June 5, 2013

13 (randomly chosen) Favorite First Lines


Isn't this one of the rules for writing a story, that the first line needs to hook the reader in? Or something like that anyway. I do think this is true. That first line either grabs me or it doesn't. Yet it takes more than that before I've made up my opinion on the story. I usually have to read at least the first paragraph or the first page or two to tell whether I want to keep reading or not. But that first line may end up being what I remember if it's written well. I can only imagine the pressure that writers feel to try and get that line just right. It can't be easy.

One thing I do know. While a well-written sentence can hook me in, that doesn't mean the story itself will. (note: all the books I've listed below are ones I've read and that I like. A lot.) I've certainly started a story having fun and ended up disappointed. And likewise, a poorly-written sentence may hide a jewel of a story within! But remember, this is all subjective to my own opinions of what's well-written and what's not, of course. :)

Anyway. I decided to share some of my favorite first lines with you today. This is just a few of them. This is not all of them by far. But if I did a post of all of them, it would never be over and you'd be sick of me and never come back and I would be sad and things would be awful and life would be over! I can't let that happen! So this is just a few. A few first lines from a few books that I picked up at random from my shelves, basically. But they wouldn't be here if I didn't like them. You'll also be getting a small look at the eclectic mix of books I read. Bravely go onward!


"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that  single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Come on. You knew I'd have at least one of Austen's books on this list. Right? And why not this one? It's a classic! For good reason. It's an awesome sentence. :D

"Hiding in plain sight, the old man crept through the halls of the palace, his ancient heart keeping pace with the shifting of his black eyes." ~ Serena Chase, The Ryn
This line totally drew me in. I immediately wanted to know more! Who was this man? What palace? How old is ancient? And black eyes? Intriguing. Very intriguing! Well done, Ms. Chase.

"The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day--a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste." ~ Jean Webster, Daddy Long Legs
And of course you knew I'd name this one too, didn't you? It's only one of my absolute favorite books ever! I already expounded on the delights of this story before, so I won't again. But I love this line.

"Would it kill you to get here before noon? I'm sitting here among the shards of my life as I know it, and you....if I know you, you just woke up." ~ Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
Firstly, we don't know who's talking. But whoever they're talking to has to be my kind of person, because I like to sleep in too. (What can I say? I'm a night owl. :) And secondly, "shards of my life"? Sounds dire, right? Or someone pretty snarky. Tell me more! (Chocolate chip cookies to anyone who can name the musical that line is from! Hint-it's from a song. A catchy song that never leaves my head once I start singing it.) (And those chocolate chip cookies are metaphorical by the way. But I'll still give them to you! Who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies, metaphorical or not?)

"There once was a girl who'd been praying for a husband since the fourth grade." ~ Becky Wade, My Stubborn Heart
So you can tell immediately that this is going to be a romance. And I love a good romance in a story! (I freely admit to being a hopeless romantic.) And this girl is determined! Since the fourth grade? Wow.

"Nothing creates buzz like an Executive Deluxe day planner. Not that I have much experience with buzzes, especially of the chemical variety, but my brother did double-dose me on NyQuil once when I was eleven." ~ Lindsey Leavitt, Sean Griswold's Head
Who gets excited over a day planner? Someone who is obviously a good girl. A good girl whose life is about to be shaken.

"For two hours a night, Monday through Saturday, Isadora Presley became the girl she'd lost." ~ Susan May Warren, My Foolish Heart
I love that line! Really love it. I think it may be one of my top favorite lines ever. If that doesn't make you curious about Isadora, I don't know what will.

"For years, I could not recall the day without a smoldering coal of remorse burning within me." ~ Julie Klassen, The Silent Governess
Julie Klassen is an amazing writer. I don't think it's possible for her to write a bad book. And what a way to start a story! The descriptions she writes leap off the page. Can't you imagine that hot, smoldering coal inside? And what memory causes this reaction? We must know more! Read this book. Seriously. Read it. Or pick any one of her books. They're all awesome!!

"There are so many ways it could have all turned out differently." ~ Jennifer E. Smith, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
 And then she proceeds to name all the decisions that could have changed the way things happened. A story of coincidences and timing and falling in love. I'm not usually a believer in love at first sight, but this story? It made me believe in it. At least until I was completely done reading. :)

"Someone's car was totaled and it wasn't my fault. But who's going to believe a teenager?" ~ A & E Kirk, Demons at Deadnight
And thus begins Aurora's story. Don't let the title fool you. The demons aren't good and the characters are out to defeat them. But what a ride! Aurora is awesome. Enough said.

"Sometimes I think about when I was little, and my older brothers would take me out to fly kites." ~ Jenny B. Jones, There You'll Find Me
This line strikes me because I have older brothers myself. Granted, I'm not sure they ever took me out to fly kites, but I do have wonderful memories from when we were younger. So this line makes me eager for more about these sibling relationships!

"It only takes a day and a half for the dreams to find me again." ~ Lisa McKay, My Hands Came Away Red
A fabulous first line for a fabulous story! Go. Go read it right now. Drop everything and go read it right now!

"My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted." ~ Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road
Another fabulous story. My words to describe it? I have none. It's an experience you must read for yourself. So do that, okay? :)




22 comments:

  1. All interesting but I am only familiar with the Daddy Long Legs book.

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    1. Daddy Long Legs is a cute story, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by, Karen! :)

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  2. Wow, these are all quite interesting, but I only know the Jane Austen one. (since I was in the play for Pride and Prejudice, I know that one quite well)

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    1. The play? I've never seen it as a play. That sounds fun! And I can certainly see why you'd know that line very well. Which character were you? Thanks for commenting, Hannah! :)

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  3. I love this post! It is so true that a good author (and those who want to become good ones) must be able to convince their audience (and a publishing house) that the book is going to be worth a read by the first 5 pages, really the first paragraph and sentence if it's an editor who's swamped with a ton of manuscripts... and these that you've selected all bear witness to that...they are superb starters!

    Of course P&p is delightful and that first line-so iconic :) Jane was a genius. I've never heard of The Ryn but after reading that line-I want to know more!! :) Will look that one up. I remember reading Daddy Long Legs as a girl and LOVING it :) Such a romantic tale and one I must add to my kindle now that I think about it! I enjoyed My Foolish heart very much. And Julie Klassen's books---all wonderful. My fav's are that one you listed above and her newest one, The Tutor's Daughter :) Love! I haven't heard of the other ones but I will check them out too.

    Great finds!!! Jeanine

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    1. Thank you, Jeanine! A great beginning is definitely important for a story. I never thought about the fact that an editor may only have time to read a small portion. That makes total sense though. Of course they'd be busy! Therefore writers have to make a great impression immediately. I agree, these authors I chose did a great job. It's so interesting to me how one sentence can say so much in so few lines. I'm in awe of what these authors are able to do. :)

      Oh you should definitely read The Ryn! It's fabulous. One of my favorite books for this year. And Klassen's stories are classics! At least in my humble opinion. ;) I loved her newest one too and look forward to anything she'll share in the future.

      Thanks for stopping by. It's nice to hear from you! :)

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  4. What a clever post, Kara! Don't be surprised if someday you find I copy-cat it. ;)

    Okay, great picks! Of course, Pride and Prejudice is a classic. Jenny's books are always spectacular and I am loving Susan's My Foolish Heart. (I've had to put that one aside time and again due to being sent various review copies.)

    To be honest, I don't know that I pay much mind to opening sentences. If I like a book, I like it. If not well... an opening line makes no difference to me. Right or wrong!

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    1. Thanks, Rissi! And I shall look forward to some of your favorites should you decide to share them. :)

      I don't always pay a lot of attention to opening sentences myself. I do think I'll enjoy the story regardless of the first line or not enjoy it as the case may be. So I completely understand what you're saying. But looking back at some of the books I love, it was so fun to see what incredible writing these authors used to begin their stories. And now when I think about these particular books, I think I'll remember what great openings they had.

      Either way, I had fun going through my shelves and searching out great sentences. I did find some that weren't as memorable, but that doesn't make me like the story any less. My favorites are my favorites no matter how they begin! :)

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  5. Eek! Rissi above beat me by minutes! I was going to say that I might steal this one day, too!

    And I opened up this comment box initially to put down my favorite opener..only to realize that I'm at work where, of course, I don't have the book and I can't remember it word for word. I might just return later. :)

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    1. Hi Kellie! Feel free to use the idea anytime! :) It was fun to search through my shelves for these. So it's definitely a fun post to write.

      I'd love to know what your favorite opener is! If you come back to share that is. Some writers do a wonderful job at it and some don't. But as I commented to Rissi, either way I'll still enjoy my favorite books.

      Thanks for coming by! Always glad to see your name pop up. :D

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  6. I love first lines! That fun to see several listed here. Thanks for including My Stubborn Heart's first line!

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting, Becky! I really do think your first line in that book is a great opener. And I can only imagine how difficult it is to write those beginning sentences to try and convey so much with just a sentence or two. I had so much fun searching these out. Made me want to look through all my favorite books and compile another list! :)

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  7. Oh, I'm with you, I think that the first line can so set the tone of he book and hook you in.
    I'm glad to see the first line of Jellicoe make it because it's such a great line. :D

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    1. That is a fabulous line! I mean, how could you read that sentence and then not want to read the entire story? I don't think that's possible. ;)

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  8. I am so totally doing this as soon as I am back home. For now, I'll leave you one of my fave first sentences, one I've memorized:

    "As I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." (The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton)

    Okay, two. Two favorites that I have memorized:

    "Last night I dreamed I was at Manderlay again." (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

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    1. I will look forward to some of your other favorites, Hamlette! It's incredible what some writers can do with just a few words. Completely draw you and make you invested in what happens next.

      And by the way, I'm totally impressed that you have these memorized. AND remember which book they belong to. They're great! Thanks for sharing. :D

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  9. My version is here. Thanks for this idea!

    I memorize random stuff from a lot of books. And song lyrics, poetry, vast chunks of Hamlet, Bible verses, etc.

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    1. Loved your choices, Hamlette! And thanks for the shout out. :)

      I have a few things memorized myself, but not much. Mostly little children's poetry or some such. Memorization is something I've wanted to work on though, especially Bible verses.

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  10. These are awesommeee!

    I'm reading Attachments right now actually. :)

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    1. Thanks, Juju! I hope you're enjoying Attachments. I think it's such fun! :)

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  11. Oh, wow! To be listed beneath Jane's P&P????? I'm honored! Thanks!

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    1. You are very welcome, Serena. Your line is excellent, as well as your whole story! Definitely one of my favorite books ever. :)

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