Writer’s Digest had a great giveaway this week (still going on) where commenters listed their favorite opening sentence from a novel. All writers (and most readers for that matter) know the importance of the opening line. We have been told again and again that it needs to act as a hook, and grab the reader. Below are eleven of my all time favorite first lines. They don’t just “hook” the reader but also seem to me to sum up the entire meaning of each book and immediately show the tone/voice of the writer or narrating character.
Please share some of your own favorite first lines in the comments or let me know which from the below you like! And if you have any advice for writing first lines, don’t be stingy! I’m still working on mine.
“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, Catcher in the Rye
“All children, except one, grow up.” J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy
“All this happened, more or less.” Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
“My wound is geography.” Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides
“Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
“Those girls’ people said, ‘think they can do anything and get away with it.” Zelda Fitzgerald, Save me the Waltz