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.
Today, we're opening the doors of WITS to our readers. We like hearing what you're writing, and April, the first full month of Spring, is a great time for this.
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 of 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 when you share the post so they can pop over and share theirs!
We'll get you started.
I rarely read horror, but Swan Song, by Robert R. McCammon drew me in and wouldn't let go.
"He watched with dreadful fascination as the flame crawled up the match, and he realized that there, on a tiny scale, was the power of both creation and destruction; it could cook food, illuminate the darkness, melt iron and sear human flesh. Something that resembled a small, unblinking scarlet eye opened in the center of the flame, and he wanted to scream."
~ Swan Song
If she didn’t have sex this year, her girly bits were going to stage a revolt. – Unnamed Book 2, "Rx for Love" series
Nian hated climbing this mountain. The old wizard pulled his flowing cape closer against the cold and tied his horse to a tree. He cursed the Shadows for choosing such a remote spot for his wife's tomb.
Listen, my children, I've a tale to tell
Of wishing on pennies in deep wishing wells,
Of sticks and stones and ice cream cones
And tolling Cathedral bells.
-- From An Ode to Childhood, Annalise Phenix
Now it's your turn. Share your opening lines (or a favorite from another author) below!
This novel begins in a decades-old support group of women who have counseled each other as they try to move past their significant tragedies. Friction ensues and the group plans to split up, until they discover that one of them has been murdered. They soon realize their worst nightmare is a reality and there is someone after them all.
What I like about this book is the author's subtle questioning of why we are entertained by these tragic events, the gore and violence that is often inflicted on a young woman. Here is the beginning of the story through the eyes of the protagonist who has been a paranoid recluse ever since escaping her would-be murderer. She lives with her best friend, a plant named "Fine", short for Final Plant, the closest thing to structure in her life.
I wake up, get out of bed, say good morning to my plant, unwrap a protein bar, and drink a liter of bottled water. I'm awake for five full minutes before remembering I might die today. When you get old, you get soft.
~ The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix
Now it's your turn - please share your first lines!!
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Ellen, I love McCammon! I just recommended Boy's Life to someone the other day!
This is from The Road to Me - out THIS month (finally).
I was born to be a hippie.
This is from the one I just turned in to my editor, tentatively titled, Amazing Gracie.
When released from hell-hole duty overseas, most soldiers raced home. ‘CJ’ Maxwell trudged.
Can't wait to read all yours!
Ooh, Laura, I love your first line.
Swan Song is the only one of McCammon's that I've read. I'll have to check out Boy's Life.
It's wonderful! You'll love it.
Just bought The Road to Me, thanks to Jenny's comment.
Sooooo excited the Road To Me is out. I have it pre-ordered for my Kindle!
Hugs, Jenny! I think you'll love the humor.
'I resisted.' Hee hee
And love your artistry too, Laura!
Thank you, Kris.
From the first book in a series idea I'm playing around with.
Series title: Three Degrees Academy
Genre: YA Dystopian
"My sixteenth birthday was the best day in my mother's life."
I especially like this. It brings me to all types of scenarios.
After reading the great first lines posted, mine feels short. It's about my 6th attempt while writing my ghost story. This is A YA Horror.
I can't have dead friends.
Hi Alice, that's a great line! I think that length has nothing to do with it. Your first line pacts a powerful punch.
Thank you Ellen and everyone.
I like this. Short isn't a problem, when it conveys and has a hook. You did both in just a few words. I'd read more.
Ooh, good one! This would definitely lead me to keep reading.
I really like this first line. So full of implications for the story to follow.
This is very intriguing. I would like to read more and see where it goes!
Ohmygosh, what a FANTASTIC first line, Jeanne!
I love the twist in this first line, Jeanne.
Obadiah pointed up the path from the gate to the stable door and nudged his friend. “Race you.”
Ahab licked his lips. “Race? My grandmother could knock your skinny behind in the ditch.”
“Yeah? Well your grandmother’s not here, little boy. So for once in your life, try to run.”
From The King’s Right-hand Man
Intriguing, Dave! I like that granny. 🙂
This is from my cozy mystery, "Your Number's Up."
I stop digging in my purse and snap my head in Mom’s direction. “Willow, did she say what I thought she said?”
The aide nods and rolls her eyes. “Yup.” She sweeps her pink bangs off her forehead and pushes Mom’s wheelchair to the bathroom door.
You just can never go wrong, having an older family member say "Masturbation" in fiction. It's ALWAYS gonna get a laugh.
This is a first line I fiddle around with once in awhile.
"Jenna Malone had never killed anyone. Today was a good day to start."
I like it Michelle! Makes you want to see what she'll do next.
From my fantasy novel:
Mrs. Twoshades burst into Bud’s Suds. “Ya better come quick, yer sister’s on fire.”
I love this too. Makes me think their is some humor about to unfold. Even when some girl is on fire.
Love the voice here! From "Bud's Suds" to "yer sister." Good job. 🙂
This sounds like a fun read. 🙂
Bud's Suds - nice place, I assume, even with the flammable aspects? I have so many questions and would love to read more.
Lol! Love this one.
Here’s the first line from my YA sci-fi, Stars on Ruby Mountain. It’s the second book in my Scattering Stars trilogy. “Survival is overrated.” The book came out in 2019, and I’m still working on book three. I was derailed by COVID. 🙄
I think a lot of people were derailed by Covid, Wendy. I hope you are able to get back to it!
Great first line. Now I'm intrigued.
Here's the first ( l - o - n - g ) sentence from a self-published dog hero story, KODIAK & THE UN-HUNTED PLACE, in the form of a book length, illustrated epic poem:
As the birds stop singing
and the eezer bugs drone on
in the last thrum-thrums
before the shadows stretch
and open wide to yawn,
in the afterglow
of daylight’s fury
a breeze (so soft
as perfect stillness)
through a chain link fence
toward a predator
hidden in the failing light—
through hot yellow eyes
an animal kingdom
Oh, WOW! We just don't get to see enough poetry in fiction these days Ryan. And I love that you snuck in so many rhetorical devices. "Thrum-thrums" is awesome. 🙂
From current WIP, an adult fantasy: "Brother Magnus was about to be punished."
Working title, The Relic
"Brother Magnus" is intriguing, Lloyd. With a title like THE RELIC, your reader will be happy to settle in for an epic ride.
This is always so much fun to see everyone's ideas, get a hint of WIPs out there, and what is hitting the bookshelves! Lisa- Dominion of Darkness sounds right up my alley.
From my NF guide for authors:
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 fantasy WIP:
My head throbs.
It throbs and my mouth is foul. I don’t dare open my eyes. Not yet. My bed sways gently—I must still be drunk. Of course. Who wouldn’t be after everything that happened?
I agree, Miffie! It's always so fun to see all the stories-in-progress. I totally love BOTH your first lines. 🙂
First line of prologue, Pride's Children: PURGATORY:
The world was shocked, nay, stunned, by the recent revelation that, even as his pregnant fiancée, America’s Sweetheart Bianca Doyle, lay recumbent in a hospital bed at the California Regional Women’s Hospital in Burbank, on complete bed-rest to forestall the premature birth of his twin daughters, Irish Megastar Andrew O’Connell, seen last March dedicating his winning statuette at the Academy Awards to Ms. Doyle, was secretly married to best-selling author K. Beth Winter, many years his senior.
First line of first chapter:
I, KARENNA ELIZABETH Ashe, being of sound mind, do… But that’s it, isn’t it? Being here proves I am not of sound mind. She wished, for the nth time, she had not agreed to tonight’s interview.
First line of prologue, Pride's Children: NETHERWORLD:
…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?
First line of first chapter:
“You, sir, are on top of the world.”
“I am.” Mind, eejit: no Kary, no Dodgson.
(Netherworld, the second book in the trilogy, will be published this year)
(the prologues are quotes from a faux New Yorker article)
The opening to my otherworld historical fantasy, Protecting the Pneuma Key:
Fleeing out the cottage’s back door, Zephtasha Barcaine plunged into night, the swirling snow riding the howling wind’s torment. The rylls, they’d give chase. The five of them would swarm her back and bring her down if she didn’t keep moving.
IMHO, best first line ever is C J Box's Open Season: "When a high-powered rifle bullet hits living flesh it makes a distinctive - pow-WHOP - sound that is unmistakable even at a tremendous distance."
My fantasy novel begins: "Treachery was on the wind. Hanna could feel it in her bones. Well, maybe it was just the storm threatening to burst from the low clouds. It was a terrible morning to start a journey." In final edit, so feedback is welcome.
Here are the first two lines from a WIP.
The winter was worse than it had been in decades. The temperatures brought warnings from meteorologists and the chattering of teeth from those who ignored them.
Tracy Weaver hates winter and wishes the weather was more hospitable. She runs an antique store. The working title is The Crystals Of Kirshana. It's supposed to be a fantasy, but that could change.
The chattering teeth is a great image and fun turn on the expression after being warned. Playful and good way to provide setting info.
I love the way Zane Grey put you in the characters head right away. Here's the first line from Western Union:
It was a summer day in 1861, when I boarded a west-bound stage in Omaha, Nebraska, at the end of my resources and the end of my rope.
Book 1, Draytons Discoveries.
Year 2150, Planet 'Old' Earth—Terra sanctuary region 579001A, Northern hemisphere, America, Louisiana, St. Bernard Parish, Osh Hospital, inside the visitor Commemoration Bay, five minutes before imminent death.
Book 2, Jeena's Discoveries
Standing over his leaders body, grabbing the still arm to fling over his shoulder, drawing a shallow breath, a searing pain lancing through him from the slash wounds made from horrific claws of the Floroon, his mind dulled as his body spiked; this was going to hurt.
With such visceral writing, the reader must be in for a treat!
From a WIP, book 5 in my ongoing series.
He never questioned why they wanted her dead. A contract was a contract, and this one signed in blood. A dagger nick at the tip of his finger, a smudge of red at the bottom of the page. Binding and legal in certain circles, and the cost of failure? Well—he wouldn’t get into that.
I LOVE all these openings! This is the opening from my short story Hidden Curse 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.
It's beautiful, Barb! Love the anaphora. 🙂
Oh, Barb! That's beautiful!!
From the two novels I'm working on:
the first set in lockdown - "I keep hearing sirens, and twice this week I've seen ambulances in our street; I swear they come in pairs like animals to the ark."
the second - starts with a rather tinkly poem named after the title of the book 'Precious' about love for one's children, then goes to this "F*ck you bitch! I've got a right to see ma own f*cking daughter!"
He was a dark and stormy knight. (From Femmes Fatal by Dorothy Cannell) I bought the book the second I read the line because even if the rest of it was bad (it wasn’t) that first line was worth the price of a paper back book.
From The God's Eye:
Aside from a passion for waistcoats of the same liturgical purple oft sported by the Archbishop of Canterbury—a pleasing shade for a gentleman of my years and colouring—I am not a religious man.
Still waiting to see if the data can be retrieved from my hard drive. It was at 85%. Send good vibes. Hopefully, I'll be able to participate next time.
Oh man...Good luck on that hard drive!