first full month of Fall and the month before NaNoWriMo, is a great time for this. Today, we'd love to hear your first lines for a new manuscript or short story. If that sounds daunting today, give us the first line of your new chapter, or the first line of a favorite book. We want to make it easy!
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 a breathtaking first line or paragraph.
Plus, a good first line is quotable.
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." – George Orwell, 1984
"124 was spiteful." – Toni Morrison, Beloved
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since." – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." – C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Also, our own Laura Drake has offered some great advice on writing a winning first line here.
But today, it's your turn to entertain or wow us with your opening lines. If you can't think if anything, 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 so they can share theirs!
We'll get you started.
"I begged. I pleaded. 'No. I will not buy you a bike. If you got hurt it would be my fault.' What an odd reason not to give your child a bicycle?" – The Brown Schwinn, a short story
"I, Eliott, descendant of the Asian leopard cat, have been relegated to the back seat amongst the luggage. At least I can peer out the window and watch California melt into the distance. I yowled my displeasure from Orange County to Tucson. Serves . . . them . . . right." – The Guardian, a short story
If she didn’t have sex this year, her girly bits were going to stage a revolt. – Unnamed Book 2, "Rx for Love" series
Monique stared at Thomas, aghast. “I’m famous?” – The Colony, a short story
"Where's Papa going with that ax? said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast." – Charlotte's Web
"You better not never tell nobody but God." – The Color Purple
"As Sylvie Morgan stepped from the streamlined Greyhound, a blast of warm dust hit her face like a hairdryer. Awesome, she thought. This is Illinois, not Africa." – The Regeneration of Tomas Renell, a horror short story
Now it's your turn. Share your opening lines (or a favorite from another author) below!
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Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
I wonder, looking back at your childhood, how it makes you feel?
Do you shut your eyes and smile, as fond memories dance through the cinema of your mind? Do your happy days outweigh the bad, floating to the top of the river of your consciousness, leaving the bad ones to the dark depths of the riverbed below? Or is there pain and sadness littering your memories, where only the love and warmth of, carefree days should be?
I look back at mine, most commonly with cold and aloof reflection, but there is an emptiness too. An ache in the pit of my stomach, mourning what should have been, how different my life might have been…
A Daughters Tale by Elle Wilson
Very lyrical opening, Elle. Great job!
My fave of mine is from my first - The Sweet Spot (romance): '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.'
My April release - The Road to Me (Women's Fiction): 'I was born to be a hippie.
My fave of someone else? You saw them in the link.
Hugs to all and wishing you great first lines!
Laura, I've always loved those first lines from The Sweet Spot. How anyone could read that beginning and not want to know more is beyond me.
Thank you, Beverly!
I don't know if any of us will ever beat that Sweet Spot line, Laura. It's the best!!
You know it took me 6 months to get it perfect!
'I was born to be a hippie. I resisted.' Love the humor in this, Laura! Since I am a transplant living in the Pacific NW, I know of many who would relate and dive in to this story (me included!).
Thank you, Kris - due out in April - I'm in love with this book, and can't wait to see what readers think!
Once a hacker, always a hacker. It didn’t matter the colour of the hat. I wore them both with equal ease.
Current working title - Beta (Speculative Thriller - if I can pull it off)
I like anything with hackers, Tracy! White hat or black hat, I'd be all in from that sentence. 🙂
Jenny - I love yours about the girly bits, LOL!
Here's my current iteration from my memoir, a WIP:
"I will always think of his eye-rolling as the beginning of the end of the “old” Matthew. It happened the summer he turned eight, and it wasn’t your typical “Mom is driving me nuts” look."
I love this and can definitely relate!
Thank you, Ellen!
Hahahaha! Thanks, Karen. And that's interesting that his eye roll changed with the brain tumor. I wouldn't have thought of that, but what a marvelous concrete "tell" for a mom. We know ALL the variations of our kids eye rolls.
I'd read on!
Here's a first line from a book I'm thinking about writing. It would be "fiction" but I live it...so veiled nonfiction spiced with the twist of humor. The first line:
"I am wife number four. It's been an interesting forty-odd years, this marriage of mine..."
Do you think anyone would read on?
From my first book: “There’s a Sergeant Thacker to see you.”
From my current WIP: You are the artist of your own life, don't hand the paintbrush to anyone else.
And yes, Claire I would definitely read on!
Wow! It sounds like a take on "Sister Wives." Very cool, Claire.
Claire, the beginning of the sentence is intriguing - but you cut the tension when you tell us she's been married 40 years - we were wondering if she made it - and you told us immediately! Any way to hold that info for a beat or two?
From my novel, "When Robins Appear":
I hate sirens at night, slicing through the silence, sharp as a scalpel. Whenever I hear that mournful wail, I make the sign of the cross—something my mother taught me.
The imagery here is great! Really draws you into the story.
cj Sez: From my novel, "Death on the Yampa."
Bryn McKay’s body ricocheted off the passenger door as the pickup, engine roaring, veered from one side of the Colorado mountain road to the other.
Ohmygoodness...talk about putting people right into the middle of the action! Go, you!
These are great! From my Upmarket WIP - - "Survival favors the selfish, in the wild and in corporate America. Dependable, accommodating--all good traits in the short run. But, if you're in it for the long game, greed is unavoidable. In this world, you learn to adapt or die."
This is a great opening, Sharon! I especially like, "Survival favors the selfish.."
From my suspense WIP:
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. For the unwanted, the unloved, dawn signaled only another twenty-four hours of existing. He’d learned that lesson at nine years old.
Beverly, this is a powerful beginning. What a setup!
Very nice! Love the imagery! 🙂
Brett Beaumont was enchanted by the petite dark-haired woman lying on her back the parlor rug, her long legs bent up against her chest and his drooling six-month-old daughter bouncing happily on her knees.
Forget that entry! Hit post too soon. Here is the first paragraph of my current WIP, a cowboy romance:
Brett Beaumont was enchanted by the petite dark-haired woman lying on the parlor rug, her long legs bent up against her chest and his drooling six-month-old daughter bouncing happily on her knees. They made every appearance of a happy-ever-after family. But they weren’t a family at all. Nope. Not one of them related. And it sure looked like nothing was gonna change anytime soon. When had his life gone so plum crazy?
Oh Beverly, love this! You've painted a mood and a story promise along with the setting!
I love all the openings! Thank you for letting us share ours. So this is from my book, "Abella All In."
"Luck. Elusive, vagarious, yet the hope of everyone—especially in Las Vegas—and the downfall of those who believed in it, relied on it, devoted their lives trying to control it. There were no shortcuts to be taken; there were no formulas to be invented; there were no miracles to be conjured. John Milton said, “Luck is the residue of design.” Abella had used those words to profit at the poker table, but this time the stakes were too high, this time she was gambling for children’s lives. There were no options to be had…save one."
And from my current WIP, "Aries On Fire."
"It was the incessant screeching that finally made him crawl out of the Void and into the real world. The voices yelling in his head driving him as if he were a ram, an animal that needed herding, and not a man in pain, in need of peace, in need of asylum from the swirling, white-hot agony that never stopped."
w/a Artemis Crow
We love hearing what our readers are up to, Leslie! Thanks for sharing your lovely opening. 🙂
From the prologue of the second book of the Pride's Children mainstream trilogy (soon to be finished and published):
…Fascination with how celebrities mate, marry, and break up runs rampant in the decadent American culture.
From the first scene (Andrew; Night Talk; New York City; Friday, June 17, 2005; 11:30 P.M. EDT):
“You, sir, are on top of the world.”
For sure on the celebrities, Alicia. I'm always shocked at how interested everyone is in these peoples' lives.
Here's the whole Prologue to NETHERWORLD (a continuation of the Prologue to PURGATORY) - 173 words in a faux New Yorker article:
…Fascination with how celebrities mate, marry, and break up runs rampant in the decadent American culture. Indeed, all Western culture: witness the European fascination with their royalty.
When a commoner marries a royal, we ask ourselves: Why not me? How did she (it’s usually a she) land the prize?
The answer of course, other than a bit of luck, is an enormous amount of hard work driven by a vision and a determination that doesn’t waver long, because time’s a’wastin’: I essay that no commoner marrying into royalty has ever worked harder in her (his) life. And if the first wife doesn’t do it, there is always another. There is, by definition, a lot to learn.
Americans don’t have royalty. We have politicians (temporary, but occasionally useful if they run to families). We have rich people. Business and tech genii. And we have Hollywood, which will have to do. Our fascination has a lightning rod, and we know what’s expected of us. But we have no standard by which to judge, no tradition…
The child shot into the yard and slammed the gate behind him. “You’ll never catch me.”
I like this kid! Thanks for sharing, Dave. 🙂
I have to admit, I still kind of like the first line from my first book, Killing Karma.
"Rose McCarthy, a simple straightforward woman in life, had no wish to be otherwise in death."
A lovely, poetic opening!
Oh, love that, Eldred!
Thanks for inviting us to share.
From my book Dandelion Summer:
Madelyn had heard whispered tales of butterfly summers—the ones that float gently and beautifully in and out of our lives, and cat summers—narcissistic passages filled with visits to the pool and lazy backyard barbecues, even rainbow summers—the calm after the storm of the school year. But she’d never thought for an instant there could be a dandelion summer. Dandelions are, after all, a weed, and a resilient one at that. But when life is choked by unwanted disruptions, you have to make a choice—do you dig up the dandelions or ignore them? Or is it a little of each?
And from my first book, The Apple of My Eye:
I’m not sure which came first, the phone call or the sense of being strangled in my sleep.
Love this! So many great first lines being shared. Here's mine from the childhood memoir I'm working on. Title: Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Head
Up close, you could sense mama's haughty heartbeat, as if behind her breastbone lay a fine-tuned engine revving for a race—she ran on Scotch—one too many could set the room on fire.
That's a great opening!
Thank you, Tracy!
So love that line, Vanessa - except 'haughty' - don't know how a heartbeat can be haughty. But without it, you're golden! (IMHO)
From my current historical fiction WIP, a real murder mystery, circa 1889: "The day they come to charge her for her husband’s murder, she is lying still upon the bed."
I totally want to know if she's alive or dead on that bed. Good job!
From my current WIP Honeycake and Bearclaws (paranormal romance)
Gunner braced himself on the dresser and snarled at his reflection in the mirror.
I love that title, Yvonne!
"Murder trials are sexy, I'll give you that."
From my WIP - psychological suspense/women's fiction
I love that opening, Maggie. Such a great insight into the main character, right off the bat.
I'd buy that book, just from the first line!
Assimilation, alteration—those were the chameleon-like talents keeping Vittoria alive.
Oooooo, CT, I'd totally read on, just to find out what they altered and how they assimilated.
This is always so much fun reading these!
Here's mine from the rom-com FAKING IT WITH THE BACHELOR:
Tears were Nate Crenshaw’s kryptonite. Always had been and probably always would be.
And the next in the Faking It series, my WIP:
Captain John Bryson waited for the plane to stop taxiing, then stood and turned around to face the men on his Green Beret team. As was his ritual when they touched down back on US soil, he sang out, “Back in the US of A,” loudly enough to be heard throughout the plane.
This is a great visual - dude singing as a plane arrives. I can hear the song?. Not your typical drill Sergent? Nice!
From my suspense novel, “The Costs of Shame,” a novel set in two centuries by P.H. Schudy:
I don’t want to be here. I’ve waited til the lonely wail of the whistle ended and the train chugged into the distance before heading toward the two-story structure that looms on the horizon. I don’t want to become part of the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. It’s not why I went to nursing school. I remind myself that two years after the crash of ’29, it was the only job available. No breeze stirs the ominously still air. Black grit from the gravel road swirls around my feet sifting through the cutouts of my tstrap shoes and bitting into my toes. I switch Dad’s old, heavy black suitcase from hand to hand. Sweat binds me to the green dress Mom made. A sudden cloud of barking dust comes rolling from up ahead, and a shiver of fear runs through me.
Great settling for a mystery. It even includes a train - which always pairs well with suspense! Nice work.
Under an almost full moon two figures struggled. Another crouched against the railing of the back porch, another stood quietly, deep within the shadows of the door leading into the house.
A dog grumbled softly from within its throat, knowing full well the pain-filled lesson he had learn about barking in the middle of the night. Shivering, he struggled to his feet, circled his ragged rug, then slowly he reluctantly lay back down. Only his twitching ears indicated his continued unease and fear.
I don't know how it all comes together, Anne, but I'm super interested in this dog!
My lines were deleted. Not sure why. 🙁
Oh no!! I'll go look. You had two comments that were duplicates so I might have accidentally deleted both instead of just one. For shame on me!
I see what happened - on the back end, I didn't see that the second comment was under the first, so I deleted the first comment to be helpful because they were duplicates. Since the second comment was underneath that, rather than a main-level comment, it took both. Super sorry about that, Christine. They are both restored.
Silva Belle Randolph was madder than a wet hen. Silva Belle, Silva to her friends, was furiously shoving everything on her desk into a box she had found in the copier room.
I like this Silva Belle, Denise. And that name is fantastic!
Thank you, Jenny. That means a lot. <3
The Rubber Band Chapter One -
Middle Grade Novel by Christy Hoss
“What’s it going to be, Pinhead?” Bossy Becca sits back, folding her arms.
I squeeze my fists so tight my fingers go numb. But I do feel something. Clenched inside my right fist is the rubber band from the card game we are playing. Behind my back, I secretly stretch the band as far as I can around my thumb and pointer finger. She is going to regret challenging me.
You nailed personality with this dialogue! Plus, how can we not hate a middle grade character named Bossy Becca? 🙂
Thank you for your encouraging comments! It has made my writing day! If you want to find out more check out my website. christyhoss.com
I'm so glad to hear it, Christy! We all need encouragement.
from Baggage burdens. by Ken Saik
“Give back my cell.”
Lying flat on her back, Jill spits out each word over a fog of pain pulsing through her skull. A man in a black shirt kneels to her right, his face descending. Jill tries to turn away. A piercing pain shoots through her lower back and down her leg. Then a smaller black shirt descends from the other side. Lips move, but no words register. Jill closes her eyes and tries to wish away the emerging impression of overwhelming trouble.
Now I'm totally worried about Jill... Nice job, Ken!
"In memory everything seems to happen to music." Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
I love this line.
If all the women in Eevie’s maternal family sat around a table, they would be a gathering of Nordic goddesses, all blonde beauties, tall and sturdily built with light eyes and creamy skin, warm hearts with cool demeanors—no overt displays of affection—only the look in their ice-blue eyes that made her wonder if she was truly loved and approved of, or merely tolerated because she was blood related, not looking a bit like she belonged to them.
- from a WIP WF novel, tentatively titled, "Life of Ice and Fire." (It needs a better title.)
How about "Life of Vice and Ire"?
I can see already that Eevie is going to have quite the journey, so you've already achieved Goal #1 of a women's fic. Brava!
He never expected to live this long, not after what he'd done, but having his ticket punched after so much time and careful planning was downright disrespectful.
From a short story I've been working on.
I like that edge of snark for your main character, Brenda. Keep going - this is going to be a good story!
Deep in Hell’s fetid depths, nobody hears you scream. Well, they do, but they’re also screaming and don’t care. I wasn’t in Hell anymore, but I screamed, “xxxx it,” as I hung up on the Bureau of Supernatural Crimes Unit.
An as yet unnamed Urban Fantasy I'm writing.
I like it, Cassandra!
I LOVE reading everyone's opening lines. There is always so much creativity, so many different styles. I have a couple that I am working on to share-
From my current nonfiction project: Ever had a really bad week and decided to take it out on one of your fictional characters by killing them off with a slow-acting drug?
From my romantic fantasy in progress: He never asked to be trapped in Hell. It was all his fault, of course, but he never meant for it to end this way.
The faint scent of eau du cheval stopped me in my tracks, catapulting me back to a time when every item I owned smelled of horses, hay and optimism.
I leaned over and brushed his lips with a good-bye kiss. Funny, I thought his lips would be colder in death than in life. "Good-bye, Karlie." was all I managed to say. "Rot in hell." was the following thought. From the warmth of his lips, he was already there.
Unnamed short story in progress.
"I once heard it said there is no great genius without a touch of madness. I believe it true. You see, I lived next door to the famous Miss Lizzie Borden of Fall River in the summer of 1892."
Ooooh, love this! I'd read on!
That's a real honor, Miss Laura Drake. Thank you!
“Worth taking back? If two of the four work, you're looking at that house for you and Cala and my ride to Mars. Not bad, little brother.”
This is from a WIP, a novel set a couple of hundred years in the future after a general collapse is far enough in the past for the dust to have settled and life to have actually become fairly pleasant for the descendants of the survivors.
The speaker is the protagonist, Tam; she and her brother Del, to whom she's speaking, go on tech-scrounging expeditions in a dead city a few days hike from the valley where their village is located. They take their finds home, clean and repair them as needed and as they can, and sell them to visitors from off-Earth settlements at a trading post another day away in a different direction. Del has just found some mint-condition electronic gadgets in a box in the garage of an abandoned house they were checking out.
Wow, I love all of these! I collect opening lines; I may have to add some now. 😀 This is the opening line from my novel that's coming out in December:
"Alekos had always hated lullabies." -The Conductor, middle grade fiction
Isn't it FUN, Talia? I love seeing all these first lines. And yours is a perfect middle grade opening!
"Rituals are born when the steps taken resound in the heart and are stored in the soul."
Just a day old, the tentative opener for the fourth book in the Prophets Tango Series.
My goodness, that's pretty, Great job!
Peeing on a white plastic stick was not something I did every day.
From my debut, USA Today Bestseller Nowhere Near Goodbye
Hope I'm not too late!
You aren't too late! And the opening is fantastic. 🙂
"So, why did I kill that guy?"
The first line of Roachclip, my new novella set in 1969.
Thanks for the opportunity!
This made me laugh when I read it, James. Totally in your voice - great job!
The Sintinians were trying to worship him again.
From my sf novel, Sky Lord.
I like this slightly snarky opening, Doug. I'd totally read more. 🙂
I wasn't used to short hair: short-short, like newly grown grass a week after seedlings were planted. I'd habitually run my fingers through streaming chestnut waves since I was a kid out of nervousness and preening both. Now I ran my hands through nothing.
A flip of my stomach signaled something was wrong, like the time someone stole my car from its spot outside Sunday Market; that ticky-tacky turn of the intestines, then a drop down into a roughshod rabbit hole, hurtling me, no heed for motion sickness, towards the center of a molten hot core, stripping my soul bare.
~ from The Paris Predicament, a novel by Sasha Lauren
My favorite line from a famous written work is:
FIIRST VOICE (very softly)
To begin at the beginning:
It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestones silent and the hunched, courter's-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeback, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.
~ from Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas
My parents disowned me sixty-seven years ago today.
From my novel, The Correction
I'm so excited to read everyone's first lines. Such a lot of talent in this group.
Here's my own, from an as-yet-untitled novel set in the late 1800s:
"Life to me meant a growling stomach, chilblains, fighting the rats for food, and Dad beatin’ the living daylights 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 as the oldest boy, 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."
The first line of THE HAUNTING OF KINNNAWE HOUSE, forthcoming in April 2022, by Steven Rigolosi (me!):
"It was one thing to seek followers on the Internet, Matthew Rollins thought, but quite another thing to be followed."
Great first line, Steven. Congrats on your upcoming book launch!