Thursday, November 5, 2009

Favorite First Lines

Lately, I've been thinking about first lines. They are the gateway that bring the reader into the story. They're like opening credits to TV shows, setting the mood and letting us know what we're about to see as we start turning pages.

The following are a few of my personal favorites (in no particular order):
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
  • We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.
  • "Where's Papa going with that ax?"
  • Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
  • 12th Day of September: I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.
  • My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
  • There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.
  • It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.
  • The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.
  • The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east.
  • In the book of my memory, after the first pages, which are almost blank, there is a section headed Incipit vita nova. Beneath this heading I find the words which it is my intention to copy into this smaller book, or if not all, at least their meaning.
These opening lines come from very different books written by very different authors. One thing brings them all together in my mind: voice. Each of these opening sentences not only convey the voice of the character (or narrator) telling the story, but also captures the essence of the entire book that lies ahead.

What are your favorites and why?

(p.s. Bonus points to anyone who can guess the authors and books for the ones I listed above!)


  1. Let's see...

    1. P&P, Austen, of course
    2. Feed, MT Anderson
    3. Charlotte's Web, EB White
    4. Hitchikers Guide by Adams?? Not sure.
    5. ???
    6. Great Expectations, Dickens
    7. Holes, Louis Sachar
    8. Matilda, Rahl Dahl

    How many bonus points do I get??? =)
    Actually, dying to know the ones I don't know.

  2. 7 out of 11! That's pretty good. Here are the others:

    5. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
    9. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
    10. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
    11. La Vita Nuova by Dante

    Seven bonus points! An auspicious number. =)

  3. Ah, I knew 10 sounded familiar, but no idea what it was! Mayhaps I should spend a lovely Sunday afternoon re-reading the Westing Game. Boy does that sound nice!

    I wonder how I should redeem my bonus points??? Can they count towards good writing days? =)