- “The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams
- “It’s a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost don’t notice I’m being blackmailed.” – Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli
- “First the colors.Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try. ***A small fact*** You are going to die.” – The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- “I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion.” – The Martian, Andy Weir
- “I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.” – Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
- “The circus arrives without warning.” – The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
- “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
- “‘Somebody bloody famous,’ said the hoarse voice on the end of the line, ‘better’ve died, Strike.'” – The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
- “I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was.” – Code Name Verity, Elizabeth E. Wein
I’ve been thinking a lot about opening lines lately. It’s an important thing to consider when you’re writing a novel (or anything else, really), and as I get ready to dive into working on my next book I’ve had opening lines on the brain. What are my favorite opening lines? What makes a great opening line so great?
Most great openers are surprising or dynamic. They intrigue you or pull you in or throw you right into the middle of the action. Take the opening line of Code Name Verity: “I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was.” This immediately has you asking, who is this person? why does she need to be heroic? is she in trouble? what’s going on? One line in and already you are caught up in the story, asking questions and wondering what’s going to happen.
But knowing a good opening line when you see it and being able to write one yourself are two entirely different things. Not only does the first line draw in the reader (hopefully), it also sets the tone for the novel. So, no pressure, or anything.
To confound matters further, good opening lines don’t always appear to be all that spectacular. The first line of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, for instance, is very simple: “There was a boy in her room.” That’s it. Just “there was a boy in her room.” It doesn’t seem like a particularly spectacular way to start off your book, but then again don’t you immediately find yourself wondering who the boy is and why he is there and, perhaps most of all, why the main character feels the need to make a point of this in the first place? It’s simple, but it makes you wonder. It draws you in.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that what makes an opening line great isn’t always easy to pin down, but it usually grabs you somehow. As for me, I’ll just keep writing and hope I can find the words to make readers as excited about my stories as I am. Isn’t that the most any writer can hope for?
What’s your favorite opening line and why do you love it so much? Let me know!