Do You Have Any Favorite First Sentences? Send Them My Way in the Comments!

In my attempt to improve the first few pages of one novel, today, I had a fun foray with first sentences.  Instead of tearing my hair out and screaming madly because first sentences and pages are so difficult, I looked through numerous books on my shelves and read their first sentences.  I was shocked at how many books, both old and new, begin with the weather.  None of them were bad, mind you, but they weren’t particularly compelling, either.  Here is the one I thought was best (by a modern author):  “Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu” (Waiting, by Ha Jin).  The book, itself, depressed the heck out of me when I read it, but the first sentence is perfect because it sets the tone and subject and characters and creates a conundrum. 

Jane Austen, of course, always wrote hooks into her first sentences or first pages; she may have been the first master of the hook, so I have to mention her in this discussion.  And then I have to giggle at one of my favorite authors, John Mortimer, because the first sentence in my Rumpole Omnibus is an entire paragraph long–and I’m talking about an old-fashioned length paragraph that is dense with words.  Oh, my, what splendid clauses Mortimer is capable of.  Hats off to the man who created Rumpole and She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed!      

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10 comments

  1. I don't know any off hand but I do always read the first sentence of a book before I buy it. I love it when it sweeps me away!!!

  2. Yes, first sentences are an important selling tool. But, there are so many wildly popular books with mediocre firsts that it gives me hope!

  3. Thanks for your comment to Billy, it made me smile.
    I don't read many books, but I remember a movie that was set in the future and the narrator started out talking about the weather. I was trying to find it on youtube but no luck. Anyway it was a good example of what you were talking about, or it would have been, had I found it.

  4. My favorite first sentence comes from the book The Lovely Bones. Don't ask me to quote it but it was the best in my entire life!

  5. Texlahoma: eugenics really scares me. I hope that there aren't too many more people like Billy out there.

    Terri: I'll have to see if I can find it. I haven't read The Lovely Bones, but have thought about it.

    Old Geezer: Thanks for stopping by. I'll bet you know the first sentence of the Bible. You can't get any better than that. And, it doesn't start with the weather because there wasn't any!

  6. Here's a good one from the book I am currently reading: "When Guiseppe found the green violin, he did not think it would help him escape." -The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

    I actually found you on an Irish dance blog-I'm a dancer and a writer too!

  7. Hey, Christy! Glad you stopped by. I'm actually more of an Irish dance mom, though I used to dance with my children before my rascally son was born.

    Great first line.

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