First Lines

First lines can tell a lot about a story – its tone, structure, mood, theme.  They can also tell a lot about the author – whether they favor the character or plot-driven, whether they lean toward brevity and sleekness in their writing or love descriptive phrases.

What should a first line do?  Many say that the first line of a novel should be evocative of the book to follow.  It should grab the reader and raise important, interesting questions.  Some say the first line should do all of these things and more, maybe even contain a one-word promise to the reader.

I’m looking at first lines from some of my completed novels/WIPs:

THE CHICKEN TREE (about a dorky kid who’s afraid of everything):  Two things happened on the morning of the first day of fifth grade, and both of them stunk.

POOF or HOW TO SCREW UP YOUR LIFE WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (about a smart girl trying to fit in):  Let’s get one thing straight:  I’m not into the normal high school stuff; I, Danni Aurora Stevens, have plans for the afterlife, after the mind-numbing, personality-stifling, pseudo-maturing high school experience. 

Untitled (about a sixteen-year-old boy who accidentally kills his father):  Today the world is alive.

And I’m wondering if they’re doing their job. 

What about you?  How are your first lines coming?   


The site below offers helpful information about first lines.  (It’s an older post but still contains some great information):


Check out this site to take a quiz on famous first lines from favorite children’s books:

How did you do?

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4 Responses to First Lines

  1. Brianna says:

    Great article! And the quiz was fun too! (I was surprised to do better with the older kids books than the younger ones, but blanked on a couple of names. How could Hatchet slip out of my head? : o )

    I enjoyed your first lines. Would love to see what comes next!

    Now to go back and evaluate my own efforts…


  2. skvanzandt says:

    Hi Brianna,

    Thanks for your comments. I actually did better on the older children’s books, too, but missed the last two in that section. Didn’t remember that line from Peter Pan or the one M. L’Engle used “It was a dark and stormy night…” 🙂


  3. Christy says:

    I like your first lines!

    Thanks for the links, I’ll have to check them out!



  4. KIm says:

    Love this post. Thanks for sharing the links. I did a first line trivia game with my creative writing class. We had so much fun!


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