What makes a good opening line? Should it make you laugh or make you nervous? Should it give facts about the story that is about to unfold, or should it just dive right in? I've experienced a lot of first lines in my life but only some of them really stick with me. Only some of them make me want to go back and start over as soon as I've finished. These are the first lines that make me feel all the fuzzies and put a smile on my face as soon as I think about them. If I am honest I'm smiling while I write this.
My mind drifted off on this topic the other day and I marveled on how some first lines can evoke such a strong emotion in an individual and others just got lost into the void of "oh yeah I read (or watched) that". I realize this is not an original thought, there are many blogs & lists of best or most influential opening lines out there. This is also a completely subjective concept, each list is different. Some lists are clearly specific to the person writing them and some are trying to capture what has influenced our culture as a whole. But culture is also relative and each writer will have a different opinion of what is influential. In this post I am talking about what opening lines are most influential for me. For me the first lines that stay with me are the ones that represent a moment of growth in my life.
I do not claim these are the best opening lines or even my favorite books. They represent an adventure that happened at a time when I needed the lessons it offered to better understand the world or myself. Some of them come with nostalgia of wiggling around on my mom's lap or the couch next to her while she read to me. While others remind me of a profound lesson or turning point in my life. Some of them are only important to me because they were the beginning of my adoration for an author. Here are my favorites, feel free to comment with some of yours!
Jenn's Favorite Opening Lines:
- "“The A is for Ape. And B is for Bear.
The C is for Camel. The H is for Hare
The M is for Mouse. And the R is for Rat.”
“I know all the twenty-six letters like that…
… Through to Z is for Zebra. I know them all well.”
Said Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell." ~On Beyond Zebra
- "The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him "WILD THING!" and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP!" so he was sent to bed without eating anything." ~Where the Wild Things Are
- "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy." ~The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe
- "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." ~The Hobbit
- “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” ~Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
- “It was a pleasure to burn.” ~Fahrenheit 451
- "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." ~Pride & Prejudice
- "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." ~A Tale of Two Cities
- "On the 24th of February, 1810, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples." ~The Count of Monte Cristo
- "Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." ~Romeo & Juliet
- "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend." ~The Wheel of Time
- "Here is a small fact: You are going to die." ~The Book Thief
- "Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early in the morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity." ~Elantris
- "It was night again." ~The Name of the Wind
- "I’m going to die, aren’t I?” Cenn asked." ~The Way of Kings