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story opening lines

A first line might tell us a crucial detail about a character or setting. 5. It can also simply tease and perplex us with a statement that doesn’t immediately reveal much. “Oh God in heaven, what’s he done to you, Kitty?” her ma said and squatted down beside her. The first English translation by the Muirs attempts to preserve Kafka’s trope: “Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning,”. Wandering through the graveyard it felt like something was watching me. Not the way you’d think a children’s book would start. How many towns has two mutes? Another unexpected and brilliant first line to a children’s novel. Have adored this for decades. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. No help for her there. And with so many books to read, the competition between them is wast. ‘Except one.’ What a great way to introduce an immortal main character. 1984, George Orwell “It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking She got tired of crawling, so she lay there and waited for the next stripe. “He – for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it – was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando. 89 years old and I've never eaten bananas. She wondered where they came from. Good story openings make us want more information. There’s the hero, the problem and the goal in the first sentence. This opening line makes it clear that farce is in force. This is a well-crafted piece that is best enjoyed when spoken: each word so carefully chosen and each line flowing into the next. 1. Hook, line, and sinker: the best opening lines in children’s and young adult fiction You only get one chance at a first impression, and never is this truer than with the opening lines of books. Her body jerked a bit; there was no controlling it. Overblown, overdone, Hemingway’s eyes would have bled. This is why he got his reputation as an economical writer. A strong story opening immediately makes you want to know more. 36 First-Line Song Lyrics That Will, Quite Frankly, Never Be Topped ... we asked the BuzzFeed Community to share songs that have absolutely iconic opening lyrics, ... "This is a story … “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. His LAST one. “Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.”, Find ‘The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane’ for audio, kindle or paperback. “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. 32. The Writer's First Line Generator will create an intriguing opening for your novel or short story. ‘Without his having done anything bad.’ Really? Read them and then write your own opening paragraph! It speaks of agonising loss and takes us to the brink of despair, only to reveal hope, helping us to realise—to feel—the resilience of the title. Many great novels … 21. She turned her head sideways; her ma stood in the doorway, she had her apron bunched in her fist, Mary in her arms, Liam and Ann peering from behind her skirts. “Death is only the beginning; afterward comes the hard part.” – Jed Rubenfeld, The Death Instinct. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. 10. Good story openings: 8 lessons from famous first lines 1. “I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind. The first cardinal rule of opening lines is that they should possess most of the individual craft elements that make up the story as a whole. Good opening sentences introduce a novel’s themes. She saw his lips moving, his face red and twisted like it got sometimes, she still couldn’t hear what he was saying, but she could smell him, smell the drink, a sour smell, and bitter like hate. Or at least, how I try. No exposition. It deserves an extra vote! So I suppose you want to ask me what happened to my tail. There's a reason that this simple, creepy line is one of the most well-known openers in... “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I know that because this was one of the findings discovered by dating app Hinge when it conducted a month-long study, analyzing data from its users. Done what he always does, she thought. “It was love at first sight.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22. The standard opener, the one we all know is, "Once Upon A Time." 13. “Mother died today.” – Albert Camus, The Stranger. 30. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” – J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye. “Someone must have slandered Josef K., because one morning, without his having done anything bad, he was arrested.” – Franz Kafka, The Trial. Why not twice? She tried to raise her head from the straw, but it was too much effort. “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story,” he said. 25. She couldn’t remember anything before he started banging on her, but answering back, that sounded like the kind of thing that she’d do. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973) 4. “High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour.” – David Lodge, Changing Places. “Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.” – Charles Johnson,  Middle Passage, 26. It’d been a good hard punch, that took her down, and she hadn’t seen it coming. Thanks Adam! It didn’t hurt like it should. 20 powerful first lines to get you hooked on a story Great books have the power to captivate a reader from their very opening lines. There’s nothing quite like setting the mood and atmosphere of your novel from the very first line. The strap of the belt slashed across her hip. The strap was all right. And she closed her eyes and let the great sea take her, away from Dublin, away from the Liberties, and away from her daddy’s raw, red fists. 2. The first line can be a beast to get right whether you’re composing a dating profile or drafting a workplace pitch – but when it comes to longform fiction, the stakes are vertiginous. Here is … “Opening lines, like first impressions, ... Story continues below advertisement “Even if the person is in a bathing suit, avoid any opening line that mentions their body parts. Big boots he had, sturdy. WHAT WAS THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE FRENCH PRINCESS IN BRAVEHEART? Spoken word–dialogue Opening Lines By starting with dialogue, the story signals that this is a of novel of relationships and of truth-telling or its opposite. “Now that’ll be teaching ya some respect!”. There is a formula to compelling opening lines and it is about creating a story within a single line - even if it is not the story … The opening of a story should normally tell the reader: Where and when the story is set Who the characters are The style and mood of the story Don’t forget! If I could change one thing, it would be hiring that lawyer. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” – Vladimir Naboko v, Lolita. One last point – the opening sentence of Der Prozess is composed entirely of puns of judicial phrases and terms. Well it’s a world we all wonder about so Rubenfeld has our attention immediately. Dear reader, I wish I could tell you that I made it all up. Having that in mind, we've rounded up the first lines of some of the world's most famous books, and they stand as excellent examples of how a short sentence or two can set the tone for an entire story - and define its legacy for decades to come. And this introductory sentence craftily entices us into the protagonist’s questioning bent, his seesaw of doubt and reassurance, capped off with the narrator’s gently satirical “not wholly disconcerted”. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.“ – George Orwell, 1984. 9. Compelling stuff. I guess that line still impresses me. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Markus establishes voice, the unique nature of his narrator and tells you where this story is going. Burgess introduces not only his characters but the new language he uses in the novel. A good cover may make us pick the book up and think about buying it. She watched his big boots stamp away, he shoved her ma aside, little Liam was still screaming at him. “All children, except one, grow up.” – J.M. Seattle had been without sunshine for months. And who were they asking for? Georgia Toon is the only name you'll ever need to remember. Pretend it’s not happening, pretend you’re on that ship, the sea wind is in your hair, salt and cold, and you’re headed out to the white waves and only the gulls are screaming. “Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.” Atwood’s novel about maintaining one’s identity tells the story of painter Elaine Risley, who reflects back on her youth and her toxic childhood friendship with a group of three girls. Just bear it, Kit. These first lines are inspired by analysis of some classic openers. But it’s my blog, so there. If you enjoyed it, get snippets just like it in your inbox every week! You just have to know what he means and why the past is important to him. first line generator / novel first sentence / how to start a story / first line of a movie / starting a novel / story starters. Wonderful metaphor, and so many questions arise from this simple sentence. *** HERE IS A SMALL FACT *** You are going to die.” – Markus Zusak, The Book Thief. Midnight Adina is the only name you'll ever need to remember. In conclusion: yes, hook us on that first sentence, but don’t promise more than you can deliver. And I am a man that will keep reading to find out more. Required fields are marked *. The first lines of novels set the tone for the story to come. “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” – L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between. Pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death. Charlotte’s We b by E.B. If he stopped now, as beatings go, well it wouldn’t be too bad. So many questions and all from just one sentence. Flannery was a genius. Robert Graves establishing voice and telling us the story he’s going to tell us and all in one long, meandering but somehow compelling sentence. “When the guy with asthma finally came in from the fire escape, Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away.” – Richard Stark, (Donald Westlake) The Mourner, 31. And nothing like the kind of love the reader is expecting. “I have never begun a novel with more misgiving.” – W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge, 17. The walls were a brick color—pink distemper her ma called it, some kind of powder they’d mix in water. Already she couldn’t see a thing out of her left eye, but if she squinted with her other, she could see Liam shouting something at her daddy. It’s a great little exercise to use when reading over your own manuscript. And yes, Kafka’s first line of The Trial is a classic. What is there to know about it? Couldn’t move her arms much, but her legs worked well enough, and she reckoned if she could get into the corner, she’d make a smaller target for him. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) 2. “First the colours. The best opening to a crime novel since Donald Westlake. Sorry. Use our opening line tool above to help inspire you to get started. 5 GOOD REASONS TO USE A PSEUDONYM – AND 2 REALLY BAD ONES, ONE PRINCESS, TWO HUSBANDS – BY ORDER OF THE KING. That prologue was so dreary I almost gave up on the book that first time. There was a fine dusting of frost on the corpse’s hair and eyelids which gave it a festive touch.” –, 6. Here are my 43 of the best in Literature: 1. Whether you've planned the perfect story or are suffering from writers' block, you still need to write that first line. 18. What I do know is that a mono or disyllabic opening lines like those listed above are highly unlikely to get a response. But immediately you know this is going somewhere profound. Her daddy was yelling something too, but she couldn’t make out what it was he was saying, something about her answering back. “Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.” – Flannery O’Connor, The Violent Bear it Away. Kafka always started his stories at the very beginning, which is when Gregor changes into a cockroach. Introducing mood early in each chapter, often within its opening lines, can help captivate readers by immersing them in the atmosphere of your story (i.e. A blank page can be very daunting. IT SURE IS SOME WEATHER Nobody gives a shit about the weather. Barrie, Peter Pan. Absurd. Listen to the narrator. The details of the ‘double green fly’ and the hanging question: what just happened? I even tore out the first three pages of one of my favorite novels –, “I was twenty-nine years old when I died.” –, “The head had been impaled on a railing outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand in the early hours of a cold November morning. Astute observations accompanied by a implied sigh of disgust are tricky to master, but Chesterton, one of... 3. “It was the day my grandmother exploded.” – Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road. “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.” – John Wyndam, The Day of the Triffids. Strange how she couldn’t hear anything. 19. 24. She heard the slap of the belt, realized he must still be hitting her. First to feature today is a poem entitled Resilience by Zoe Neirizi. Why not? 41. For me, the best first line ever written. The closer we got, the more it looked like a brooding monster – battered and bruised, but still menacing. Brilliant. “It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. 23. Here are my favorite ten gothic horror first sentences, from classics to contemporaries, that hooked me right away. “I was twenty-nine years old when I died.” – A Vain and Indecent Woman, Colin Falconer, “The head had been impaled on a railing outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand in the early hours of a cold November morning. “None of them knew the color of the sky.”, Oops. So that was hope then. We hope they encourage your own students to really push themselves the next time they start a story. A screaming comes across the sky. “The sun shone, having no alternative, Murphy sat out of it, as though he were free, in a mew in West Brompton”. 100 Best First Lines from Novels. 1. 8. Icy fingers gripped my arm in the darkness. And you believe him? 2. 35. Wouldn’t she love to be away on that one right now. 34. I even tore out the first three pages of one of my favorite novels – The Poisonwood Bible – when I came to re-read it. Don’t look up at him, don’t yell out, don’t provoke him. Does your first sentence hook the reader?… “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”— Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” – John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany. Also the opening sentence of The Dead is quite remarkable. The 10 Most Terrifying Opening Lines From Books "It was a pleasure to burn.". Not A car crash. “There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim and we sat in the Korova milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening.” – Anthony Burgess, Clockwork Orange. Think of something else and it will be over. An opening line should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and some hint of characterization. The wood was buggy, and up close she could see the little brown bugs that were getting through the walls. 7. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. And when the story becomes a classic, the first line can sometimes become as famous … “In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together.” – Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Protagonist, main problem and goal all in the first line. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”, 18. behind a line of dense, gloomy fir trees. 33. Here are the some of the best opening lines in dystopian literature. 15. Random First Line Prompts The aim of these writing prompts is to spark off a short story. 10 Opening Line Ideas. I have two things on my mind: baking cookies and my iminent death. Come in here. “Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.” – William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own, Which tells you everything you need to know about where this novel is going, 22. 29. She raises two questions that you immediately want answered – one has to do with sex, the other with death. Hard not to be hooked after that. The first sentence should not be a story’s best sentence. He was too drunk to aim properly, so that was a blessing then. And he leaves curious about what it is that’s wrong. It’s also risky because the reader must immediately care about these characters. Liam and her mother were screaming now. Your email address will not be published. “They shoot the white girl first.” –Toni Morrison, Paradise, 12. If you're entering short story writing competitions then make sure you have a strong opening to keep the judges reading. You just have to know more about that place, don’t you? Find ‘The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane’ for audio, kindle or paperback here at Amazon. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude. Bleak. You must include “None of them knew the color of the sky.” I … . Now try planning your own story opening. 40. That started what? No point arguing with him when he was filthy drunk like this. White Acerbic. transporting them to another place and time). The eyes in the painting follow him down the corridor. Remember to put me in your safe senders list! 2. “You’d be a fookin’ little devil,” he yelled at her. 21 classic opening lines in books 21 classic opening lines in books First thoughts that last in our memory from Jane Austen, Hunter S. Thompson, J.K. Rowling, Ray Bradbury, others She could smell beer and blood, that sour, copper stink of the two together. Perhaps he’d sent her deaf. When you click the button, a random first line for a story will be generated. I’ve just submitted this twice. That is, something to keep the reader interested and make him or her want to read more. You can never underestimate the power of a good opening line. I agree, John. 3. As you teach writing and journaling in your own classroom, we pulled together some of the most memorable, fun, creative, and best opening lines books for children and teens have to offer. “It should say: Listen. What sort of world are we in? We are primed. What could possibly be their situation? Instantly, we’re there. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Then the humans. Was that what she did? This is why other writers were afraid of Virginia Woolf. It's ideal for novels, short stories and the opening line of dialogue in a movie or stage play. 6. Just stay away from my face, she thought. “I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the- other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled.” – Robert Graves, I, Claudius. And then, we ask breathlessly, what happened then? There was a fine dusting of frost on the corpse’s hair and eyelids which gave it a festive touch.” – Cry Justice, Colin Falconer. “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. 3. 39. Thankfully, I persisted. One last point – the opening sentence of Der Prozess is composed entirely of puns of judicial phrases and terms. For example, the opening to Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-winning novel, Beloved (1987). This is an opening that is impossible to resist. Traditionally told tales often start with a few words at the beginning that are designed to get listeners ready for a different kind of discourse: a long narrative that we don't suppose to be literally true, set in a kind of dreamtime that is apart from, but closely involved with, ordinary reality. A great opening line serves as the initial, horrifying bridge between our world and an author's dystopia - the line most vital to a dystopia's hold, growth, and impact on the reader's mind. They… what? Thanks for reading my blog. ‘124 was spiteful.’ Morrison’s opening gives … 20 Great Opening Lines to Inspire the Start of Your Story 1. Generate a First Line Good kicking boots. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. And there was new straw on the floor today; Ma would be cross. Now her daddy was taking off his belt; Liam tried to hold on to his arm, and got a backhander for it. “Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.” – Günter Grass, The Tin Drum, 20. Icy wind slashed at his face and the rain danced its evil dance upon his head as he tried to get his bearings on the isolated beach. I believe this is what agents mean when they use the term: ‘voice’. She felt the sea move beneath her, not got her sea legs yet, maybe going to be sick. There was a great smell off it. “Kitty O’Kane dreamed of a kind husband and a just life; what she had was haddock water for supper and a dribble of her own blood, seen at close quarters, on the toe of her father’s scuffed boot.”. Revisit the most memorable and gripping opening sentences of 100 essential books for youngsters - from pre-school to high-school - in the gallery below. “Strether’s first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his friend, yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till evening he was not wholly disconcerted.”. “Psychics can see the color of time it’s blue.” – Ronald Sukenick, Blown Away, 27. 38. A fierce wind tugged at its broken shutters. Brilliant. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. The key to winning people's trust will be revealed in this book. It establishes the entire theme of the masculine/feminine dynamic which defines the story. Sean sat in the corner, a moldy blanket over his head, sobbing. Cheating, I suppose, as this is more than just one line. 28.

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