First Lines For All!

Last week we considered some powerful first lines that we’ve read. And, as promised, here are the books they’re from:

“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” The Princess Bride, William Goldman

“It’s Nathan’s fault I became God.” The God Game, Andrew Greely

“I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him or have Him brush your face in a breeze.” Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

“I’m going to cut him open.” Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas

Now let’s share our own first lines from the books we’re working on now. Fiction, nonfiction, children’s books…whatever you’re writing, share those first, wondrous words with us here! But please, only ONE line.

I’ll jumpstart us. From a novel I’ve been working on for a number of years…

Death was just the motivation he needed.

Okay, your turn!


79 Responses to First Lines For All!

  1. Michael Emmanuel May 4, 2016 at 3:32 am #

    Here we go: Such things as love and evil could disorient the most astute of men, and the latest victim was a somnolent priest.
    I’ve written the first line from this WIP seven times, and I still do not feel satisfied.

    • Carol Ashby May 4, 2016 at 6:58 am #

      I like it, Michael. An intriguing start.

      • Michael Emmanuel May 4, 2016 at 9:53 am #

        Thank you Carol. Thank you.

        • Carol Ashby May 4, 2016 at 10:20 am #

          It’s in the more classical style that’s not so popular today, but I still like the elegance of the older style.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield May 4, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      I think you’re not satisfied because you have meaning clashes between the most dramatic words in your sentence: love, evil, disorient, astute, victim, somnolent. They don’t inherently have any relationships to each other. Try opposites–love and hate or good and evil. Disorient has to do with perception of place, but astute has to do with understanding. Change one to have the same context as the other. Nothing in the sentence supports “victim.” Why does it matter if he’s somnolent? Here’s what I mean: “Love and hate can confuse even the most astute of men, and the pensive priest was no exception.” “Either good or evil can crush the strongest man, and the priest who had survived plenty of both was still at risk.” “Love and hate are calls to battle, but the somnolent priest had no desire to march into the fray.” Do you see what I mean? 🙂

      • Michael Emmanuel May 5, 2016 at 6:32 am #

        Thank you very much Linda. It seems I still have a lot to learn, especially in stringing related words together.

  2. Tom Threadgill May 4, 2016 at 4:44 am #

    Not sure I’m sticking with it, but here goes:

    People should have the decency to keep their fights at home.

    • Brad May 4, 2016 at 8:52 am #

      I like it Tom. I would make me want to read the first couple of paragraphs to see what you set up. What’s the fight about, where did it happen, does it set up the protagonist’s dilemma…etc.

  3. Nan Rinella May 4, 2016 at 5:12 am #

    Nothing had changed; everything had changed.

    • Robin Patchen May 4, 2016 at 9:48 am #

      That would definitely propel me to read the second sentence, Nan.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield May 4, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

      Unless it’s an intentional parody of the first line of A Tale of Two Cities, I think it’s too much like the first line of A Tale of Two Cities. 🙂 Just modernizing it a little might not be as historically dramatic, but it might be more personal and draw the reader in: “Nothing had changed, yet she knew as well as she had ever known anything, that everything had changed.” What do you think?

  4. Lisa Evola May 4, 2016 at 5:21 am #

    Still working on refining this one, but here it is anyway: “The first fell at my feet, eyes wide and staring, as though they had seen more than they could bear.”

    • Brad May 4, 2016 at 8:30 am #

      It’s a little confusing. What’s a “first”? First’s don’t fall. First’s don’t have eyes. You need a proper subject, like the “first victim” or “my opponent fell at my feet….”

      I like the idea that someone had seen more than they could bear, it does make me want to find out what that could have been in such a jaded society as ours. It would have to be horrific though.

      • Lisa May 11, 2016 at 5:26 am #

        Thanks Brad, I agree…a definitive subject is needed there. I appreciate your input….and I will work on it some more. Btw…it is horrific 🙂

  5. Diana Harkness May 4, 2016 at 5:25 am #

    He shivered and drew his cloak around him, hugging it tightly as the night’s chilled breath rustled the wiry boughs and cast a few dry leaves to the ground.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield May 4, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

      Dramatic! I think your sentence has a little unnecessary redundancy in it–you can show instead of telling. It might even be more powerful if the clauses were reversed. How about something like, “When the night wind rustled the wiry boughs and cast the last few dry leaves to the ground, he shivered and drew his cloak even more tightly around himself”? To me, shivering and bundling up in his cloak make it clear that it’s cold. Except for a first sentence, I’d identify who “he” was, at least to some extent. Just an idea. What do you think?

      • Diana Harkness May 4, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

        Thank you for your observation. “He” is the primary subject, therefore leading the sentence. The wind is the secondary subject in that sentence. I could have used a semicolon rather than “as.” I try to stay away from words like himself and herself.

  6. Richard Mabry May 4, 2016 at 5:29 am #

    Dr. Cliff Hamilton stood with three other internal medicine residents, watching what the cardiologist was doing, committing to memory every word and movement.

  7. Bethany A. Jennings May 4, 2016 at 5:30 am #

    “If Dad were alive right now, he’d either be really proud, or really disappointed.”

    • Sara Baysinger May 4, 2016 at 6:33 am #

      I love this one!! 🙂

      • Bethany A. Jennings May 4, 2016 at 6:47 am #

        Thanks, Sara!! I’m so excited…I’ve never put enough thought into my first lines before, but when this popped into my head I knew it was The One and that I was ready to start writing my new draft. 😀

  8. Pegg Thomas May 4, 2016 at 5:37 am #

    She ignored the boot that shoved against her ribs.

  9. Keely Brooke Keith May 4, 2016 at 5:50 am #

    Lydia Colburn refused to allow a child to bleed to death.

  10. Robin Patchen May 4, 2016 at 5:58 am #

    Not sure about this one, but here goes:

    A thousand packages, a thousand destinations, a thousand places Josephine Domani would never see.

    • Cynthia Herron May 4, 2016 at 8:44 am #

      Love that, Robin. It immediately makes me ask… why?

  11. Andra M. May 4, 2016 at 6:03 am #

    Debating whether or not to hurl a noodle at his sister’s face was not what Titus’s mother had in mind when she told him to learn the word “conundrum.”

    • Sara Baysinger May 4, 2016 at 6:35 am #

      Haha! LOVE it!! I can totally tell what the mood of the book is going to be with this line!

      • Andra M May 4, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

        Thanks, Sara!

    • Robin Patchen May 4, 2016 at 9:49 am #

      Andra, great line. I think I’d edit it to, “…when she’d taught him the word conundrum.” It’s less to trip over, I think. But I love the tone of it–great stuff.

      • Andra M. May 4, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

        Good idea. Thanks!

  12. Cheryl S May 4, 2016 at 6:23 am #

    Here it goes – “I will not be courted by a man who is a coward, father!”

    • Robin Patchen May 4, 2016 at 9:51 am #

      Great tension from the start. You’ve got that strong word–coward. Can you end the sentence with that? Either start with “Father, I will not be…” or tell the reader in the next sentence that she’s talking to her father.

      And could you shorten it even more to, “I will not be courted by a coward”? I think…I hope…the fact that he’s a man is obvious. 🙂

      • Cheryl S May 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

        Thanks, Robin! Great suggestion on tightening it up some more. 🙂

  13. Sara Baysinger May 4, 2016 at 6:32 am #

    I always wonder what it would be like to be the dirt, dead and useless and ugly while people walk all over it.

    • Bethany A. Jennings May 4, 2016 at 6:46 am #

      Ahhhh, this is fabulous, Sara!!

      • Sara Baysinger May 4, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

        Aw, Thanks, Bethany! We’ll see if it sticks around! 😉

  14. Jay Payleitner May 4, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    Whaddaya say? Let’s make marriage sexy again.

    (Sorry, that’s two sentences.)

  15. Carol Ashby May 4, 2016 at 6:54 am #

    The woman’s scream ripped into him, and Dacius dropped his shovel of manure and straw.

    These are great! I already want to read more.

  16. Sally Bradley May 4, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    The end came, as it nearly always did, when his thoughts were elsewhere, his focus on other things, when life seemed okay if not even good.

    Looking forward to reading more from everyone else!

    • Robin Patchen May 4, 2016 at 9:54 am #

      Sally, that’s really provocative. The last phrase tripped me up, though. Could you separate it into a second sentence? Maybe like, “The end came when life seemed okay, seemed almost good.” Something like that? (I know, then it wouldn’t be just one sentence anymore.)

      • Sally Bradley May 4, 2016 at 11:16 am #

        Hmm. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the suggestion.

  17. Kathy May 4, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    When the hill was wild and ancient and empty, the granite rock perched on the crest, flanked by the sentinel ponderosa.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield May 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

      Hmm. Very intriguing! Suspense in a first sentence often works, Kathy, but I’d avoid ambiguity. That one can be read two ways. If “the granite rock perched on the crest” is a descriptive phrase with a past participle, then the whole sentence isn’t grammatically correct. If you read “rock perched” as the simple subject and the simple predicate, however, then the whole beginning of the sentence is a dependent clause, seemingly about the past, and that works better. But what’s the point of saying it was ancient in the past? If this suggestion fits your story, I think making the hill the subject and maximizing the metaphor of the trees being sentinals would work better: “The hill was wild and empty and ancient, crowned with granite and guarded by ponderosa pine sentinels.” What do you think?

  18. Lee Carver May 4, 2016 at 8:14 am #

    “I’ll do the whole roof for seven thousand dollars, but I want the pig.”

  19. Penelope Childers May 4, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    I think I was trafficked.

  20. Brad May 4, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    Belphin hated judging these annual games and couldn’t understand why other Banshees wanted to leech the life out of healthy pumpkins with a moan or boil water with a hiss or split logs with a scream.

    Currently, this is the first line to my fantasy. I going for a hook to capture other fantasy reader’s curiosity.

  21. Cynthia Herron May 4, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Chipped green paint and lopsided shutters punctuated the last house on the right.


    Great idea today, Karen! So much creativity here!

  22. Bill Hendricks May 4, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    The book begins: “When I consider how cruelly and stupidly we humans treat one another, I can only conclude that the greatest evidence of truly intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is the fact that they have NOT contacted us.”

  23. Nora May 4, 2016 at 9:29 am #

    It’s still in edit mode …but here goes:

    Kate opened her personal email expecting to see a note or two from her manager, William Joseph, a thank you from her crew manager’s wife for the baby shower gift, and the usual spam that was always appearing without any help from her.

  24. Heather Marsten May 4, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    I hate boys games.

    • Michael Emmanuel May 4, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      Love this Heather. Please tell me the ‘I’ is a boy… It would throw off the reader’s anticipation

  25. Tedd Galloway May 4, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    “Dear Mother of God she’s gone. Where did she go? She vanished, right in front of us.”

    • Heather Marsten May 4, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      No, the I is a seven year old girl – me in a memoir about healing from childhood sexual abuse – I start the story playing a chase game with some neighborhood boys – the I hate boys games, and end the chapter with my father playing his game of hide the soap with me in the bathtub.

  26. Autumn Grayson May 4, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    Hm…here’s a first line for one of my projects. I don’t know if I’ll keep it like this or go for one that is similar but has more description:

    Mother wailed as snow piled around the house.

  27. Nicola May 4, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    Finger tips, sharp, bit into Leoshine’s soft upper arms and ribs.

  28. Jeanne Takenaka May 4, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    This is a first line I’m playing with for my book:

    Two pink lines.

    • Laura Bennet May 4, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

      It took me a minute, but then it caught me. Makes me wonder if the news is good or not?

  29. Sheri Dean Parmelee May 4, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    She wondered when she first realized that her husband wanted her dead.

    That’s from my novel-to-be…….

  30. Mary May 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    “I had a very happy childhood, until I started remembering it.”

  31. Linda Riggs Mayfield May 4, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    For the first month of her marriage, every day when the clock struck the three-quarter hour before noon, Elizabeth Winfield Robertson made certain her hair was still tightly curled at the sides and pinned up in the back, then she put her bonnet on over her day cap and hurried to the boardwalk that edged Hampshire Street.

    First sentence of Burned Over, historical novel set in fictional Rutherford, New York, on the Erie Canal, in 1830.

  32. Yaasha Moriah May 4, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    There are other beginnings of mine that feel more exciting, but here’s the one from my current work-in-progress, The Dying Prince, beginning with a made-up curse word:

    “Krul!” The word spat from Edric’s lips like a taste he dared not swallow.

  33. Tracy Moragn May 4, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    She couldn’t decide if she looked like a chef or a swollen black widow.

  34. Laura Bennet May 4, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    I have two WIP first lines:

    Rachel pulled a loaf of crusty bread from the fire when the ground started to quake.

    They were gaining on her.

    I love this exercise. It really makes you think hard about a line that will grab a reader when you have to put it out there. Thanks, Karen!

  35. Lois Hudson May 4, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    Laurie Jefferson huddled beside her mother’s grave, staring at the band of white skin circling her empty left ring finger.

  36. Lois Hudson May 4, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    And from a different WIP:

    Kendall Wallis toyed with the ornate dessert fork until her husband’s gentle touch alerted her to the waiter’s efforts to clear the table.

  37. Amanda May 5, 2016 at 5:14 am #

    I’ve loved reading everyone’s first lines! Here’s mine:

    At 19 how was I supposed to know that three little words whispered, secret, in the dark would echo louder and louder until they were a battle cry for my heart?

  38. April Kidwell May 5, 2016 at 5:28 am #

    She knew without a doubt that it was the only place to find happiness.

  39. Faith McDonald May 5, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    Love reading the first lines and the responses!

    How’s this: Our family lived a nightmare and, I believe, we lived to tell.

  40. Eva Marie Everson May 5, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    One afternoon in late spring, Jane Whittaker went to the store for some milk and some eggs and forgot who she was.

    “See Jane Run” by Joy Felding

  41. Evelyn Wagoner May 5, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    “It was a beautiful day, and she hated the sun for shining.”

  42. Dave Barkey May 5, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    “Brad! Someone is knocking on our door!” Stella whispered as she grabbed her sleeping husband.

  43. Linda Wagster May 6, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Here’s mine. Weird? Maybe. Relevant? Definitely!

    “I don’t know which was more foreboding; the envelope that shook in my hand, or the glass vial which contained my urine.”

  44. Shannon Wells May 9, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s first lines. It really does make you stop and consider how to craft that first paragraph so as to grab the reader. So, here is one I’m working on.
    The GPS on my dash showed me out in the middle of a field, but my heart knew better. I was home. Finally home.
    Oops, 2 sentences. Sorry. 🙂

  45. Heather May 19, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    And the ring burned.

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!