The Opening Line

Writing is an art. We begin with a blank canvas—a white sheet of paper on a notebook, or on a computer screen. Using our imagination, we paint with our words, describing people and things, evoking emotion, and creating dialogue. We compose sentences filled with words we’ve carefully picked to help tell our stories. But before our stories can be told, we must first write that one line…the opening line that starts it all.

The beginning.

The first sentence that we write has to be good. Actually, it has to be great. We rely on this sentence to grab and engage a reader—make them curious—make them keep going until soon, they’ve turned the page.

I picked five random opening lines from some of the books in my little bookshelf. I’m sure that many of you have read these books. I do believe these are great examples of what an opening line should be. They are all unique, powerful, and engaging.

1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
1984, by George Orwell

2. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

3. It was love at first sight.
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

4. When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

5. It is always like this: The best parties are made by people in trouble.
Away, by Amy Bloom

Add to this list! Leave me a comment below and write down a couple of memorable opening lines from your favorite books.

Have a great weekend!

0 Replies to “The Opening Line”

  1. “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, the telegram didn’t make it clear.”
    –Albert Camus, The Stranger

    “The sky over the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
    –William Gibson, Neuromancer

    “I always get the shakes before a drop.”
    –Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

    I’ll probably come up with more, these are just off the top of my head.

  2. “Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.”
    -Jaye Wells, Red-headed Stepchild

    That early June day began with one of the worst wounds Cork O’Conner had ever seen. it was nearly three miles long, a mile wide, and more than five-hundred feet deep. It bled iron.
    -William Kent Krueger, Vermillion Drift

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