Sunday, 18 September 2011

Best opening lines of a novel... ever

I have been writing for more years than I care to remember. Mainly business writing - things like sales proposals, material for marketing collateral and web site content. I love writing.

However, I now have the opportunity to explore the world of fiction writing... and I can't wait to learn everything I can about it. I have completed my first novel and am working towards its publication. It will hopefully be on the shelves in time for the Christmas 2011 rush!

Of course, I love my book and I think the opening lines create enough interest to make people want to read on... obviously it would be a poor show if they didn't! But it made me wonder about the best opening lines ever... they say 'don't judge a book by its cover' but maybe it's OK to judge it by its first lines.

The editors of American Book Review selected what they consider the most memorable first lines of novels... 100 Best First Lines of Novels. OK, there are a lot of classics there but none that strike me as the 'best ever'. I would nevertheless have been very proud of - "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." It's so good that I now feel I must read the book from which that line comes; William Gibson's Neuromancer.

All in all, I think my favorite to date is from The Stranger by Camus - "My mother died today, or perhaps it was yesterday." You just have to read on after that.

I also very much liked how Terry Pratchett opened The Light Fantastic... "The sun rose slowly, as if it wasn't sure it was worth all the effort."

There are also some very special sentences in books which, had they been the first lines, would have been in contention to be the best in this particular competition e.g. Cathy Cash Spellman's novel An Excess of Love - "He was as guarded as a virgin, but infinitely more experienced."

And what about the worst opening lines ever? How about... how about we leave that for another time?


  1. interesting that you picked the stranger, one of my favorites and a powerful read. This question is often asked in chat rooms and many say the best first line is from Orwell's 1984.

  2. 1984 - It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

    I quite like it, but it make me think "24-hour clock... no big deal!"