Great First lines

There have been some great and/or provocative opening lines to stories. There are opening lines that set the scene or atmosphere, that challenge/encourage the reader to go on. Some of these lines have begun fantastic stories, other stories never quite live up to that opening.

This past week a number of classes have come into the library to allow the students to choose books that they will read over the fortnight school holiday that starts this weekend. We have been challenging the boys to read out of their comfort zone and even to try some of the classics. Many of the boys always read the same type of book  (0r even the same few books again and again.) The boys had to scan and skim through several books during the period and choose one by the end of the session.

 We also had a bit of a discussion about what might make a “classic”. What elements are needed to keep readers interested many years after the books were first written? What are some books remembered

 This got me thinking about the opening lines to some of the stories. There have been some great ones. I started to think about the ones I know from the books we have at our library.

The teacher responsible for these classes is also working on writing tasks with his students.  The lines below give such great examples of writing. Next I think my nest task will be to find some of the great endings.

Examples from the Classics:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ……
A tale of two cities Charles Dickens
It was a pleasure to burn.
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind……..
The outsiders S.E. Hinton
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.
2001: A space odyssey Arthur C. Clarke

Examples from current popular titles:
I found him in the garage on a Sunday afternoon.
Skellig David Almond
Joseph fixed his eyes on the coffin and thought of silkworms.
The running manMichael Gerards Bauer
We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.
Feed M.T. Anderson
The boy with the dreadlocks had two lines of business: (cars and the patio trade).
Exposure Mal Peet
Henry got up early on the day that changed his life.
Faerie Wars Herbie Brennan
I was five when I first saw the future. (Now I am seventeen.)
The foreshadowing Marcus Sedgwick
It is a relatively little-known fact, that, over the course of a single year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead.
The Lollypop shoes Joanne Harris
The worst night of my life? My first – and last – date with Angela O’Bannon.
Son of the mob Gordon Korman
We are all around you. (You don’t think about us much because we are invisible.)
So yesterdayScott Westerfeld

Any other suggestions would be welcomed.

There are sites that you can go to for lists of first lines that could also be useful. These include:

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One Response

  1. [...] educators to inform kids at the beginning of school that the decision is entirely up to them. Great First lines – rhondda.wordpress.com09/17/2009There have been some great and/or provocative opening lines to [...]

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