Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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May 1, 2024

Take the Stage at WITS: Share Your First Lines!

Microphone for share your first lines

Every so often, we open the doors of WITS to our readers. It's our version of Open Mic Night where you get to take the stage. We like hearing what you're up to in your writing and, since it was just World Creativity Day, it seems like 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 one of your favorite books. We want to make it easy!

The Power of 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 a breathtaking first line or paragraph.

Our own Laura Drake has offered some great advice on writing a winning first line:

"A first line is a promise to the reader, telling them what kind of book this is. What your voice is. Maybe who the main character is. A good first line will pull a reader into a story. here.

Let's Hear Yours!

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.

"A storm struck on the night that Laura Shane was born, and there was a strangeness about the weather that people would remember for years."

~ Dean R. Koontz, Lightning  Suspense thriller, Sci-Fi

"Once upon a time we had a love affair with fire, the president of the United States thought as the match that he'd just struck to light his pipe flared beneath his fingers."

~ Robert R, McCammon, Swan Song, Supernatural thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi

"I know of her. She stays to herself. Probably over a hundred years old, if she's still alive."

~ The Regeneration of Tomas Renell, a horror ghost story with a teen protagonist, by Krissy Knoxx (aka Me)

Staring unnatural death in the face changes you. It just does.

~ Unnamed Cancer Memoir, Jenny Hansen

The giant bronze angel of death loomed over Miranda Clarke's shoulder.

~ My Soul to Keep, the Fellowship Dystopia Book 1, Lynette Burrows


When the murderer, Gary Cobalt, trotted into the Bitter Blossom, he nearly gave himself away as a half-unicorn within thirty seconds.

~ Space Unicorn Blues, The Reason Book 1, TJ Berry (Bet you guess the genre just from this line!)

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

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

Ellen, Jenny, Kris, Lisa & Lynette

Top Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

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117 comments on “Take the Stage at WITS: Share Your First Lines!”

  1. Billows of icy sea-mist invade without warning, drifting in like wraiths from Eynhallow Sound.
    The Witch of Eynhallow Sound. Middle Grade.

  2. Durston stood with his shield locked with the ones on either side. A helmet covered his ash blond hair and a breastplate made of hardened leather covered his torso.
    He turned to the man on his left. “We're in a better position. We should win this fight easily.”

    Anger of an Anglo Saxon. Historical Novel set in the aftermath of The Battle of Hastings. V.M.Sang

    1. Hi,
      I love the cadence. Tight and terse. Just like what I'd expect to feel before a battle! Ash blonde hair, for example. Nice way to provide a visual and set the mood.
      -Kris

    1. I am interested to see what happens next and curious about who or what she is running from -

  3. Two I've written I love the most:

    Today, death rides a bicycle. My bicycle. First line of For Roger (shout out to Margie Lawson, who helped. A lot)

    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 Sweet Spot. (okay, two lines).

    1. Both of these lines are really great. Especially the last one. Such a surprise! and right at the starting line.

    2. She was grateful for the bull semen.

      That will catch one's attention. 🙂

      I love that you mention Margie. She definitely can transform a writer's work and has influenced my writing as well.
      Kris

  4. "A dilapidated, rickety, English manor rested on a hill, where the dying grass called for help."
    I have one question about this, actually. Do you guys think that the "called for help" makes sense? I was trying to convey that the grass was calling for help because it was dying and needed water. Does this make more sense?
    "A dilapidated, rickety, English manor rested on a hill, where the dying grass called for water."

    1. I like both. "Called for water" is clearer since that's what you mean, but I find "called for help" intriguing.

      Sorry. I know that's totally unhelpful, but either version is a wonderful first line. The imagery is evocative.

    2. I would go with the grass cried for help. much more emotional, and rounds out the picture of the house needing care as well. It fits well if this is a horror or thriller, help would fit into the mood right from the get go. if it's more that the house hasn't been cared for because someone is ill or dying, help fits too. IMHO

    1. Hm, interesting start. I'm immediately wondering why the girl is indecisive about where the ornaments go. And how the relationship between the girl and dad will impact the story.

      Thanks for this sweet image!
      Kris

  5. That light was definitely orange, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t get away from that place and those memories fast enough.

    1. Orange. As in penitentiary provided? This gives me a lot of questions as to what's gping on and where this protagonist is heading!

      Thanks, Jolie!

  6. Here are the opening lines from a flash story I wrote published by Hindered Souls in 2016.

    I’m kneeling in the shed, cleaning blood off my bat in a tub of soapy water, when something crackles. I look up. My little sister is standing by the shed’s window. She holds a flower exactly like the ones I planted on her grave.

    1. Wait, what? Dead girl holding flowers, floating outside a crime scene? Or ia there a less sinister angle here - forgiveness of self after an accident type thing?

      Either way, this definitely will bring a reader in. Cool opening!

  7. 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 my short story Wave Walker.

  8. One of the paradoxes of our life journey is that we want “drama without trauma, stability without predictability, social interaction without expectations, intimacy without commitment, to be admired without feeling watched, to be heard without judgement, to speak out without scrutiny, to live without rules, to die without being accountable, to have “Ah Ha & WOW” moments without the “Oh NO!” experiences”.

    From our newest book due out in July 2024 - THE NEXT CHAPTER - CHANGE THE MINDSET, CHANGE YOUR LIFE

  9. Jake took in the situation: his daughter Emily, looking radiant in her innocence and joy, and Adam and Marianne Barkley. Sweat pooled at the base of his spine. The last time he’d seen Marianne, she had been naked.

  10. Ruth draped a tea towel over the fruit-laced cake Betsy Bailey had saddled her with, black currant of all things, then planted herself at the front window.

    From my Historical Women's Fiction WIP: Ruth Shelby's Rules

  11. "I believe a person can have more than one soulmate in this lifetime.” Hannah Galtero continues capturing her thoughts in her journal with lazy swirls and inky curlicues. “But somehow I managed to have two at one time."

    --Potential opening for my contribution to a short-story anthology to help raise awareness and resources for the Orange County Romance Writers organization.

  12. New York Times bestselling author Vivienne Sheridan tells people she’s a red-hot dumpster fire searching for silver linings. What she doesn’t tell them is that she does it with white knuckles, often stylishly hidden by whipped-cream white gloves.

    --from my WIP, a dual-time line WW2 historical fiction/romance called Unforgettable

  13. Martha Mosey Kane pressed her cheek to the plane’s cold window as Las Vegas’ carpet of lights grew larger, like living diamonds under an indigo dome.
    --"Granny Takes Las Vegas," publishing May 30, 2024

      1. Thank you, love. Writing the #GrannyOakleyMysteries has been a blast, carrying on where one of earlier cozy-mystery heroines left off. It's the kind of work that both excites and comforts this older, semi-jaded writer!

  14. Thank you all for doing this. It's fun to read everyone's lines. 🙂

    This is from my YA fantasy, Music of Dragons:

    “Mahair Mor was nearly executed?” Siobhan let her spoon drop with a clunk into her bowl of hawthorn stew.

    1. I've revised my first line and I've added the first two paragraphs here for context. Please tell me if getting rid of "Mahair Mor" (Siobhan's name for her grandmother) helps. I thought the unfamiliar words might be a stumbling block for readers. Thanks for any help. 🙂

      “The Council tried to execute my grandmother?” Siobhan let her spoon drop with a clunk into her bowl of hawthorn stew. Thunder rumbled outside the dining room window. “Why have you kept this from me, Maeda?”

      On the other side of the birchwood table, her mother dismissed the question with a wave. “It happened long ago. Your aunt and I were only faerylings.”

  15. This had to be some crazy nightmare, right? At least it sure felt like one. But, alas, it was not a dream, or hallucination, or anything similar. No amount of wishful thinking could change things.

    From my work in progress titled: "Musings of a Madman - a Rock and Roll Love Story"

      1. Thank you! It is set in the 1980s and the main character is a rock musician who discovers he has mind powers. While his journey of love and loss is the framework for the novel, beneath the surface lurks an age-old battle of good vs. evil.

  16. Today, humanity's future could rest in their hands, so they couldn't afford to make mistakes..

    1. The whole first paragraph is below. However, the first sentence was originally the last sentence of the paragraph. I moved it up for more immediate effect, but still feel uncomfortable with the opening. FYG—This is from my second book (WIP) in a tetralogy.
      I intended it to mirror the opening scene in the first book, where my antagonists were the POV characters, whereas now my protagonists are witnessing the same view, with a different purpose (uniting Earth).

      Today, humanity's future could rest in their hands, so they couldn't afford to make mistakes. The Earth loomed large, a beautiful oasis amongst a sea of stars. Fleets of clouds sailed above its seas and continents, and the moon crawled from behind its soft blue edge. Occasionally, a flash of sunlight danced off a satellite darting by. This seamless and vast view was intimidating to witness on even an ordinary day

      1. " the moon crawled from behind its soft blue edge. Occasionally, a flash of sunlight danced off a satellite darting by."

        Love this! Beautiful imagery written poetically.

  17. The first time my mother threw me and my little sister out of the house I thought she'd call us right back in.

  18. April in Paris should bring thoughts of love and romance, but right now, I'm staring at my dead fiancé on a morgue slab in the police precinct.

  19. Three of my favorites:

    Locked-away memories belonged to the dark, not streaking like fireballs into the middle of a shimmery day. From The Sea Prayers, a Carolina Coast novel

    A moment in time and the rabbit hole opened, tumbling Rina Lynne smack dab into the middle of her own wonderland. From Two from Isaac's House, an Isaac's House novel

    Out here on the water between Shackleford Banks and the islands fronting Taylor Creek, the wind can turn as skittish as those barrier-island ponies. From Becalmed, a Carolina Coast novel

  20. The chill of November clung to my bones, a relentless reminder of Kitty’s departure. She slipped away in 2022, after 53 loyal loving years, leaving me adrift in a sea of solitude. The world outside my window seemed gray, devoid of color, and I, a lonely widower, yearned for connection.

      1. Thx. I confess--this is not fiction but a narrative of a true adventure titled My Escape From Hell

          1. I’m getting ready to ruin your whole day. The events in this story are NOT fictional, but the themes of resilience and unexpected kindness still resonate universally. Yes, I have stumbled along this path. Errors, like jagged stones, litter my journey. But these missteps do not negate the truth—the immutable core of my being. For in the crucible of experience, I have emerged wiser, each step guided by newfound insights.

          2. to Sharon---
            I'm getting ready to ruin your whole day. I have stumbled along this path. Errors, like jagged stones, litter my journey. But these missteps do not negate the truth—the immutable core of my being. For in the crucible of experience, I have emerged wiser, each step guided by newfound insights.

          3. If indeed truth is stranger than fiction, then revealing the ending to a true story is ten times worse than doing so in a fictional work, where it is a disaster. Let me simply say that I survived.

  21. I might have been born to wear a crown, but I preferred to wield a blade. - In the Forest of Eternal Darkness.

  22. First line of the 242 word prologue:

    …There is remarkably little gossip about the love story of the century: how a disabled older writer came between the rising Irish actor of his generation and the reigning Hollywood princess who is the mother of his twin daughters.

    First line of the first scene:

    Would he call before they made her get some sleep?

    First line of the second scene:

    The sun rose on an alien world.

    (Pride's Children: LIMBO, WIP, 3rd book in trilogy)

  23. We huddle outside the dinin’ hall and I reach for each of them, my brave and truest friends, as though by touchin’ them, I will forever remember them, how they feel, how they smell, how they smile.

    Yellow Butterfly: From Savage to Civilized. Historical fiction based on the life of my Pawnee great-grandmother. (not yet published)

  24. It only took a week for her to decide on the name Helena Darcy when she started her transition two years ago, and only $450 in legal fees to secure it. Helena was the name of her amazing grandmother from up north, and Darcy came from too many months of binge watching the Pride and Prejudice movie as a teenager.

  25. I’m thirsty. So damned thirsty. My tongue. Rough. Like I gulped a cup of sand. My lips crack and bleed. Blood fills my mouth. I need water. Cool, clean, fresh water. Not this endless sea.

    The Taste of Hope, WIP, Women's Fiction.

  26. 'It's all yours, my dear,' Sir Russell Fuller flashed his Cheshire-cat smile at Caroline.

    A yet-to-be-titled part-written novel. I know it's not recommended to start a novel with dialogue, but I have. I also like to KIS.

  27. Love those lines! (And Lynette, I need to keep reading your stuff. GREAT series.)

    It took me a while to settle on this first line for my upcoming Young Adult Contemporary, but here it is: "Every time my grandparents told me I was living in the 'glory days,' I wondered if old people just forgot how dull and stupid high school could be."

    My MC, Jo Beth Clarke, has been raised by her grandparents. And what happens in the novel will be anything but dull! 🙂

  28. Until the moment I was catnapped, this job had easily been one of the single most boring thefts I’ve had the misfortune of agreeing to perform.

    -from my fantasy heist novel (finally finished revisions last month, phew!)

  29. To Gerren Stafford, the mysterious gent leaning against the back wall looked as out of place in this room full of Jamaican ruffians as a harlot in the Queen’s drawing room. (currently in edits)

    If a cold, hard stare could kill, Aubrey St. Clair, Marquess of Leisterbridge, would soon be moldering in his grave. (WIP)

  30. "the moon crawled from behind its soft blue edge. Occasionally, a flash of sunlight danced off a satellite darting by."

    I love this! Wonderful imagery presented poetically.

  31. With steely eyes of onyx the black snake slithered along the rail of the baby's cot. ('crib' for Americans)

    From my second novel, "The Fire In Blue", a rural saga based on my farming family in the '50s and '60s.

  32. Rosemary was shocked to find she was no longer three inches tall.

    Dragon Solstice - Nance Crawford

    A holiday adventure for the whole family. In print via Amazon, on Audible read by the author.

  33. First line:

    "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."

  34. 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, dawn signaled only another twenty-four hours of existing. He’d learned that lesson at nine years old.

    (From my mystery/suspense novel in progress, tentatively titled 'A Fall of Roses')

    1. Beverly,

      First, I love your title! It would make me read the blurb and check into it further.

      The writing in your opening is beautiful and intriguing. I would keep reading. I'm wondering, though, why you withheld the name of your protagonist. I want to know his name so I can connect with him and emotionally invest in him.

      Best wishes as you continue to work on your novel. 🙂

      1. Christine: Thanks for reading. As you can see by my next post, I realized I had entered the first lines from my FIRST draft of this novel in progress. The differences between the two are subtle. I think the second version is more inside the head and attitude of the character.

        To answer your question, this is a mystery/suspense novel and this is actually a first glimpse of the killer. You realize that in the next paragraph. But, of course, his identity isn't revealed at this point.

  35. Oops! I accidentally copied/pasted the first lines from the FIRST draft of my mystery/suspense novel in progress, A Fall of Roses. Moral to the story: never communicate with the world until you finish your first cup of coffee.

    Outside the grimy window of the abandoned house, morning slid a pink finger between the leaden December clouds and the charcoal smudge of the city skyline. He turned away, dropping onto the bare mattress at his feet. Dawn is such a liar, all full of rosy promises and hope and new beginnings. When you’re part of the unwanted, dawn’s nothing more than another twenty-four hours of trying to get by. The younger you learn that the better.

  36. Here are the opening lines of the 2nd book in the Earther Wizard series written under the pen name Richard S. Thomas.
    I HAD AN ALMOST uncontrollable urge to destroy something . . . anything. I had unconsciously filled my well with energy and prepared a spontaneous combustion spell. All I needed was a target. I glanced around my house in Billings, Montana, looking for something suitable. All I saw was the aftermath of Julie’s abduction.

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