Best Ever Opening Lines In A Novel?

27 replies
I don’t think you can get better than -


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

(who the dickens wrote that?)


But I’ve just read a modern day pulp fiction/noir book – The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski

Which had a cracker –

“I poisoned your drink” – what a hook – you had to read on.

Anyone going to try it as a headline or email subject line.

And use the Problem Agitate Solve formula?

Anyway...

What are your favourites?

Steve
#lines #opening
  • Profile picture of the author Formal Shorts
    "This is my favourite book in all the world, though I have never read it."

    Truth be told, there are very few questions that The Princess Bride isn't the right answer to.
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  • Profile picture of the author JakeDaly
    Haha I assume you were being jocular when you asked 'who in the dickens wrote that?' :p Only because it was Dickens, my boy!

    I love this topic, though, and I researched some others. Here are a few good ones:

    "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)


    "Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested." --Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925)


    "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." --Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)


    "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." --C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
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  • Ahh, yes takes me way back to "1984"

    Of course I had to do the necessary research and the opening line actually was -

    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

    (note - Ken will post the most hellish reply to this)

    Even though I prefer his version.

    And I'm dead if he was talking about a different book.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Hill
    I always like the simplicity of "Call me Ishmael." from Moby Dick.

    For fans of opening lines, here's a collection of them (of which the one above is the first):

    100 best first lines from novels
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  • Profile picture of the author Pusateri
    "Marley was dead: to begin with."

    "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins."

    "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    Banned
    "Abandon all hope ye who enter here" is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Miserables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn't seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, "Be My Baby" on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so.
    "American Psycho" - Brett Easton Ellis
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  • Profile picture of the author videolover7
    Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post


    What are your favourites?

    Steve
    Do news story headlines count?

    I saw this one yesterday,

    "Bride Postpones Wedding So Pet Lizard Can Get Chemotherapy"

    VL
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    • Profile picture of the author Bruce Wedding
      I was hooked with the opening line of "Dirty White Boys" by Stephen Hunter...

      "Three men at McAlester State Penetentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye, but all were black and therefore, by Lamar's own figuring, hardly human at all."

      Amazon.com: Dirty White Boys (9780440221791):...Amazon.com: Dirty White Boys (9780440221791):...
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      • Profile picture of the author eric13
        [QUOTE=Bruce Wedding;5895301]I was hooked with the opening line of "Dirty White Boys" by Stephen Hunter...

        "Three men at McAlester State Penetentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye, but all were black and therefore, by Lamar's own figuring, hardly human at all."

        This made me laugh.... Would pick a copy of this for sure.
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        • Profile picture of the author Bruce Wedding
          Originally Posted by eric13 View Post

          "Three men at McAlester State Penetentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye, but all were black and therefore, by Lamar's own figuring, hardly human at all."

          This made me laugh.... Would pick a copy of this for sure.
          I love his books, especially the series about "Bob the Nailer". One was made into a movie, Shooter starring Mark Wahlberg. Dirty White Boys was special to me because it was set in southwestern Oklahoma where my parents were born and an area I'm very familiar with.

          Originally Posted by oncewerewarriors

          hip hole and hupmobile - norman mailer, no idea of the book, never finished the first chapter
          Not quite sure how you figure it belongs in a list of "Best Ever Opening Lines In a Novel", when it failed to keep you reading.
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  • Profile picture of the author Pusateri
    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

    Offered as an outrigger to Bruce's contribution.
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    • Profile picture of the author Doceye
      I think Bruce's post mentioned enough wood to make his own, ahem, considerable outrigger. But hey, the Word's the word ... or is it the Bird's the word?

      Doc
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  • Profile picture of the author Micah Medina
    "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

    "Many years later when he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía remembered a distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." (anything by Marquez is so great as an opener)...
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  • Profile picture of the author bchez
    As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

    Call me Ishmael.

    and of course

    Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

    (I guess that is two lines, sorry, I broke the rules)
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    My website - nothing to sell related to IM - but if you like style and fashion, come play. :)
    www.styleclarity.com

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  • Profile picture of the author hardraysnight
    hip hole and hupmobile - norman mailer, no idea of the book, never finished the first chapter
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  • Profile picture of the author helisell
    A long time ago....in a galaxy far far away.....
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    Making Calls To Sell Something? What are you actually saying?
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Hill
    I couldn't resist looking up first lines from favorite books read in the past, and found a few more good opening lines:

    "It was the day my grandmother exploded."
    The Crow Road by Iain Banks

    "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
    The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

    "He was awake a long time before he remembered that his heart was broken."
    For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    "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."
    The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (It's probably time to change the bait, ya think?)

    "True!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?"
    The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

    "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."
    The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

    "A screaming comes across the sky."
    Gravity's Rainbow By Thomas Pynchon

    "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know."
    The Stranger by Albert Camus
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Barboza
    I really liked this one the first time I read it:

    "Since they shot her at point-blank range while she was being kissed, she confused the pain of love with that of death."

    Rosario Tijeras by Jorge Franco
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  • Profile picture of the author Robert_Rand
    Well, this one seems to have worked pretty well: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."

    And personally, one of my favorites would have to be: "The large ballroom was crowded with familiar ghosts come to help celebrate her birthday."
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  • Profile picture of the author lossman29
    The opening lines in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is incomparable.

    "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
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    "There is light at the end of the tunnel. Have some faith and work hard. ALWAYS."

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