Opening Lines!

Are you the sort of reader who needs to be hooked from the very first sentence?

I believe myself a fairly forgiving reader.  I will give the author enough time to get the story firing.

My most memorable opening lines, or line in an opening sequence, are:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” – ‘The Gunslinger’, Book 1 in the Dark Tower series, by Stephen King

“There are no beginnings or ends in the Wheel of Time, but it was a beginning.” – Most books in the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

“Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” – ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, by Douglas Adams

“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’, by Jane Austen

– Mo –

Here’s my attempt:

“[name removed] stood atop the Tower of Silence.  She gazed out across the sprawling city, and beyond to the far horizons.  One day, it would all be hers.”

– Mo –

What are your favourite literary opening lines or opening sequences?

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17 responses

  1. You said one sentence! I count three for yours, mister! 😛

    I’ve started to get into the habit of reading the first two pages of any book I can get my hands on. It’s amazing what can be said in those two pages and how the experience can either eternally hook or turn off a reader. As for you, that’s an excellent start for your story. Though I have to admit, I imagine a ninja standing atop the pinnacle of a tower until the “One day it would all be hers.” Then I imagine a princess on a balcony.

    1. Touche, Mr Davis =)

      A lady in figure-hugging training gear, brandishing a scimitar. Kinda ninja, but much more Persian/Middle Eastern.

      That was my original first line, but I changed it. You think changing it back would be better?

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback =)

      1. After “stood atop the Tower of Silence, clad in….”?

      2. My mind’s eye had a movie-style opening; a panoramic sweep across the locale before zooming in to the tower, settling on her eyes as she ‘gazed out’.

        Her outfit is described further down on the first page. A physical description of her would be piling too much into the opening section, but that’s just me.

        It was originally:

        One day, it would all be hers.

        [name removed] stood atop the Tower of Silence, gazing out across the sprawling city, and onto the far horizons.

      3. If that’s your view, why not start like that? Tell us about the land, how beautiful it is, rich in culture, lush in resources…and she would claim it one day as her own. Make it the land in her eyes, but we don’t realize that until the second paragraph when we finally see here there.

      4. When I first tried it, it felt like an info-dump. The first five chapters of the story are dedicated to the scenery and culture of the city itself, and where the characters sit within it.

        Thanks for the thoughts. A rewrite of the first scene may be in order, to see if I can make it work better =)

      5. I know you have your world, but what about something along the lines of….

        The Tower of Silence stood overlooked the land of blah. To the northeast there was the village of Bumba, a quaint village with an adorable elderly man as their chieftain. It was baffling they never wanted to pick up the more civilized skills of the land, but it was their decision and they did well for it. To the south was the trade city of Talna, a beautiful city full of exotic metals and gems. The gems were so pure, some claimed to use the emeralds as mirrors.

        I mean, write it more elegantly than that, but it gives us a view of the region as well as some characterization without us knowing. Can plant seeds for plot points and create questions for the reader that will keep them intrigued and mystified, though those questions may never find an answer.

  2. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.” 🙂

    1. Apologies for my uncultured heathenism; had to look it up.

      “Rebecca is a novel by English author Daphne du Maurier. When Rebecca was published in 1938, du Maurier became – to her great surprise – one of the most popular authors of the day. Rebecca is considered to be one of her best works and is regarded as a modern classic. Much of the novel was written while she was staying in Alexandria, Egypt, where her husband was posted.”

      Written in Alexandria? I am SOLD! =)

      1. It’s am amazing book. I won’t even try and describe to you how it works or what it’s about. It’s best just to read it 🙂 I love it. Storytelling gold.

  3. I’m like you, I will give a story a bit of time to build up. But a killer first sentence certainly doesn’t harm their cause.

  4. My favorite first line comes from William Gibson Nueromauncer. ‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’

    1. I did see that on a few lists as I researched ‘greatest opening lines’. It’s a definite mood setter.

      Thanks for the visit =)

  5. Hi, DJ. For parody purposes, at least, my favorite line is “It was a dark and stormy night,” which I believe is the initiating line of a contest every year to see who can write the worst short fiction form. Of course, I believe Charles Schulz’s Snoopy also used the line in some of the cartoons when he’s sitting atop his dog house typing on his typewriter.

    1. I have not read enough ‘Peanuts’ to recognise that line as a standard beginning. It is quite surprising actually, considering it was a staple of the Saturday comics when I was a young’un, alongside Phantom, Zits and Calvin and Hobbes.

      Maybe the worst short fiction form adopted its beginning from Schultz?

      Thanks for popping by for a gander =)

  6. I do like a good opening line, and yet I can’t think of any I like. Reading makes me too sleepy, and I prefer writing, so I don’t really read anymore, aside from blogs, of course. And fan fiction. I hope I can write a good opening line someday. I’m sure I haven’t yet.

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