First Lines – A Random Sampling


I continue to be intrigued by the opening lines of novels. What is it that captures a reader’s attention? What are the necessary components? What makes a first line memorable? What makes it great?

I decided to take a look at a variety of first lines. To be honest, most of these books are ones I haven’t read yet. Some are Christian fiction, some are not. Some you may recognize, some may be from unpublished works.

What I thought might be informative is if I put out this random sampling, then based on comments, select the top five and create a readers’ poll to see what we think is the best open line. Or maybe we can vote on something else—like whether we favored lines showing action or dialogue or thought or description.

I also thought it might be interesting to let visitors add favorite first lines—either your own or ones you’ve read—and tell why you like them.

For the sake of time, I’m not going to give title and author of each sample. Suffice it to say, each is the opening line of a novel or a novel manuscript. The question is, which ones, by themselves, make you want to read more?

Looking forward to hearing what you think.

    1 –
    This is it, we’re here.
    2 –
    My mom was freaking out.
    3 –
    My discovery of terrorist cells operating in Canada coincided with Stephanie’s request that I move out.
    4 –
    I’m wearing dark clothes on a moonless night.
    5 –
    I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.
    6 –
    “No, Mr. Covenant,” she repeated for the third time, “I can’t do that.”
    7 –
    Any photographer would have loved to capture the scene.
    8 –
    A magnificent viscorcat paws at the trunk of the coil tree, yearning for a summer sun spot up in the branches, his black fur glossed from grooming.
    9 –
    Paige Woodward sat in the Christmas Eve service, staring at the giant cross that hung above the pulpit of her parents’ church and silently pleading with God.
    10 –
    Word got out.
    11 –
    Listen!
    This is the tale of how, at last evil returned to the Assembly of Worlds, and how one man, Merral Stefan D’Avanos, became caught up in the fight against it.
    12 –
    Hand over hand, Oblivion climbed.
    13 –
    Rivka woke from a light sleep, her heart thudding.
    14 –
    Attending this funeral on Easter Sunday seemed especially sad to me—but fitting, nevertheless.
    15 –
    It was the stillness.
    16 –
    “We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
    17 –
    Rough stone tore Rathe’s palms as he stumbled through the gaping maw of the cave.
    18 –
    Jim understood the insinuation—his brother thought he was a loser.
    19 –
    It first appeared as a gentle glow, almost like a child’s night-light.
    20 –
    I remember well the first time I saw the magic of the Plains-people.
    21 –
    The storm had broken.
    22 –
    Every morning, before the sun rose to gild the white marble columns of the monastery with flecks of gold, the High Priestess went to the Chamber of the Watchful Eye to perform the Rite of Seeing.
    23 –
    A hot, sticky evening in Los Angeles.
    24 –
    On Monday, I uncovered a drug ring in South Minneapolis.
    25 –
    Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn.
Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm  Comments (21)  
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