Saturday, October 13, 2007

First things first

cat-farmhouse.jpgFirst lines of course! They come first for readers, though not necessarily for writers. It might even be the last line you write once you've written the story and know what it's all about.

The first line should create the need to know more. It sets up questions in the readers mind. Why? How did that happen? Who did it?

Here's the American Book Review's List of 100 best first lines from novels.

But even more grabbing to my mind, since I read genre fiction rather than literary fiction, are these collected by Allan Rousselle on his blog. (I like that idea of collecting a particular author's first lines. I'll have to try it!)

He also wrote an essay about First Lines.

There are also several great first lines at the post at the bottom of the page at Bibliobibuli.

Use these as writing prompts or examples of great first lines to inspire you.

Robert Heinlein

From Beyond This Horizon, his first published novel:
Their problems were solved: the poor they no longer had with them; the sick, the lame, the halt, and the blind were historic memories; the ancient casues of war no longer obtained; they had more freedom than Man has ever enjoyed. All of them should have been happy --

From The Day After Tomorrow:
"What the hell goes on here?"

From "Waldo":
The act was billed as ballet tap -- which does not describe it.

From "Magic, Inc.":
"Whose spells are you using, buddy?"

From "The Roads Must Roll":
"Who makes the roads roll?"

From "Requiem":
On a high hill in Samoa there is a grave.

From "The Long Watch":
Johnny Dahlquist blew smoke at the Geiger counter.

From "The Green Hills of Earth":
This is the story of Rhysling, the blind singer of the Spaceways -- but not the official version.

From The Puppet Masters:
Were they truly intelligent?

From "Jerry Was a Man":
Don't blame the Martians.

From The Door Into Summer:
One winter shortly before the Six Weeks War my tomcat, Petronius the Arbiter, and I lived in an old farmhouse in Connecticut.

From Have Space Suit -- Will Travel:
You see, I had this space suit.

From "The Year of the Jackpot":
At first Potiphar Breen did not notice the girl who was undressing.

From "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag":
"Is it blood, doctor?"

From Stranger in a Strange Land:
Once upon a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith.

From Time Enough for Love:
History has the relation to truth that theology has to religion -- ie, none to speak of.

From The Number of the Beast:
"He's a Mad Scientist and I'm his Beautiful Daughter."

From The Cat Who Walks Through Walls:
"We need you to kill a man."

From To Sail Beyond the Sunset:
I woke up in bed with a man and a cat. The man was a stranger; the cat was not.

And lastly, a first line that certainly makes *me* want to read more, from "It's Great to be Back!":
"Hurry up, Allan!"

Stephen King

From Rage:
The morning I got it on was nice; a nice May morning.

From 'Salem's Lot:
Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son.

From The Shining:
Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.

From "Night Surf":
After the guy was dead and the smell of his burning flesh was on the air, we all went back down to the beach.

From "The Mangler":
Officer Hunton got to the laundry just as the ambulance was leaving -- slowly, with no sirens or flashing lights.

From "Trucks":
The guy's name was Snodgrass and I could see him getting ready to do something crazy.

From "The Ledge":
"Go on," Cressner said again. "Look in the bag."

From "The Lawnmower Man":
In previous years, Harold Parkette had always taken pride in his lawn.

From Cujo:
Once upon a time, not so long ago, a monster came to the small town of Castle Rock, Maine.

From "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption":
There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess -- I'm the guy who can get it for you.

From Christine:
This is the story of a lover's triangle, I suppose you'd say -- Arnie Cunningham, Leigh Cabot, and, of course, Christine.

From "The Mist":
This is what happened.

From It:
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years -- if it ever did end -- began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

From The Dark Tower:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

From "Secret Window, Secret Garden":
"You stole my story," the man on the doorstep said.

From "The Library Police":
Everything, Sam Peebles decided later, was the fault of the goddamned acrobat.

From "Dolan's Cadillac":
I waited and watched for seven years.

From "The Doctor's Case":
I believe there was only one occasion upon which I actually solved a crime before my slightly fabulous friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

From "Why We're in Vietnam":
When someone dies, you think about the past.

From "L.T.'s Theory of Pets":
My friend L.T. hardly ever talks about how his wife disappeared, or how she's probably dead, just another victim of the axe man, but he likes to tell the story of how she walked out on him.

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