First Lines

Editor's note: This is a resource for a First Lines XP that is part of the Story Starter Workshop in YWP Academy. Join in if you'd like.

If you take a look at really good short stories or novels, you will see that they invariably have a great opening line. The first line in any story has a number of effects -- sets tone, jumps you into the action, establishes the setting or the conflict -- but all of them lure you in as a reader. Here are some good ones.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. --  George Orwell, 1984

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. — Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier, 1915

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. —  Paul Auster, City of Glass, 1985

A screaming comes across the sky.  — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.  —  Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, 1952

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 Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.  —   Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed.  — Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Harry Potter was a very unusual boy in many ways.  — J.K. Rowling,  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

When I was three and Bailey was four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed - "To Whom It May Concern" - that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.  —  Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

As Gregor Samsa awoke from a night of uneasy dreaming, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.  —  Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.  — Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

All this happened, more or less.  —  Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.   — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Willie McCoy had been a jerk before he died. His being dead didn’t change that. He sat across from me, wearing a loud plaid sports jacket.   — Laurell K. Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures

In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. —  Normal Maclean, A River Runs Through It

It all began the second day of the Moon of Fattening, June 2 1823. — Frederick Manfred, Lord Grizzly

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.  — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. — Toni Morrison, Beloved