First Lines of Novels

Thursday, November 17, 2011

In my quest to find some inspiration (and get a little distraction) for NaNoWriMo, I stumbled upon this site that lists the Top 100 First Lines of Novels.

I write backwards, in a way. I have action and dialogue in my head that I know, and I kind of build from there. Beginnings and descriptions always come later, and a Title is almost always the last thing I ever think of. Even though I do have one up on my NaNo profile, it's a lie - I have no idea what it'll actually be titled, if and when ever I finish this thing.

So, safe to say, I do not have a first line of a novel yet. Of course I literally have one - the first one of mine is: "Chandler Davis glanced behind her, taking a quick peek over her shoulder: Was he looking?" Or, if you don't count my pre-write towards my NaNo novel, my first line is: "Jasmine was wholly unprepared for what happened when she walked into her first period AP Government class ten minutes after the bell: thunderous applause broke out across the entire 40-student room." Neither are very...ground breaking, nor do I think they amount to the content of my writing - which is why I find first sentences to be so interesting.

So, I present to you: Top 10 Best First Lines of Novels (according to this site and the American Book Review.)

1. Call me Ishmael. (Hermin Melville, Moby Dick)

2. 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).

3. A screaming comes across the sky. (Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. (Gabriel Garcia Márque, One Hundred Years of Solitude)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. (Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's from serve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. (James Joyce, Finnegans Wake)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (George Orwell, 1984)

9. 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)

10. I am an invisible man. (Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man)

Intriguing, right? What do you think? Agree? Disagree? What should be on the list to you?

PS. Current NaNoWriMo word count: 43,496 (!!!)


Vivian November 21, 2011 at 1:34 PM  

The first line in One Hundred Years of Solitude is definitely one of my favorite first lines in a novel ever.

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I'm fairly obsessed with penguins, Peanuts (the comic), and the TV show Friends. Parentheses may or may not be (over)used in this blog, and books will pretty much be the only thing I ever talk about because they are my One True Love.


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