Each of us wants to craft a novel, short story, or article that engages a reader quickly. Sometimes the first sentence is a powerful hook. It’s a euphoric moment for a bibliophile when the beginning of a book grabs you so thoroughly that you become absorbed in the story almost without realizing it.
I complied a list of opening lines from novels which grabbed my attention and piqued my curiosity, compelling me to read more. I reconfigured this into a lesson plan for my homeschooled teens. They added some opening lines from other novels and wrote some of their own. The ones they wrote are interesting and, in some cases, seriously twisted.
1. “I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.” Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
2. “It was the day my grandmother exploded.” — The Crow Road by Iain Banks
3. “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. — Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
4. “His two girls are curled together like animals whose habit it is to sleep underground, in the smallest place possible.” — Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
5. Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figures on the étagère. — Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
6. “All children, except one, grow up.” Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
7. “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” — The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
8. “It was a pleasure to burn.” — Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
9. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” — The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
10. “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
11. “I’m pretty much fucked.” — The Martian by Andy Weir
12. I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. — The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
13. Each afternoon as I lie amid the odours of dryness and age I begin to think of the couple, and my excitement grows. — Baxter by Jessica Hamilton
14. When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs. Nugent. — The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
15. Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. — Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik
What would you add to the list?
Opening lines my teens wrote (now all that’s needed is the rest of the story). Yes, these are some seriously disturbed kids. They do me proud!:
- “So this is what happens after you die,” I mused, gazing into the seemingly endless hall of mirrors with no small amount of curiosity.
- Sex without handcuffs is a decidedly dull affair, but who asked me, a self-professed freak and pervert?
- Even while she tore the postman apart, feasting upon his innards, I still loved her.
- A week after I murdered my older brother with an ice pick, I was dragged, screaming and salivating, from his funeral in handcuffs.
- Nobody makes Goreplatter quite like Granny.
- I sipped from my delicious tea while I listened to the unbelievers burn.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?
- 5 Ways to Hook Your Readers by Janice Hardy
- The Secrets of Story Structure: The Hook by K.M. Weiland