Avi WordCraft blog

First Words

There can be something—and I think should be—enchanting about the first lines of a novel. People have called them “windows,” “doors,” “words of magic,” “an invitation.” 

Here are some famous ones: 

“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 

“Call me Ishmael.” Moby Dick 

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” The Great Gatsby

“All this happened, more or less.” Slaughterhouse-Five 

“All children, except one, grow up.”  Peter and Wendy 

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol 

Pride and Prejudice
Moby Dick
The Great Gatsby
Peter and Wendy
A Christmas Carol

As someone who has written a lot of first lines, I know how hard it is to create them. In truth, I spend a lot of time, with many, many revisions, attempting to get them right. To be honest, sometimes I just stumble on them after writing and re-writing them multiple times trying to get them right. 

I should point out such lines are not just vital for the reader. Good opening lines can help the writer create the voice, mood, even the central energy of the story. I admit it is somewhat mysterious. 

I’ve written my share of weak ones, but there are some I’ve composed that pleased me and, I hope, my readers. 

These come to mind: 

“Just before dawn—that moment when time itself seems to stand still, when the whole world teeters on the edge of possibilities—a man, looking like death’s own shadow—came scurrying down a bluff toward the tiny village of Kilonny in Ireland.” Beyond the Western Sea

“Have you ever been struck with lightning? I have.” Gold Rush Girl 

“The first time Uncle Charlie came to live with us he was alive. The second time he came, he was dead.” School of the Dead

“This is the strangest story I ever heard.” Something Upstairs

“The phone rang three times before Andy picked it up. “Hello,” he said. A voice replied, “I just killed someone.” Wolf Rider

“The way I see it, I stopped being a kid on April 12, 1951” Catch You Later, Traitor 

“Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago.” True Confession of Charlotte Doyle

This all comes to mind because I’m working on a new book.  I’ve rewritten the opening lines about thirty times. Don’t have them yet. 

Let’s hope I get there. Before the last line is written.

2 thoughts on “First Words”

  1. I have always liked that first line of “Wolf Rider”, it gets the reader interested right away. The whole book is fast paced, its hard to put down. Is there any chance of a sequel to it? It would be neat to follow up with Andy.

    Reply

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