What’s the best opening line for a novel? “Show-and-Tell Week” continues

The job of a book cover, of course, is to entice a person to pick up your book off the shelf and open it.

But once the book is opened, it’s all up to the first sentence to tantalize the reader. It is supposed to draw the reader in, and if the first line succeeds in its duty, the reader will be more likely to continue with the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter. Then, you’re off to the races!

A good opening line is succinct, interesting, and above all, makes the reader want to know more.

So what’s your favorite opening line?

I’ll start. This is the first line of Second Glance by Jodi Picoult:

Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or third.

That sure makes me want to read more! I want to find out how on earth that’s possible.

Post a comment below with your favorite opening line. It can even be your own if you wish to show off your own work. Post below!

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11 thoughts on “What’s the best opening line for a novel? “Show-and-Tell Week” continues

  1. “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.” – Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time
    What I really like about this line and the paragraph that follows is that it’s the same opening for each book – really gave the series a distinct flavor.

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  2. “The Man In Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. ”
    From Stephen King’s ‘The Gunslinger.’ The opening to the amazing Dark Tower saga gives you the premise of the whole book in those few words. I need to know why he’s fleeing and who is chasing him.

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  3. It is a complex story, yet simple, and one I should have told a long time ago. I kept it to myself all this time; because I thought I was protecting all those involved. Now, there is no one left to protect, only me!

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  4. Okay, this is a really tough question!! It would probably be a tie between these two though, if I HAD to choose:
    “The night Kat Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn’t angry or drunk. She was desperate.” The first lines of This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. I mean, when the book begins with arson, I have to know more.
    “Yeah, I know. You guys are going to read about how I died in agony, and you’re going be like, ‘Wow! That sounds cool, Magnus! Can I die in agony too?'” Opening lines of The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan. When I read it, I was like, wait, how can the hero be DEAD?! What the heck?? Next thing I knew I’d read the first chapter.
    Of my own, I do have one I kind of like, but won’t include it with the best ones (because who can hold a candle to Rick Riordan not me): “My life had its share of bad decisions, but the worst was when an old lady terrorist asked me to keep a bomb for her and I said yes. And it was downhill from there.” That is the beginning of an urban fantasy called Banshee Queen, about an overly imaginative bookworm who gets sucked into a secret magical war after agreeing to be a courier for an artifact, not realizing what she’s getting into. (I got to poke fun at a lot of typical books and heroes in this one, which was fun)

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  5. “I had never seen so many white coats in my little room.”
    This is from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, my favorite book and a nonfiction story of a man who is stuck in a hospital for the rest of his life after a seemingly random incident. What I love about this line is that it is quite likely impossible to communicate what exactly this sentence has to say in fewer words. You see, Jean-Dominique Bauby was only able to move a single eyelid, and he wrote the book by blinking a certain number of times to indicate a letter. A single paragraph usually took an entire day to write. You can see the importance of concise sentence structure for someone like Bauby, and how its expressed right from the start.
    “I had never seen so many” indicates that this character has a familiarity with the thing he is seeing, but there are far more now. Combine that with “my little room.” and these are words that immediately tell you that this person has been hospitalized for a long time, and that perhaps something very important or dangerous has happened that has brought out a lot more white coats. It’s quick, it’s subtly expository, it’s not overly dramatic, and in the context of the person who wrote it it’s a perfect preparation for the kind of short, information-packed sentences he adopts. What it doesn’t tell you is how gorgeous Bauby’s imagery gets with his enforced minimalist style. That is a surprise for later. 😉

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  6. She jumped in her car and raced down the road. Even the blinding rain that pounded against her windshield couldn’t stop her from getting to him. He, who dried her tears, kept her warm, found her heart and knocked down her walls. She needed him and he needed her just as much.

    Sorry more than a one liner but you get the drift. It’s to an upcoming novel I’m going to write when I finish this one thy I’m currently working on.

    Tiffany S. Doran

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  7. The city was silently bloating in the hot sun, rotting like the thousands of bodies that lay where they had fallen in street battles. From “A Voice in the Wind” by Francine Rivers, the first book in her Mark of the Lion series. I want to know why the bodies were left so long that they bloated. I want to know the reason for the battles. I have read this book so many times, and will no doubt read it yet again. Her characters are vibrant; you feel that you know them and understand them. You learn about the culture of decadent anient Rome and so much more. She’s my favorite author.

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