Sunday, 15 December 2013

25 Great First Lines from Novels

It's often difficult to a writer to come up with a compelling first line. I thought it might be interesting to compile a long "buzzfeed" of some of my favourite openings from novels. Here goes:
  1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984
  2. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow 
  3. 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. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude 
  4. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita 
  5. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 
  6. The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts 
  7. You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 
  8. Someone must have slandered Josef K, for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial 
  9. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett, Murphy 
  10. 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, The Catcher in the Rye 
  11. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. —James Joyce, Ulysses 
  12. It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. —Paul Auster, City of Glass 
  13. Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing. —Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote 
  14. Mother died today. —Albert Camus, The Stranger 
  15. All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five 
  16. They shoot the white girl first. —Toni Morrison, Paradise 
  17. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea 
  18. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. —Louise Erdrich, Tracks 
  19. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. —F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 
  20. You better not never tell nobody but God. —Alice Walker, The Color Purple 
  21. Hiram Clegg, together with his wife Emma and four friends of the faith from Randolph Junction, were summoned by the Spirit and Mrs. Clara Collins, widow of the beloved Nazarene preacher Ely Collins, to West Condon on the weekend of the eighteenth and nineteenth of April, there to await the End of the World. —Robert Coover, The Origin of the Brunists 
  22. In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. —Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 
  23. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 
  24. He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters. —Virginia Woolf, Orlando 
  25. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar 
If you're working on a manuscript, set yourself the task of making the reader's first introduction to your narrative as enticing the first sentence of your own favourite opening of a novel.

Stay tuned . . . 

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