Great Opening Lines

By June 11, 2021No Comments

One of the keys to successful writing is grabbing the reader’s attention right off the bat. JenJen Reviews pays homage to this truism with her feature, First Lines Friday, at https://jenjenreviews.wordpress.com/. Each week she gives the opening lines of a book to see if it gets your attention.

In today’s glutted book market, an enticing start is more critical than ever to an author’s success. Accordingly, here are opening lines from some of my favorite novels. Not only do they get off to a great start, they deliver on what they promise …

“The gun jammed on the last shot and the baby stood holding the crib rail, eyes wild, bawling. The man sat down in an upholstered chair and began taking his gun apart to see why it wouldn’t fire.” The Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich

“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler

“The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead.” Shogun, by James Clavell

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

“The noise was ended now. The smoke drifted like thin, gray wisps of fog above the tortured earth and the shattered fences and the peach trees that had been whittled into toothpicks by the cannon fire.” Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak

“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

“My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

“Death is only the beginning; afterward comes the hard part.” The Death Instinct, by Jed Rubenfeld

“Studio B was the snakebite studio at WLT, the tomb of the radio mummy, and bad things happened to people who went in there.” WLT: A Radio Romance, by Garrison Keillor

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me … the most dreadful thing …” Ghost Story, by Peter Straub

“The doctors, nurses and patients in the overcrowded, too-brightly lit Emergency Room turned toward the commotion. It was the very old woman thrashing about her with improbable strength and agility. ‘You do not,’ she shouted, ‘you do not tell me to relax! I will not relax.” Half the Kingdom, by Lore Segal

“The last time I saw him, Carlos Carballo was climbing with difficulty into a police van, his hands cuffed behind his back and his head hunched down between his shoulders, while a news ticker running along the bottom of the screen reported the reason for his arrest: the attempted theft of the serge suit of an assassinated politician.” The Shape of the Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

“For the weekly docket the court jester wore his standard garb of well-used and deeply faded maroon pajamas and lavender terry-cloth shower shoes with no socks. He wasn’t the only inmate who went about his daily business in his pajamas, but no one else dared wear lavender shoes. His name was T. Karl, and he’d once owned banks in Boston.” The Brethren, by John Grisham

Do you have a favorite book whose opening lines you would like to share? Send them to me and I’ll post them in a future blog.


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