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Memorable First Lines


“Memorable First Lines” by Joan Y. Edwards

You want the first page of your story to have a memorable first line. One great way to improve your ability to do this is by studying the first lines of at least 10 famous books and/or 10 of your favorite books. When the first lines captivate the reader, the rest of the work is part of the rest of the treasure.

Here are first lines from ten best-selling fiction books as listed on Amazon. The first two are current best sellers. The other 8 are classics:

  1. “I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.” Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.
  2. “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.” Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
  3. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times:” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  4. “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do:” Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
  5. “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show:” David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
  6. “There was once a very rich merchant, who had six children, three sons and three daughters; being a man of sense, he spared no cost for their education, but gave them all kinds of masters:” Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne Marie Le Prince De Beaumont.
  7. “Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress:” Middlemarch by George Eliot.
  8. “Mr. Hungerton, her father, really was the most tactless person upon earth – a fluffy, feathery, untidy cockatoo of a man, perfectly good-natured, but absolutely centered upon his own silly self:” The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  9. “Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worthwhile:” This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. “Like a sudden cloudburst the dormitory became a frenzy of sound:” The Witness  by Grace Livingston Hill.

Here are the first lines from ten of my personal fiction favorites listed simply as I thought of them:

  1. “Where’s Papa going with that ax? said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast:” Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.
  2. “Do you like green eggs and ham?” Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.
  3. “Once there was a tree:” The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
  4. One time away back years ago there was a boy named Jack:” The Jack Tales by Richard Chase.
  5. ” ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug:” Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
  6. “The pretty little Swiss town of Mayenfeld lies at the foot of a mountain range, whose grim rugged peaks tower high above the valley below:” Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
  7. “Hey Tom! Where were you last night?” How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.
  8. “My name is Junie B. Jones:” Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park.
  9. “There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever:” One for the Money.
  10. “Ok. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s only a Visa bill:” Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.

All of these are fiction books. I put the links to Amazon in case you wanted to read more of the first pages. Another time, if you like, I’ll list non-fiction books in a post. With them perhaps I’ll list the pitch or book descriptions. That probably sells them more than the first line in non-fiction. But I’ll check and see. It would be good to compare the first lines. What do you think?

What is your favorite fiction book? Why do you like it?

Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate that so many of you take time to follow me and subscribe to my blog. I now have 77 people who follow my blog. Thank you to those who subscribe. If you haven’t subscribed, I invite you to sign up now in the box to the left. When I get 100 subscribers to the blog, we’re going to celebrate with 10 people winning a free pitch and 1000 word critique. Yee Haw!

Do something fun to celebrate you today. Sing a song! Bake your favorite dish! Shop for an inexpensive item to remind you to keep on taking steps toward your goals in life.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

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8 Responses

  1. Joan, one of my favorite first lines comes from science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein’s “Double Star,” about an out-of-work actor who is co-opted into impersonating a politician:

    “If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he’s a spaceman.”

    and later on the same page “I could see that this big-boned fellow had been dressed by Omar the Tentmaker–“

    Like

    • Dear Margaret,
      It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your first lines from “Double Star” by Robert A. Heinlein. I love the line “dressed by Omar the Tentmaker.” Really gives you the feeling of largeness, doesn’t it? It’s so cool to hear what you like. Celebrate you and your gift of sharing.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  2. Hi Joan,

    This was an impressive post. You spend lots of time on all what you offer your readers. We do appreciate you. It’s helping us to become better writers.

    My favorite fiction book as a child was Ferdinand the Bull. I thought it was so funny and later I learned people called it political. To a kid, it was just a lot of fun. My kids really enjoyed me reading Robert the Rose Horse to them when they were small. It is by Joan Heilbroner. Robert is allergic to roses and I used to exaggerate his sneezes. My kids were hysterical with laughter, especially the older one who has allergies. I think I see a commonality here–humor.

    Linda A.

    Like

    • Dear Linda,
      You’re welcome. I enjoyed doing it. I was curious as to what the first lines were. Some definitely pull you in more than others. I can see you love humorous books. I’ve never read Robert the Rose Horse. I have read Ferdinand the Bull. I love humorous stories, too. Thanks for writing. Celebrate you and your humor.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  3. There’s nothing like a good one-liner, is there? … We get such a clear picture of Jo March right up front.

    Like

    • Dear Widdershins,
      Thanks for writing! You’re right, Jo March was a grumbler from the very beginning. Reminds me of Eeyore in Winnie-the-Pooh! It’s amazing how a few words can explain a character trait that will be illuminated throughout the novel: “Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.

      So much fun. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Celebrate and allow yourself to be grumpy every once in a while…just for Jo March and Eeyore.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  4. LAst one for tonight. But thanks again for putting these together so I can use them in my class!

    Like

    • Dear Carol,
      Wow! Thanks for leaving a bunch of comments on my blog. I really appreciate your taking the time to tell me you like them and are planning to use them when you teach others at CPCC. You’re welcome. It was my pleasure.

      Like

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