“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”
That is the first line in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Bloody good, isn’t it? Possibly my favourite first line in a novel. Well, my favourite that I can remember, my memory is terrible; now back to this article about Batman. Ha, I dones’ a joke!
How about another slice of Mr G:
“The Time Lords built a prison.”
Okay, so as a big Doctor Who fan I may be a little biased as that’s from his pretty ace Who short, Nothing O’Clock, but that line is so simple and yet so intriguing that I’m IN. I want to know more. Why have they built this prison? For who? Or, perhaps, for what…
Okay, enough Gaiman bottom-kissing, how about an off-quoted example from another master, Mr Stephen King:
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
Again, it’s simple yet evocative, and it makes you want to know more.
First lines are important to me, they should DO something to me as I read. This is your chance to grab me and have me on board immediately. I want to be surprised, or intrigued, or pulled into a strange world; they have to MAKE you read on. MAKE you read the next line. And the next. And the next. And before you know it, you’re on to chapter two and you’re going to keep going.
I thought I’d share a first line of my own:
“Dorothy was chosen to die when she was barely a full day old.”
That’s from a novelette that will either be out next year, or, well, it won’t be. It was the very first idea, the first line, that popped into my head and the rest of story sprang from it. As with the other examples, I like to think it’s simple yet intriguing. Oh go on, here’s another:
“Billy was awoken in the dead of night by somebody calling his name.”
Again, (hopefully) simple yet intriguing. Maybe even a little unnerving..?
I love a good first line, and in my own work I feel like I NEED one before I can really carry on. It’s like finding a solid foundation to sit the rest on.
So what do you think of the ones I’ve chosen? Do you have any faves? Even faves you’ve written yourself..?
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