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Old 01-23-2013, 07:44 AM   #1
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I love first lines almost as much as titles

Here is a great article someone brought to my attention from Writer's Digest. Some examples and thoughts about opening a novel (or non-fiction for that matter).

Quote:

....

Reflecting on awful first lines (and, admittedly, drinking out of this delightful Great First Lines of Literature Mug) got me thinking about the inverse. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite openings. Share yours in the Comments below.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

A screaming comes across the sky.
—Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

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

It was a pleasure to burn.
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
....
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-...-start-a-novel
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:41 AM   #2
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how can "It was a dark and stormy night" not make the list! Snoopy is the best author of our era!
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:28 AM   #3
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Some authors have used the first line of their book as their title. Songs can work with that also.

I kind of like it but only if not too contrived.

A simple example would be

"Wow"
(delivered by Christopher Walken in the movie version.)

My favorite line comes from a Chrysler "Hemi" commercial.

"That can't be good!"

That could fit almost any modern day story, though I haven't used it yet.

Keep checking the lists, folks.

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Old 01-23-2013, 10:53 AM   #4
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I'm pleased to see Pride and Prejudice made it into the comments, it's still one of my favourites, and indicates my preference.

Too many, too often, seem to be trying too hard. They sound like they're trying to be their own epigraph rather than a true part of the text. The ones that work best (for me) are the ones that feel like a natural part of what follows, they just happen to be also significant on their own. (As is the case with Pride and Prejudice).

A contrary example (from the link), is something like this one:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
-- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I do like what this says, but it doesn't (to me) really feel like part of the text. It could have been put on a page on its own out front somewhere. It was something written to be a first line, and it could be a first line to a wide assortment of books.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I'm pleased to see Pride and Prejudice made it into the comments, it's still one of my favourites, and indicates my preference.

Too many, too often, seem to be trying too hard. They sound like they're trying to be their own epigraph rather than a true part of the text. The ones that work best (for me) are the ones that feel like a natural part of what follows, they just happen to be also significant on their own. (As is the case with Pride and Prejudice).

A contrary example (from the link), is something like this one:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
-- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I do like what this says, but it doesn't (to me) really feel like part of the text. It could have been put on a page on its own out front somewhere. It was something written to be a first line, and it could be a first line to a wide assortment of books.
Agreed.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:04 PM   #6
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I'll be honest. First lines are not my strength. I keep trying to come up with something magical, but it always sounds lame. I believe truly great first lines are a combination of inspiration and luck.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Carroll View Post
I'll be honest. First lines are not my strength. I keep trying to come up with something magical, but it always sounds lame. I believe truly great first lines are a combination of inspiration and luck.
As much as I love them, I also don't believe there are 'perfect' opening lines, many great novels open with pedestrian lines.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:11 PM   #8
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I think Dickens places high up for memorable 1st lines:
Quote:

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.
~A Tale of Two Cities
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Carroll View Post
I'll be honest. First lines are not my strength. I keep trying to come up with something magical, but it always sounds lame. I believe truly great first lines are a combination of inspiration and luck.
And they only become great first lines if they are in a book that is popular with the reading public at large. If the book isn't read how will anyone remember if the 1st line was well written or not?
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crich70 View Post
I think Dickens places high up for memorable 1st lines:
Yep, I was a bit shocked when in the article for "3. A statement of paired facts." that was not used as the example.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
Yep, I was a bit shocked when in the article for "3. A statement of paired facts." that was not used as the example.
Maybe they felt it was too current. Certainly he seems to almost be talking about our present day.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crich70 View Post
Maybe they felt it was too current. Certainly he seems to almost be talking about our present day.
could be
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Old 01-26-2013, 10:11 AM   #13
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Wikiquotes opening lines:

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Opening_lines
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Old 01-26-2013, 11:01 PM   #14
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Interesting. I noticed that Dickens seems to be quoted more than the others. He knew his craft certainly.
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Old 01-26-2013, 11:08 PM   #15
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He certainly knew the importance of the
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