First Lines That Make You Read On

first lines

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”

That is the first line in Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book’. Bloody good, isn’t it? Possibly my favourite first line in a novel. Well, my favourite that I can remember, my memory is terrible, now back to this article about Batman. Ha, I dones’ a joke!

How about another slice of Mr G:

“The Time Lords built a prison.”

Okay, so as a big Doctor Who fan I may be a little biased as that’s from his pretty ace Who short, ‘Nothing O’Clock’, but that line is so simple and yet so intriguing that I’m IN. I want to know more. Why have they built this prison? For who? Or, perhaps, for what

Okay, enough Gaiman bottom kissing, how about an off-quoted example from another master, Mr Stephen King:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”

Again, it’s simple, yet evocative, it makes you want to know more.

First lines are important to me, they should DO something to me as I read. This is your chance to grab me and have me on board immediately. I want to be surprised, or intrigued, or pulled into a strange world; they have to MAKE you read on. MAKE you read the next line. And the next. And the next. And before you know it, you’re on to chapter two and you’re going to keep going.

I thought I’d share a first line of my own:

“Dorothy was chosen to die when she was barely a full day old.”

That’s from a serial novel I’m working on at the moment. It was the very first idea, the first line, that popped into my head and the rest of story sprang from it. As with the other examples, I like to think it’s simple yet intriguing. Oh go on, here’s another, this time from a novel (well… it’s currently 50,000 words…):

“Billy was awoken in the dead of night by somebody calling his name.”

Again, (hopefully) simple yet intriguing. Maybe even a little unnerving..?

I love a good first line, and in my own work I feel like I NEED one before I can really carry on. It’s like finding a solid foundation to sit the rest on.

So what do you think of the ones I’ve chosen? Do you have any faves? Even faves you’ve written yourself..?


4 thoughts on “First Lines That Make You Read On”

  1. I like your ‘Dorothy was chosen to die when she was barely a full day old.’, would definitely read.
    Fav one is probably ‘Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. One sentence in and I already loved it.

      1. WHAT????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How is that even possible? I am genuinely shocked.
        You have to read it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If it’s any indication, I harass friends about reading HP as much as watching DW… 😉

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