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What’s Your Favorite Opening Line?

What’s your favorite opening line in literature?

Suprisingly, my choice isn’t from The Great Gatsby. My favorite opening line is probably from The Blind Assassin. Margaret Atwood writes:

Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off a bridge.

So good. So many questions.

The Blind Assassin is a good novel, but the opening line is just outstanding.

So what’s your favorite opening line? If you need a little inspiration, here’s an older post in which I highlight some of the classics.

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54 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brandon #

    In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

    Liked by 6 people

    February 2, 2015
  2. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times AND Last night I dreampt I went to Manderly again.

    Liked by 3 people

    February 2, 2015
    • 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. (All one sentence!)

      Like

      February 3, 2015
  3. Haha agree with Brandon.
    I also cling to ‘IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’, and of course ‘The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.’

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  4. Brandon #

    or

    WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
    The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
    And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
    Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
    Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
    Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
    The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
    Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
    And smale fowles maken melodye,
    That slepen al the night with open ye,
    (So priketh hem nature in hir corages):
    Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
    And palmers for to seken straunge strondes,
    To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
    And specially, from every shires ende
    Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
    The holy blisful martir for to seke,
    That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  5. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  6. “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to
    take hold.”

    Liked by 3 people

    February 2, 2015
  7. Jetagain #

    This may not be the best opening line but it is from a much loved book from my early teens: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful but men seldom realized it when caught in her charm….”

    Liked by 3 people

    February 2, 2015
  8. 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. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
    David Copperfield: I do love that book!

    Liked by 3 people

    February 2, 2015
  9. bba #

    A screaming comes across the sky.
    -Gravity’s Rainbow

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  10. “I want to be a Saint.” (Anne Rice “Blood Canticle”)
    For this short sentence made me read the whole book.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  11. Is it that bad if my favourite opening line ever is “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away”?
    I’ve been looking for something more cool since the tender age of 8, yet I haven’t found it.
    My favourite one after the Star Wars opening line is Dante’s Divina Commedia opening.

    “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.

    Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
    esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
    che nel pensier rinova la paura!”

    Maybe it’s because I’m Italian and I can truly experience how great it is.

    Liked by 3 people

    February 2, 2015
  12. Stephen McDaniel #

    I have a number of favorites including ‘Call me Ishmael’, but the one that sticks is from Rose Macaulay’s Towers of Trebizond. “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.”

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  13. Probably a typical choice, but “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” from Rebecca. It haunts my dreams, sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2015
  14. “I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that somber city – and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man’s character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn’t any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.”

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  15. “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    February 2, 2015
  16. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite! But I really like the opening line from Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    Liked by 4 people

    February 2, 2015
  17. “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

    Technically it is not an opening sentence but a preface to “The restaurant at the end of the universe” by Douglas Adams. Adams follows it up with a strong opening sentence nevertheless: “The story so far: in the beginning the Universe was created.” From there the book turns into a disappointing follow-up to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, in my opinion.

    Another strong one is: “Who is John Galt?” That even made to regular graffiti-status.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  18. Mother died today – Albert Camus, The Outsider. A surprising absence from the TIME list.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2015
  19. “It is a fact 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

    It’s the perfect opening line because it contains a bit of everything. It concisely tells you what the novel is about, establishes a strong narrative voice, and makes you want to read more. Most importantly, and in true Jane Austen style, it’s witty.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2015
  20. “It was the afternoon of my eightieth birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when the bishop called. ” Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess (May not be exact)

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  21. James Vandermeer’s City of Saints and Madmen. An obscure choice, but the entire opening page is gorgeous. “Dradin, in love, beneath the window of his love…”

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  22. One of my very favorite first lines comes from the Dystopian novel Legend by Marie Lu. It begins, “My mother thinks I’m dead.” Continuing on to the second line, it follows up with “Obviously, I’m not dead, but it’s safer for her to think so.”

    Sucks you right in.

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
    • WOW. That is really… direct. Now I want to read it! /clicking on Amazon Store…/
      Thanks 🙂

      Like

      February 3, 2015
  23. “It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.” – Catch 22

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  24. We were somewhere near Barstow at the edge of the dessert when the drugs began to take hold…

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  25. This one has really stuck with me; “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  26. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

    From One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

    http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2015/01/one-hundred-years-of-solitude-by.html

    Liked by 2 people

    February 2, 2015
  27. Rosemary Zimmermann #

    “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2015
  28. Yas #

    Some of you have already listed some of my favourites. Here are the other two –

    ‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’ – The Satanic Verses

    “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – 1984

    Like

    February 2, 2015
    • Ruth Fox #

      1984 is my favourite opening line too. I like the way it combines absurdity with mystery, and it sets the tone of the book

      Like

      February 3, 2015
  29. Janet opened her eyes — Florida’s prehistoric glare dazzled outside the motel window. A dog barked; a car honked; a man was singing a snatch of a Spanish song. She absentmindedly touched the scar from the bullet wound beneath her left rib cage, a scar that had healed over, bumpy and formless and hard, like a piece of gum stuck beneath a tabletop. She hadn’t expected her flesh to have healed so blandly — What was I expecting, a scar shaped like an American flag?
    -All Families are Psychotic, Douglas Coupland

    This is one I could think of that I loved, not necessarily my favorite. I loved reading the comments on this post!!!

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  30. Maybe I’m biased, but I love “I can’t get the taste of cum out of my mouth” from my novel lol

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  31. Also the opening line from Gone Girl, “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.”

    Like

    February 2, 2015
  32. “There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” From The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. It’s definitely the funniest opening line I’ve ever come across.

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  33. Mine are:
    “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
    “Call me Ishmael.”- Moby- Dick
    “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”- Mrs Dalloway

    Liked by 1 person

    February 3, 2015
  34. Jeff #

    ‘Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.’

    J G Ballard, High Rise.

    I read and reviewed this novel recently enough for the first line to be very prominent. It sets up the beginning of the novel, the three months prior to eating the dog, while at the same time suggesting that we’ll return to the said eating later too. Both the opening sentence and novel revolve around the circumstances to a breakdown of what’s considered civilised.

    Isn’t there a theory somewhere about novels that start with the word ‘after’?

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  35. “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  36. sitanaik #

    Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again… ‘Rebecca’ Daphne du Murier

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  37. My favorite opening line is from Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. After one sentence, I was hooked for the entire series! “My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.”

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  38. ‘Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick’… The start of the amazing journey that is the Shining… 🙂

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  39. What a great question. I think either: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) OR “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  40. It was a pleasure to burn.

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  41. I love the opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities – and I see someone mentioned the first Harry Potter book. I’m adding Anna Karenina – such a great book, and a very famous 1st line. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  42. Matt #

    “They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.” – Toni Morrison, “Paradise”

    Like

    February 3, 2015
  43. “The old man’s eyes struck me first.”

    One day out of curiosity I read the page they showed on a Nook advertisement, just to see if it was a real book. It ended up being the first page from The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. After that, I immediately searched out the book and brought it home with me. So, naturally, that book holds my favorite opening line.

    Like

    February 4, 2015
  44. “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” This is from probably the first novel I ever read, and still surprisingly my favorite novel: Gone With The Wind.

    Like

    February 5, 2015
  45. Stephen McDaniel #

    I’ve just remembered my other favorite opening. It’s from James Crumley’s ‘The Last Good Kiss’. “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trehearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

    Like

    February 7, 2015
  46. Stephen #

    When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? ~The Scottish Play

    Like

    February 12, 2015
  47. I still stand by Douglas Adams. And this is one is probably also a bit cheating, but I’m still proud of this one:
    “Questions, questions, questions! And then… Some more questions! Questions truly were all this image called for. What for, very often standing guard at the entrance of those questions. As a conscientious gatekeeper.”

    Like

    February 13, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  2. How to start your book; opening lines | ellen allen

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