My Favourite First Lines

If you’ve ever finished a story-writing unit in English, than you most likely would have heard of the ‘Sizzling Start!” I know I definitely have. It’s been drilled in over and over, year after year, and while it does begin to get a little repetitive, it is, of course, very valuable advice. How many times have you started a book, knowing nothing about it, but never finishing it just because its opening wasn’t good enough? A few times? Yeah me too. But let’s not look at the bad ones. (Maybe that can be another post. My english teacher once read out some examples of stories from past students of his, that he found were both terrible and hilarious. I might have to go find some…) Here are some of my favourite first lines (in no particular order) I’ve either read myself, or heard of:

“Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious.”
Angelfall by Susan Ee

The Angelfall books are quite good, very interesting, (a bit underrated if you ask me), and defied a lot of stereotypes. While initially, it was the cover that caught my eye, once I read the first line, I was pretty much hooked from there on in.

“The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

This one’s definitely one of my favourites – both book and first line!!

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

I have yet to actually read this one, but it’s getting very close to the top of my pile, and I’ve heard this quote many a time. I think it captures people, just because of how it normal it starts out, and how very alien it ends.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Oh how I love this one!! When I read this the first time, I don’t remember commenting on it, but after re-reading it again recently, I actually laughed. Just because it’s the exact line school teachers tell you never to use. I don’t know whether they say that because of this book, or whether L’Engle used it because teachers say it, but I love it.

“There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren’t in a hurry, like maybe if you’re wearing platform shoes.”
Me Before You Jojo Moyes

This one’s not exactly the first line of the book, because there’s a prologue, but it’s the first line of chapter 1. At first, it’s interesting, but not too notable… until you get to the platform shoes. That makes it for me.

“It was a pleasure to burn.”
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is just one of the ones that makes you go, “Wait what?” A very unconventional start, to quite a unconventional book

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The simplicity is what makes this one so effective. It introduces the main character, the setting of Middle Earth, and links Lord of the Rings in, all at the same time.

“First the colours. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least how I try.

 ~Here is a small fact~
You are going to die.
The Book Thief 
by Markus Zusak

I realise that this is actually quite a few lines, but it’s worth it. The many simple sentences all work together, and then the bit underneath is, again the “Wait, what?” I really love those little bolded bits in The Book Thief, and how they almost tell their own story.

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams’ has quite a few one-liners that ultimately make this book what it is. I also love: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” I quote that one all the time!!

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This one’s another recent read for me – one I absolutely loved!! One of the major reasons I enjoyed it so much was the language used, showcased perfectly in this first line.

“Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John.”
Bird by Crystal Chan

Juxtaposed quotes really capture the audience’s attention, especially when they’re the first line. The blurb, title, and first line, all add together to create the almost creepy atmosphere of this book.

“Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.”
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Not my favourite quote from the series, but still a pretty awesome first line! You don’t hear much else about Joost, but he certainly makes for an interesting introduction.

“I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Aaaand last one, is (not actually the first line, per se, but first chapter name) Percy Jackson. How could I not include Riordan’s hilarious one-liners?? Seriously, this entire book- no, series – is filled with laughs!

And there we have it. I hope you enjoyed this wonderful list, as I certainly did. Maybe you’re even looking at Sizzling Starts with new eyes now! Looking back over books and finding old favourites is super fun!! If you have any of your own, definitely add them in the comments below!! I’ll be looking out for some good ones! 🙂



3 thoughts on “My Favourite First Lines

  1. “A hundred murdered ships swung around Saturn in endless ellipses.”
    – ‘Gardens of the Sun’, by Paul McAuley

    Also, almost the entire first paragraph in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells is stunning:

    “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

    BTW, the long-mocked “It was a dark and stormy night” was first used to open a book by another early sci-fi writer, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, way back in 1830.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

    One Hundred Years of Silitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Liked by 1 person

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