Opening Lines


I read that an author should make the first line the best. Another book said an author should sum up the entirety of their book in the first line. I thought that was absurd and you couldn’t possibly do both….then I thought of a few, and they were some of the best and well-known lines in literature:

“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 by, Jane Austen
You get several things about this story from this one line. The focus is going to be on marriage and socioeconomic status. This is going to be a satirical piece. The author has witty, dry humor.

”It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” The Bell Jar by, Sylvia Plath
One word: Quirky
One more word: Dark

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
The run on sentence to end all run on sentences.

What’s your favorite first line? Share it in the comments.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Published by Tammy Deschamps

Tammy loves to build worlds with words, exploring themes the effect of diaspora on the generations born elsewhere than their ancestors with the backdrop of tech or magic and dragons (sometimes both). These stories are inspired by her own family's immigrant experience. She's queer and many of her characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum (though that is not the focus of her work). She's married to an engineer who dances. Together they are raising three precocious teens in the Seattle suburbs. Two of her children are neurodiverse. Her experiences have taught her as much about the world, its beauties and its injustices. All of this comes through in her fiction with a healthy dose of absurd humor.

2 thoughts on “Opening Lines

  1. I adore those examples you gave. And this topic of first lines from both a writing and reading perspective.

    I have a thousand favorite first lines. Anything that opens the door of a new story can be immensely exciting. But here is one that was sitting on a close-by bookshelf in my office.

    “In a distant and secondhand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part . . .
    See . . .
    Great A’Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters. Through sea-sized eyes that are crusted with rheum and asteroid dust He stares fixedly at the Destination.”
    — open lines of Prologue of “The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett

    I feel that it hints at the style and content of the story, and a glimpse to the ending when it all comes full circle.

    Do you feel that the ending lines of a story can leave us with a certain aftertaste that affects how we feel about the whole story or desire to read more in the series or by that author?

    Liked by 1 person

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