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Solitary Spark: Famous First Lines

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Famous First Lines

One exercise I've found very interesting is the "First Line" exercise found in the previously suggested What If?.  The challenge is to write the first line of a story--only the first line--beginning in the middle of the action.  A good first line has some sort of hook that draws the reader into the story whether the line makes you think, creates interest in the speaker/character, or throws you into the action.

Some of my favorite first lines from novels and short stories:

  • Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God 
  • 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. - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 
  • Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation? - Lewis Caroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 
  • True! - nervous - very, very nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? - Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart
  • For more examples: 100 Best First Lines from Novels
While not every story begins with an unforgettable line, many of the ones that stuck with me the longest caught my attention from the start.

I ask that you, fellow aspiring writer, accept the 30 day challenge to write at least one first line a day for 30 days.  You may toss these lines to the side.  You may revise them later.  You may use them as-is in the future.  The point is to exercise your creativity and help you overcome any writer's block.  Who knows?  One of them may become famous.

I'll share some of mine throughout the blog, and I welcome you to comment and share some of yours.

"Rain was rushing down the windshield, splashing as booming thunder shook the glass, but the only storm I could see was clouding his raging eyes."

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