10 Great Opening Lines from Novels I Love

Waking, my feet remained stuck under the covers, in a dream about a story, this morning. The story’s first line warbled into ether and left an inkling that colors my morning making me wish I could drag back details as the dream-film played against my eyelids.

The chill of the morning prickled my skin and shook the dream out. Reality began. Get the dogs out. Put the tea on. Feed the deer–who, by the way, were absent most definitely because of the chilly morning. The deer were too cold to eat? Now, I’ve seen everything.

But the dream is playing hide-n-seek with me in my subconscious. It has shifted from story to first lines of stories. My subconscious perhaps speaking to me? Whatever my subconscious intended, I decided to snag 10 books off the bookshelf and offer up to you the books’ 10 opening lines. The books are in no specific order they are simply listed for your reading pleasure. I’ve added a link for each book title and for each author.

  1. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
  2. “Later, I would look back and wonder what I was doing the exact moment Kelli died.” Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany.
  3. “of things–when is it exactly?” The Accidental by Ali Smith.
  4. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
  5. “There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke.” Dubliners by James Joyce.
  6. “Then there was the bad weather.” A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.
  7. “She did not intend to steal anything that day.” A Town of Empty Rooms by Karen E. Bender.
  8. “She gave a startled cry.” The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.
  9. “We are at rest five miles behind the front.” All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.
  10. “The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzing phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.” Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

I think you’ll agree that the author gave great consideration to these first lines. No one line was left to chance. It makes me wonder when they wrote their lines. Did they write them at the very beginning of writing the novel or after the novel was written in order to apply a smidgen of hindsight?

What do you think?

I write books. ~Susan.


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