When you first introduce yourself to someone, you usually just say ‘Hi, I’m (insert your name here)’, right?
But books are different. They have to have an opening sentence. Something that grabs you, that makes you curious, that compels you to read on, my friend, until the wee hours of the morning!
This week’s writing challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog was to write a single opening sentence. So I participated. Here’s mine:
Ever since the start of the zombie apocalypse two things have been entirely erased from the top of my priority list: brushing my teeth and wearing clean underwear – after all, resistance is futile.
– Meh. To be honest, it’s nothing special. I should’ve put down the opening sentence to the book I just finished writing a few months ago (that i haven’t started editing yet!) that is in a very, very rough draft. That opening line is: Anise just couldn’t do it, she couldn’t stand and watch the flames as the acrid stink of burning hair filled the air. (it’s a follow-up novel to my 2 steampunk collection volumes I have available).
So I thought I’d take a look at opening sentences of famous novels, and pick 20 of the ones I like the most :).
1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
2. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859).
3. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877).
4. You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
5. All children, except one, grow up – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan (1902).
6. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin – Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis(1915).
7. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937).
8. It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen – George Orwell, 1984 (1949).
9. When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyfirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954).
10. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar(1963).
11. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997).
12. First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s how I usually see things.
Or at least, how I try.
*** HERE IS A SMALL FACT ***
You are going to die.
– Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (2006).
13.All this happened, more or less – Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five
14. Call Me Ishmael – Herman Melville, Moby Dick
15. You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
16. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. – C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
17. A screaming comes across the sky – Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
18.Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. – Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
19. No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water – H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
20. Marley was dead, to begin with. – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol