Oct 1, 2012

Posted by in Question | 14 Comments

Question – What Are Some of the Best Opening Lines You’ve Read?

It must be pretty stressful to come up with that very first line when you are an author sitting down to write a new book.  That one little line can do so much to a reader.  Those few words can either grip them, leaving them wanting more.  A first line can also do the complete opposite and make a reader wonder if they made the right decision in purchasing the book.

I know I have read many amazing first lines but when I try to come up with the name of an author who consistently writes amazing openers, I immediately think of Jennifer Estep and her Elemental Assassin series.  From “My name is Gin, and I kill people” in the first book Spider’s Bite to “The bastards never would have gotten close to me if I hadn’t had the flu” in Venom to “Are you going to kill this guy?” in Tangled Threads, each and every book starts off with a great line that not only hooks you in right away but also gives you an idea of what the book is going to be like.  That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment for one little line.

Another author who works the first line well is Darynda Jones.  But with her Charley Davidson books (books about the Grim Reaper), it’s not necessarily the first ‘official’ line but the quote Darynda writes just before it.  First Grave on the Right opens with “Better to see dead than be dead”, Second Grave on the Left opens with “Grim reapers are to die for”, Third Grave Dead Ahead opens with “Death comes to those who wait.  And to those who don’t.  So either way…” and Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet will be opening with “Only two things in life are certain.  Guess which one I am.” when it releases October 30th.  These lines really set the tone for the book before the reader even has a chance to fully dive in.  And they are funny!

I know there are tons more but those are the ones I am going to share with you all today.  Now it’s your turn to share.  Tell me: What are some of the best opening lines you’ve read?

  1. The girl stood drenched in blood in the center of the graveyard. – Pretty When She Kills by Rhiannon Frater

    The course of his life had already been set–written on his soul as if chiseled in cold, hard stone–and that meant that the bodies would never quit coming. -Death Benefits by J.W. Becton

    Blood. There was so much blood, especially on the dead woman sprawled across her desk. – Demon Hunting in the Deep South by Lexi George

  2. Thank you for the mention, love! And, yes, yes, yes on Jennifer!!!! She is awesome!

  3. I was sold on Jaye Wells’s Read Headed Stepchild because of this opening line: “Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.”

  4. Also, it would be self serving, but I think the opening line in my own Keeping Secret is probably my favorite of any book I’ve written.

  5. “When a naked man shows up on your doorstep with a bear trap clamped around his ankle, it’s best just to do what he asks.”
    – How to flirt with a naked werewolf, by Molly Harper

  6. This is a great question, Julie. It really is – but I can’t go with just one line for most of these quotes. It’s really about the opening paragraph for me, so I’m going to answer with paragraphs. Hopefully that’s ok. : )

    So this quest has a lot of relevance for me because the opening pages of a book a huge part of what helps me decide if I’m going to read it. When choosing what to read I obsessively go through reviews, and I download the sample chapters from Amazon. If I don’t like what I see in those first few chapters, it’s highly unlikely I’ll read the book even if it got stellar reviews.

    You question made me think about what it is that grabs me, and makes me want to read more. I came to the conclusion that the things that capture my interest are stories that:

    Drop you right into the action
    Open with deep thoughts or philosophical ponderings
    Wow you with beautiful and poetic words
    Present a mystery you simply have to solve
    Shock you or make you laugh

    Here is a collection of quests from each of these categories. These are all books I knew I wanted to read from within the first few pages, if not the first line:

    Action

    Dying isn’t like living; it requires no effort at all. I just have to sit quiet and let it happen. But I can’t. Like a fish with a barbed hook caught in its mouth, I twist and pull, desperately fighting my way back to the anguished meat I left in the cockpit with Hit.

    This one is taken from Aftermath by Ann Aguirre. Ms. Aguirre really did a fantastic job with all of her Grimspace books. Each of them started with a bang, some big piece of action that left turning the pages, unable to put the book down.

    LOCKED IN DARKNESS that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.

    From Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder – I knew right away I had to read more of this book – this one offers mystery and the action – I immediately wanted to know why this girl was in prison getting ready to die, and why she was so tormented.

    Philosophy

    This is not a love story. It is my life, and as such, there is love, loss, war, death, and sacrifice. It’s about things that needed to be done and choices made. I regret nothing. It’s easy to say that. Harder to mean it. Sometimes I look back on the branching paths I took to wind up here, and I wonder if there was another road, an easier road, that ends somewhere else. Yet it all boils down to a promise.

    From Endgame by Ann Aguirre – another great opening to a Aguirre book.

    Hope strengthens. Fear kills.

    This one was taken from Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning. I loved the start of all of Moning’s Fever books. Unfortunately most don’t translate easily into single line quotes. For those that haven’t read the books (hopefully not many of you), they all opened with journal like entries from the main character, Mac. In these entries she pondered heavily philosophical ideas, and hinted at events in the upcoming book. In that sense these journal entries acted as foreshadowing, increasing suspense and piquing curiosity. They were so well done.

    Poetry

    Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark—in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight—but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.

    From Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Ms. Taylor is an amazing word smith. The poetry of her words and the beauty of the language in her books leaves me breathless. She’s also a very quirky author, with a unique view of the world. I knew I would love her book the second I read this opening paragraph, and I wasn’t wrong. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was easily one of my favorite books form last year.

    Mystery

    Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. Her hair flowed like honey and her eyes were blue as music. She grew up bright and beautiful, with deft fingers, a quick mind, and a charm that impressed everyone she met. Her parents adored her, her teachers praised her, and her schoolmates admired her many talents. Even the oddly shaped birthmark on her upper arm seemed like a sign of some great destiny. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her.

    From Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson. This book was just nuts. This girl wakes up in a mental institution, drugged. She’s told she killed someone, but she has no recollection of doing so. This book and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer both come to mind as novels that I read 100% because the mystery in the opening chapter was just so darned compelling. Both books were amazing.

    Shock and Laughter

    I wasn’t quite sure what category to put these under, but J.A. Saare was the first author that I read because her opening chapters shocked me and make me laugh:

    Rhiannon’s Law #27: When you’re working in a gentlemen’s club and one of your dancers takes off those heels, alert the big guns: an ass kicking is on the menu.Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between by J.A. Saare

    Rhiannon’s Law #22. You can’t lie to yourself, so don’t bother trying. Doing so only multiplies your douchebag level to the umpteenth power and confirms what others have been saying about you for years—that you are an idiot. Of course, I couldn’t fault those guilty of breaking Law #22 from time to time, as I was prone to do so myself. Like now, for instance.The Renfield Syndrome by J.A. Saare

    So there you have it – another long and wordy response from your truly.

    😀

    Jessica / Mithrendiel

  7. Redemption by Susannah Sandlin. Never tick off a starving vampire.

  8. Felicia – Ooo those are great ones!

    Darynda – 🙂

    Sierra – You have some amazing opening lines but I think you’re better suited to next week’s Question 😉 And I completely agree about Jaye Wells’ book.

    Desme – OMG Yes that is a great one!!!

    Jessica – You always come up with insanely great answers! I have heard that Ann comes up with some amazing openers and the ones you picked are proof of that. And you are right about the Fever books. Whoa…that opener from Ultraviolet!!! That was amazing! And we can’t forget Rhiannon. JA does have some great ones.

    Roger – lol love it!

  9. Basically any opener by Jim Butcher.

    “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” -BLOOD RITES

    “Life is hard. Dying’s easy.” -GHOST STORY

    “Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, the monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, has unique ideas regarding physical therapy.” -COLD DAYS

    Kevin Hearne, too, has good stuff:

    “There are many perks to living for twenty-one centuries, and foremost among them is bearing witness to the rare birth of genius. It invariably goes like this: Someone shrugs off the weight of his cultural traditions, ignores the baleful stares of authority, and does something his countrymen think to be completely batshit insane. Of those, Galileo was my personal favorite. Van Gogh comes in second, but he really was batshit insane.” -HOUNDED

    “Turns out that when you kill a god, people want to talk to you.” -HEXED

    “The best trick I ever pulled off was watching myself die.” -TRICKED

    G.T. Almasi has an interesting one:

    “Nothing pisses me off more than being shot at while I’m eating.” -BLADES OF WINTER

    And then there’s Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire):

    “Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot—in this case, my brother Shaun—deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.

  10. “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.”

    I love the first line from Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn – it sold me on the book, which was great all the way through!!

  11. From DB Reynolds’ HEART OF THE WOLF:
    “The angels wept, beautiful faces ravaged with grief, tears coursing down perfect cheeks to fall unheeded on the body cradled between them. Kathryn Avenger gazed up at the huge sculpture and wondered if even the angels could find it in them to weep today.”

  12. LOL you are too kind, Julie. 🙂 Now if only I could master proof reading before posting. I went back and re-read my post and noticed I used the word “quest” several times – once in place of “question” and once in place of “quotes.” WTF? haha. Obviously I needed more coffee on Monday.

    I loved the quotes you included from Jennifer too. Gin’s pragmatism and bluntness makes those books instant first chapter winners, and those first lines are just fantastic.

  13. Thanks for all the nice words about my first lines. I appreciate them. Darynda is a great author to be included with.

  14. Garrett – LOVE every one of the lines that you chose to share. It also reminds me that I really have to read a Jim Butcher book soon!

    Carolyn – That is a GREAT first line! lol

    Dot – Wow…that is so visual!

    Jessica – Very well said about Gin. You are absolutely right.

    Jennifer – 🙂

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