Every so often, we open the doors of WITS to our readers. It's our version of Open Mic Night. We like hearing what you're up to in your writing and back-to-school time, with Fall around the corner, 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, 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.
Our own Laura Drake has offered some great advice on writing a winning first line here.
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 on the post so they can share theirs!
We'll get you started.
Black Irish Blues by Andrew Cotto (Mystery). The first line from the prologue:
The trouble with Dinny Tuite began with the two-martini rule.
These are from the first chapter of Sylvie's Summer of Scary Sh*t, a short horror story under the pen name Krissy Knoxx:
At that moment, a big praying mantis whipped by her head, swooped down, and landed on her marker-doodled Vans. She shook her foot, nearly dropping her phone, and yelled, "Get-it-off, get-it-off, get-it-off!"
"Just a carnivorous manteodea on my shoe. A harmless bug. It can't hurt me. It can't hurt me." She squeezed her eyes shut, tightened her shoulders, fists, knees. But she had to peek.
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.
--Dominion of Darkness - Deleyna Marr
Marie knew the willow-green dress was wrong the moment she saw the blood-red bridge.
-- Sisterhood - Deleyna Marr
"As she woke up in the pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she had bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file."
~ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is an award-winning LGBTQ Space Exploration Science fiction book.
Now it's your turn. Share your opening lines (or a favorite from another author) below!
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Finally back working on the WF that was gathering dust. Margie Lawson helped me with this one!
Today, death rides a bicycle. My bicycle.
I love this, Laura. I'd definitely keep reading. Thanks for sharing it.
I'm so glad you're back to that book! YAY!!!
So much fun, Laura!
What a great opening line. Can't wait to read your book Laura.
Nice. This sentence sparks curiosity.
Today I was wearing black instead of white. I was a widow before I’d even been married. This was my new reality, and I didn’t know how I would cope.
Intriguing, Tracy--and sad. Thank you for sharing it.
That is an absolutely fantastic first line, Tracy!
I want to know what book this comes from so I can go read it. I'm fascinated.
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.
Ungrateful planet...Intriguing, Julia. Thanks for sharing.
Wow! That has a punch to it!
November 28, 1977
JACK DARE'S GREAT AMERICAN FREEFALL
Jack Dare waited until after five o’clock. That way the secretaries would be gone. No reason they should suffer through this. He glanced at his watch. Five-ten. The price of time was far exceeding the cost of working here even one more minute.
If-only-I-had, if-only-I-had. “Those are the saddest words in the world,” his father used to say. “Never wait for an invitation to get off your ass and do what needs to be done.”
Suffer after quitting time? This raises so many questions this reader wants answered....
Is this person about to quit? Will there be a big explosion when they do?
My opening lines from Dirty Hazel and the Cat Woman.
The box could've held anything from a bikini to a bomb, not too large, small enough to carry. And if Cat had known how stealing it would change lives and end lives, she wouldn't have come within ten freaking miles of it. But then again, Cat has been brought up to live on the edge of a razor.
This is a great opening, Dana! And I adore the alliteration of "a bikini to a bomb."
He couldn’t help himself. Tom was beguiled by the captivating figure of the woman lying on the bed before him. At first glance, her arresting beauty and dazzling figure stunned him. Her sleek black hair, radiating in marked contrast with the bright white background of the pillow splayed out like it might have just been caught by an ocean breeze. The nearly perfect sculpted face accented her flawless alabaster complexion. Captivating eyes, wide open, focused straight at him, as if beckoning him with some amorous intent.
Given any other scenario, this might have been Tom’s keenest fantasy. But this encounter was utterly disparate from any romantic moment. Oh, Loretta Hines was very real alright. She was also very dead.
Very intriguing setup, Al! Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Propelled forward by a gentle, loving hand, Gavin Mays opened his confused eyes. He and his father had been at his Uncle Eugene's farm and raced to the parsonage to close windows to prevent damage to the refinished floors when a storm unfolded. A newly hired preacher and family would be arriving this same day. The wind, lightning, and rain had made the road and landscape disappear.
From my book (not published), Colors
You've got great visuals here, Luther. Thanks so much for sharing!
Ah... they'd been going to the house, but I take it they didn't get there?
Opening line for a novella: The storm brewing in those swirling black clouds couldn’t have unleashed more outrage than the melee inside the Artistic Director’s office.
I love it, Ane! You draw the reader right in with this.
Evil draws dark hearts like a corpse draws flies.
working title: The Monkeytown Murders by Deborah Lacativa
Excellent opening, Deborah. I like your title too.
This is my favorite: "Life changes on a dime." Joan Didion
Here is one of my own opening lines from an essay: "The days on which I leave and return home are the toughest."
I love them both, Julie!
So much potential in that!
Oooh - so many good lines! Here's mine from an essay I just submitted called Tale of Two Tumors:
I scroll over my spreadsheet’s virtual box of crayons and chose magenta for the child psychologist because he was the boldest. Fern green for both psychiatrists, although one should have been sage, the other neon slime. Salmon for the two neurologists because their diagnoses sounded fishy. But where was brown for the pediatrician who gave me so much shit?
This is definitely intriguing, Karen. You are for sure drawing in your readers.
Ha! Love it.
From Iridesce, Book One in the romatic fantasy pentalogy, Given To the Wind:
They say I am nothing, less than nothing, worse than nothing. They’re wrong, just not today.
Ooh! Intriguing first line. Sounds great, Cordia.
Thank you SO much, Ellen!
Okay, I'm caught.
So curious now. Who is she?
She's a girl with two father, two countries and no place to call home.
Here's a first line from a non-fiction essay I'm working on: Everything would be different if you had been born.
That one hit my right in the gut, Vanessa. So powerful!
Awwww... that's a sad intro!
An instant hit of melancholy for me. Well done.
I’m drowning in the bathtub. My nose just inches away from life giving air. I clearly see Lilly hovering above me. She smiles. Waving. I see her precious dimples, and I will my arms to reach for her, but they don’t move.
Ohmygosh, this is so compelling, Lucy. Especially because I'm pretty sure Lilly is a baby.
Thanks, Jenny! Yes. Lilly is a toddler.
Makes me want to jump into that tub and save her. You've managed to evoke so many questions in these lines.
So sad... and interesting to see what happens, since as a first line I'm hoping that she doesn't die!
Thank you to everyone for sharing your openings. They are wonderful. Here is mine for my YA fantasy, Music of Dragons:
Moonlight danced on the leaves of an Alder tree. Gazing out the window to her left, Siobhan felt herself pulled from the room. Standing in a storm-darkened field, she watched as lightning tore open the sky. Its reflection sparkled on the silver pendant she lifted in offering. The crimson dragon towering over her snatched it. With a laugh that rumbled up from the depths of his throat, he caressed the jewel.
Christine, I adore that you took the time to go visit so many people's first lines! Yours is lovely and intriguing. And you had me at the title: Music of Dragons. 🙂
Thank you, Jenny. 🙂
Thanks, Deleyna! 🙂
The woman was so badly beaten, Steel Chaney vomited his breakfast bagel in the grass at the side of the concrete driveway. So much for bragging that after twenty years on the job, he’d seen it all.
Oof! You've totally got the setup for a gritty book here, Rena. Great job!
Definitely lets us know the genre right from the start!
So many fabulous openings!! Here's mine from my fantasy romance The Witch Whisperer, contracted by The Wild Rose Press for an early 2023 release:
Willow Gladstone's life was a dumpster fire. If only the destruction were limited to a metal trash container.
A grin and a question. Well done, Barb!
That is super well done, Barb. And you got in the humor hit. I know Margie smiled over this. 🙂
Love the dumpster fire visual.
Fun start! Congratulations on the upcoming release!
No one’s memory is perfect…except for a little old lady in Pasadena named Pearl. As much as everyone loved to test her total-recall abilities, there were things and dates and emotions she wished—with her entire heart—to forget.
But she couldn’t.
She wasn’t wired to forget, only to remember.
That is, until dementia barged in and began to steal cherished recollections of Christmas mornings and hippo-shaped clouds and her caregiver’s name.
It would not, however, take away even the tiniest bits of her recollections of August 6, 1945: the day the sky opened up over her hometown of Hiroshima and the fiery breath of the dragon devoured nearly everything and everyone…except Pearl and her memories.
Terrific start of a story, Christopher.
Those first sentences give a strong indication of what's coming.
This is fascinating. What Pearl has seen...
These are all great - very inspiring! Here are 2 of mine. The first from a YA fantasy novel and the 2nd from a fantasy short story I’m working on:
Two more points would prove them all wrong. Only the burly Telana warrior stood in Rowena’s way.
The warm southern waters had no effect on Yari’s frigid heart.
I like them both, Kelly. The warm water and frigid heart makes me want to know more.
Exactly. I really like that contrast.
Beautiful. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres. You're right on point.
This is the opening line of a short story I wrote entitled "Green Shoes."
When I was nine and sitting on our front stoop watching the cars traveling up and down the street, I used to daydream about my mother being murdered.
Whoa. Way to use a power phrase at the end of that line, Margaret. Got me square in the gut!
Wow! I'd definitely continue reading.
Little bit backloaded there! Love it!
The Cottage on Washington Street:
Jessi Carmichael had her hands full of overstuffed plastic grocery bags after shopping at a farm stand and The Fresh Market, intending to get all her supplies into the cottage in one trip.
Denise, this first line is a super visual!
I can feel the pain from all of those bags!
This one's from my current urban fantasy WIP, Delusions of Glamour:
Catastrophe walked into Faeriland on a crowded Friday evening. The two agents—a stout woman and an austere man—swept the pub with the same calculating look, noting those who slipped away toward the exits. Sam twitched, fighting the urge to follow, and muttered a curse as orange soda and gin splashed over Just-One-More Meyers' usual onto her fingers. She flicked it off and slapped down a fresh coaster, placing his brimming glass in the center.
"That's it for the night, Meyers."
He sucked down a greedy mouthful and smacked his lips. "Sure thing, Sam-I-Am."
This is a marvelous first line! --> "Catastrophe walked into Faeriland on a crowded Friday evening."
Nice set up.
The Road begins in a forest. Wildflowers abound in the short summer. A cool old wooden sign marking the start (or end) of Highway 41 that will end some 2000 miles later.
Very evocative, Chris. Your capitalization of "Road" really tells the reader to pay attention here.
Now I'm curious where the Road goes!
Thank you for this motivation. Loved the examples in the blog post. Here's my first attempt at the first lines for my WIP (historical, 1848, Hawai'i)
Grace Keawe’s voice abandoned her, and her legs buckled. Sand and lava rock bit into her knees. The Australian wielded the machete one more time before disappearing into the koa forest. Her gaze skittered across the courtyard. Chaotic piles of dried grass is all that remained of the family hut.
Interesting set up. I'm curious who the Australian is.
Giselle Finch lost faith in magic the day her father died.
Okay, that's heartbreakingly powerful.
I like this first line, Terrye. I can feel her wound and her grief.
Opening to chapter 16 of Marriage Mistake.
No present, No future. All is a blur to Jill as Joseph drives her home from the hospital.
Ooooh... that's a twist.
All of these first lines make me jealous!
Nevertheless, here goes:
From my upcoming novella set in 1969, called Roachclip:
"So, why did I kill that guy?"
The teenage girl, a sophomore at Cal State Long Beach, settled down on the green shag carpet and looked up at her grandfather.
That's a heck of a first line! We all want to know why now!
From Flash fiction piece titled Low Word Count
“The first thing he withheld were his words.”
A writer withholding their words. There's provocation there and a hint at this being only the FIRST thing...
I love it! I think of a passive-aggressive in a relationship, or a prisoner being interrogated.
Shannon Brady turned the corner for the hallway to her professor’s office. She sighed at the sight of the long corridor. Why is it always dark too? It should've been short like her soon to be museum career.
Working Title: Fate's Wish, Romantic Suspense
From my book, Grendel's Mother, the first paragraph:
All journeys begin with a single step. I could say my journey began when I was made dead, a no-name ghost in the woods. Or when I first met the dragon when I was too young to be afraid. Or maybe my journey began when the pains started, soon after the last thread of light disappeared in a horizontal sliver crushed between dark ominous clouds fast filling the sky and the earthly boundaries of both my chains and comfort as deemed by the gods: the raw wilderness. Was it only less than a year ago that I was a naïve child, believing that the life ahead of me was mine to choose? So innocent. So lost in my own little world of supposed freedom. Self-centered as only a child knows at the time. What a difference a year makes.
These are lovely details, Diana!!
Licence to Die (GRUnGE.OO1) Mazzy Adams (Intrigue and Inspiration with an Upmarket Down Under Vibe)
From the prologue: Up Front, Easter 6 April 2012, Canberra, Australia
Loud bangs demolished Ben's Good Friday sleep in. He surrendered his fractured dream without regret. His Pillow? Not so much. It had been a rough night. The reek of stale sweat wafting from his t-shirt agreed.
A bell from the local parish church chimed in, clanging its solemn call to worship on the offbeat.
'Bah! They're in cahoots!' He buried his head under the pillow. Sleep wreckers.
The bell fell silent. The unrepentant clatter morphed into a belligerent knock.
I’d like to introduce you to the young adult, peppered with psychological bites. The novel is called I Don’t Trust you: I Want a Family of My Own. The opening begins like this.
Late break news:
Earlier we reported that a mother was broadsided at a downtown intersection. She was rushed to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Camrose. There she underwent an operation for a subdural hematoma. Doctors now report the operation was successful. No complications. The mother is expected to make a fully recover. Due to her injuries, she will need to be in an induced coma for a while.
What the doctors, family, and friends don’t know is that Jill fears returning to her present. Her whole life has been turned upside down. Recently. Out of the blue, no warning. Her husband left her. She had to quit homeschooling her children. Send them to a public school. She had to get a low paying receptionist position. She couldn’t afford the mortgage payments, so she sold her spacious house and move into a three-bedroom apartment. Now the accident. Excoriating back pain is her last recollection.