April 6, 2012

F is for...Friday Fives

I'm about to go a little freaky with the 'F's here. Check this out: FRIDAY FIVES: FAVOURITE FIRST LINES (which feels like it needs a sequel entitled "Famous Last Words").

There is much talk in the writing community about that all-important first line. A string of words--whether compact, or long-winded like Dickens just to the right there--that will hook your reader from the get-go and compel them to keep on reading. First impressions are everything to our readers. Sometimes it comes to us right away. Other times that great first line is about as elusive as the famed Scarlet Pimpernel.* Either way, I think we all agree that it's pretty darn crucial.

The assumption that we all think a good first line is crucial can be followed up by the assumption that we all know of first lines we've personally read that have leaped off the page, pulled us in, and made us ask:

"What's going to happen next?"

So without further blabbering, here is a handful (FIVE) of my FAVOURITE FIRST LINES:

1. "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one."
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
2. "They called the world beyond the walls of the Pod 'The Death Shop'."
-Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
3. "When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen."
-The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
4. "He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air."
-The Maze Runner by James Dashner
5. "In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind."
-Graceling by Kristin Cashore 
As previously stated, this is only a very small sampling of my favourite first lines. There are really too many to count, and as this post isn't entitled FIVE HUNDRED & FIFTY-FIVE FAVOURITE FIRST LINES, let's just leave it at this. How about you? What's one of your favourite first lines?
*The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy


  1. While I agree that a good first line is a major plus for a novel, in looking over some of my favorite reads, I notice their first lines were not always that remarkable. However, that shouldn't make us complacent. We should strive from the first line to draw the reader into our story. Here are two first lines I like:

    "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." (L.P. Hartley, THE GO-BETWEEN)

    "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water." (H.G. Wells, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, though I would counsel against writing a first line this long--that was in the past, and they did things differently there).

    Fantastic Friday Fives, Jaime! :)

    1. It's funny that you mentioned many favourite books with only so-so first lines. I started going through many of my favourite books and came up with only 'meh' first lines :D I suppose maybe we should go with stellar first paragraphs instead.

      That WAR OF THE WORLDS first line is fantastic! :D

    2. That's a great point. For my first lines post, I used books I've yet to read. But some of my favorites - To Kill A Mockingbird, Wuthering Heights, Little House, etc- don't have Ah-mazing first lines compared to some. Using first paragraphs might be better in some instances.

      The consensus at my blog seems to be the first line of Pride and Prejudice is one of the best: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

    3. I almost put the Pride and Prejudice first line, but it's usually the first one that people think of, so I went with completely different ones. It does stick out, though. I quoted the line to my husband this evening word for word :D

  2. "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 by J.K. Rowling

    1. This is one of the ones I almost went with :D Too bad this wasn't entitled Five Hundred & Fifty-Five Favourite First lines lol.

  3. The fact that you tied first lines to the Scarlet Pimpernel just made my day.

    One of the best first lines that comes to me (even though I still have to read the rest of the book) is from TORN by Ericka O'Rourke:

    "I woke up to the smell of Lysol and the end of the world."

    1. I'm kicking myself for not thinking of that one. Yes! A great opening line. And a great novel. The second in the series, TANGLED, is great too. :)

    2. I love THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL! Always have :D Glad it made your day.

      That first line from TORN is really great. It's the kind of line that I only wish I could come up with :)

  4. "It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

    I got three books I had really been wanting for Christmas, and the first line was what made me decide to start with this one!

    1. That is an excellent and hugely compelling first line! :D

  5. I'm reading (and loving!) GRACELING now, so I think that's a fantastic choice. And I agree with Mrs. Silverstein: THE SCORPIO RACES has a perfect first line!

    1. Glad you're enjoying GRACELING so much. I kick myself for letting it sit so long on my shelf unread. I've worked my way to BITTERBLUE, and I'm enjoying it too. And you and Mrs. S are totally right: THE SCORPIO RACES has an excellent first line :)

  6. I don't have a favorite line but I LOOOOVE Ender's Game and The Secret Garden <3

    1. I have too many favourite first lines to count :) ENDER'S GAME and THE SECRET GARDEN are both great books, and I really should reread them sometime in the near future.

  7. I'm with Katy, Graceling and Scorpio races.

    It's funny, I'm not hung up on first lines...unless I'm writing them:)

    1. Yeah, no doubt :) I'm not sure that I always consciously notice first lines when I first read a book. Often it happens when I look back on a book at a later date and know already what follows that great first line. So easy to stress about it in our own stories though, isn't it? :D

  8. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

    - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

  9. Wow, I have not read any of those books :D I need to get on it soon!

    I have been looking at some of the first lines of my favorite books and like Colin mentions, some of it sound maybe blah which surprised me a bit...:D

    Oh the one that sticked to my mind was THE SCORPIO RACES, this one is really an attention-grabber!


    Sorry, just felt I needed to scream that one at myself because it's been on my TBR FOREVER. :)

    Great list! I LOVE first lines and I'd probably have the same 555 post. TOO MANY good ones!

  11. I love this topic!!!

    #3 & 4 are fab - and I have to admit I'm in the same camp as Alison, as I must read ENDER'S GAME, as well as THE GRACELING!

    It's amazing how much impact the first sentence makes on us - I think I have 5 million first lines as well:

    "I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975." THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini

    "Wait - did you - You just yawned!" PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

    "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy." THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis

    And of course:

    "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 by J.K. Rowling

  12. I love the first lines to MT Anderson's FEED: We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.
    He nails the voice and blasts you with the setting. Awesome!


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