My favorite first lines… When my first book, Speak of the Devil, came out last year, someone asked me, “What’s the first line?” I didn’t know. “Why?” I asked. “The first line is important. It’s the most important line of the book,” he said. I’ve been writing for a long time and have taught English and literature for decades. He was right, and I should’ve known that, but in writing my book I hadn’t given much thought to my own first line. The first line grabs the reader. The first line hints at things to come like character, situation, mood, setting…. I’ve started putting more thought into what I write and how it starts off.
Some of my personal favorites are these.
“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.” -William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
This is one of my favorite books to read ever, but it was also the hardest to get into because I had no idea what was going on in the beginning. I had to do some research to figure out why the first section of the book didn’t make a lot of sense to me, then all of the pieces came together and it was brilliant.
“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” -Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
I’ve read this line so many times from teaching English in Missouri for over a dozen years. This is a classic and shows setting and vernacular right away. We know so much for Huckleberry Finn from that one simple sentence.
“The Opera Ghost really existed.” -Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera
Wow! And yikes! And man, I have to keep reading!
“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.” –George RR Martin, Game of Thrones
One of my favorite books. That first line pulls you in. Why are the woods dark? Who are the wildlings? Why are they dead? And why is he nervous?
“Morgaine speaks… In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen. - Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
Female empowering story right from the get go.
Great first lines! What are some of your favorites?
Want to find out more about Shawna and her books? Check out her website at www.shawnaromkey.com.