Top Ten Tuesday is hosted each week by That Artsy Reader Girl

I play this game when I’m reading a book – I try to guess what the first paragraph the author wrote is. As a writer myself, I presume what becomes the opening line isn’t how the first draft began, but I always wonder where the original kernel is buried. I suppose I’ll never know the answer, but that’s fine.

These are some of my favorite first sentences of books.

It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier. – The Prestige, Christopher Priest

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. – I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper. – The Meaning of Night, Michael Cox

After the thing was all over, when peril had ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls and we were driving home with our hats on the side of our heads, having shaken the dust of Steeple Bumpleigh from our tyres, I confessed to Jeeves that there had been moments during the recent proceedings when Bertram Wooster, though no weakling, had come very nearly to despair. – Joy in the Morning, P.G. Wodehouse

This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve. – The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins

Fingers of lightning tore holes in the black skies as an angry cloudburst drenched the surrealistic landscape. – The Mothman Prophecies, John A. Keel

The eastern section of old Peking has been dominated since the fifteenth century by a looming watchtower, built as part of the Tartar Wall to protect the city from invaders. Known as the Fox Tower, it was believed to be haunted by fox spirits, a superstition that meant the place was deserted at night. – Midnight in Peking, Paul French

Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. – The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence

Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. – The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. – Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

The ship was spotted March 21, 1860—Wednesday, four hours before dawn—by the crew of the J. R. Mather, a schooner hauling molasses to Philadelphia. – The Last Pirate of New York, Rich Cohen

Do you have any favorite opening lines?


7 thoughts on “Favorite First Lines”

  1. “I believe that art is the highest expression of the human spirit. I believe that we yearn to transcend the merely finite and ephemeral; to participate in something mysterious and communal called “culture” —and that this yearning is as strong in our species as the yearning to reproduce the species.”
    The Faith Of A Writer, Joyce Carol Oates

  2. That line from I Capture the Castle has been on a few different lists this week! I always wonder how big that sink was. Was she literally sitting it with her whole body, or was it just her feet or something?

    My TTT .

    1. Ha! In the film, she is sitting on the drain board with her feet in it. I suppose that’s sort of how I imagined it too, since it’s a farmhouse. That would be a massive sink, though!

  3. I’m sure I know others worth mentioning, but the first that pops to mind is-

    “Snow, tenderly caught by eddying breezes, swirled and spun in to and out bright, lustrous shapes that gleamed against the emerald-blazoned black drape of sky and sparkled there for a moment, hanging, before settling gently to the soft, green-tufted plain with all the sickly sweetness of an over-written sentence.”

    -To Reign In Hell, Steven Brust

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