Books / Quotes / Writing Advice / Writing Inspiration

the perfect first line

There’s so much pressure to write the perfect first line for your story. Everything hinges on the reader’s first impression and you wanna give them something awesome.

We all know the ‘famous first lines’, the ones that blow us away and make us a little intimidated. How are we meant to come up with something as loaded as the simple words

Mother died today.

Or as intriging as

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

And I’d have to say that one of my favourite novel openings is

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin. My soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

This article outlines 7 ways to create the perfect first line. From the list, I’m pretty sure my book’s first line falls under ‘A statement to establish mood’, even though it is directly related to the story… whatever.

My ‘hook’ is probably going to change and morph a hundred times before the story is finished, and that’s okay. I’m sure nobody writes an amazing opening sentence first time around. It goes through drafts, gets deleted, started again, all in the search for something not too hot, not too cold, something just right.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t all just come out with lines like

Mr. and Mrs. Dursely, of number four, Privet Drive, were very proud to say they that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

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11 thoughts on “the perfect first line

  1. A tutor once told me ‘Get the first line right and the rest will follow’. It does give you confidence if you feel you’ve nailed the beginning 🙂 I remember her advice every time I start something new.
    My favourite is “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”. L.P. Hartley – The Go-Between. We studied the book in high school and I’ve never forgotten it!

    • Oh definitely! I felt great when I got my first line down, I feel like it encompasses everything I need it too, and you’re right, it’s a great confidence booster. I haven’t read The Go-Between, but it sounds like a nice read, just from the first line! :]

  2. First lines from a few of my favorite books:
    At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy. (But I think it was the second line that sold me) “Have I got a deal for you!” the Thiefmaker began, perhaps inauspiciously. — “The Lies of Locke Lamora” Scott Lynch

    On the night that Davis Cooper died, coyotes came down from the hills to the town in the desert valley below. — “The Woodwife” Terri Windling

    Someone was after me. — “Catspaw” Joan Vinge

    “My name is Festina Ramos, and I take great pride in my personal appearance.”
    (Again.)
    “My name is Festina Ramos, and I take great pride in my personal appearance.”
    (Again.)
    — “Expendable” James Alan Gardner

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