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Memorable First Lines

“Memorable First Lines” by Joan Y. Edwards

You want the first page of your story to have a memorable first line. One great way to improve your ability to do this is by studying the first lines of at least 10 famous books and/or 10 of your favorite books. When the first lines captivate the reader, the rest of the work is part of the rest of the treasure.

Here are first lines from ten best-selling fiction books as listed on Amazon. The first two are current best sellers. The other 8 are classics:

    1. “I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.” Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.
    2. “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.” Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
    3. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times:” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
    4. “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do:” Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
    5. “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:” David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
    6. “There was once a very rich merchant, who had six children, three sons and three daughters; being a man of sense, he spared no cost for their education, but gave them all kinds of masters:” Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne Marie Le Prince De Beaumont.
    7. “Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress:” Middlemarch by George Eliot.
    8. “Mr. Hungerton, her father, really was the most tactless person upon earth – a fluffy, feathery, untidy cockatoo of a man, perfectly good-natured, but absolutely centered upon his own silly self:” The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  1. “Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worthwhile:” This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. “Like a sudden cloudburst the dormitory became a frenzy of sound:” The Witness  by Grace Livingston Hill.

Here are the first lines from ten of my personal fiction favorites listed simply as I thought of them:

  1. “Where’s Papa going with that ax? said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast:” Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.
  2. “Do you like green eggs and ham?” Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.
  3. “Once there was a tree:” The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
  4. One time away back years ago there was a boy named Jack:” The Jack Tales by Richard Chase.
  5. ” ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug:” Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
  6. “The pretty little Swiss town of Mayenfeld lies at the foot of a mountain range, whose grim rugged peaks tower high above the valley below:” Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
  7. “Hey Tom! Where were you last night?” How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.
  8. “My name is Junie B. Jones:” Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park.
  9. “There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever:” One for the Money.
  10. “Ok. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s only a Visa bill:” Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.

All of these are fiction books. I put the links to Amazon in case you wanted to read more of the first pages. Another time, if you like, I’ll list non-fiction books in a post. With them perhaps I’ll list the pitch or book descriptions. That probably sells them more than the first line in non-fiction. But I’ll check and see. It would be good to compare the first lines. What do you think?

What is your favorite fiction book? Why do you like it?

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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards