Famous first words, aren’t they? I mean, even people who have never cracked open the Gideon on their hotel nightstand, recognize those three words from the bestselling book of all time.
This is part of my problem when I start a new story. I want that first sentence to be memorable, like these:
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
- It was a dark and stormy night.
- When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.
- When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.
- The Friday before winter break, my mom packed me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school.
- There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.
These are brilliant opening lines from some of my favorite books. They set the tone for the whole story. They make you want to read more.
I haven’t written anything this perfect. And yet, there are plenty of books that I love that don’t start with a bang. In fact, The Hunger Games opens with Katniss waking up. How many times have we been told not to do that?
So tell me, what are some perfectly ordinary opening lines from some simply wonderful books?
Oh, and the first person to correctly name the six books I quoted above wins my ARC of the new Tony DiTerlizzi book, The Search for WondLa. (Curious about it? Read my review at GoodReads.)
Tricia O’Brien correctly named the books, but since someone asked, here are the answers:
1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle OR Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
3. Savvy by Ingrid Law
4. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
5. The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan (Book 3 in the Percy Jackson series)
6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman