Other Favorite First Lines

>> Monday, March 15, 2010

And, yes, for completeness as I redo Relax Max' exercise from his blog (instead of answering Phyl's excellent question which I will get to tomorrow), here are more first lines from favorites that aren't necessarily classics and aren't SF/Fantasy. Wanna guess?

  1. A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux.
  2. Ho Chi Minh City in the summer.
  3. When Mary Lennox was born, no one really wanted her.
  4. The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they didn't make landfall in three days they would all be dead. [I never before noticed that one of my favorite books of all times starts with a run-on].
  5. The primroses were over.
  6. Millions upon millions of years ago, when the continents were already formed and principal features of the earth had been decided, there existed, then as now, one aspect of the world that dwarfed all others.
  7. The trawler plunged into the angry swells of the dark, furious sea like an awkward animal trying desperately to break out of an impenetrable swamp.
  8. Will Graham sat Crawford down at a picnic table between the house and the ocean and gave him a glass of iced tea.
  9. Summer of 2059 was a mean and murderous bitch who showed no sign of lightening her mood.
  10. "And by the way," said Mr. Hankin, arresting Miss Rossiter as she rose to go, "there is a new copy-writer coming in today."
And here's a bonus, not a novel but a great book anyway...
  • As I crawled into bed and put my arm around Helen it occurred to me, not for the first time, that there are few pleasures in this world to compare with snuggling up to a nice woman when you are half frozen.
I've done "classics" on Rockets and Dragons and science fiction/fantasy on Rocket Scientist.


  • Roy

    The only one I recognize is #4, which is the opening line in Shogun. And di you know that John Blackthorne was based on a real person, one Will Adams, who was the English pilot of a Dutch boat that grounded in Japan? Yup, Will really was the first Englishman to arrive in Japan, and he really did manage to broker a trade relationship between Queen Elizabeth ! and the Tokugawa shogunate. Heh, heh! Yeah, i really am that much of a history geek.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I did, in fact, know that, Roy. I LOVED Shogun and read it voraciously. I had a huge interest in Japanese history as a result that spilled over into China and India afterwards.

  • The Mother

    None. I know NONE.


    I will point out that, although #2 is a sentence fragment, #4 is not technically a run-on sentence, since it is properly configured (with conjunctions between the statements).

    There are some paragraph (dare I say page) length sentences in Faulkner that are not run-ons, since they are impeccably punctuated. Just really, really (really) long.

  • Stephanie Barr

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Oh, the Mother, I've written a 270 word sentence that floored my teacher because it wasn't a run-on, was in fact a mixture of phrases and clauses. Gotta love those compound complex sentences. When I was going to high school, in the dark ages, sentences were limited to a single "and" between predicate clauses and, preferably, two predicate clauses.

    Admittedly, though, grammar was ages ago and grammar is not a static topic.

    There were far more sentence fragments in my first lines than run-ons, admittedly.

    I should also add that, though these all count as favorite books, I don't think I could have named all but the bonus based on that first line. OK, maybe 1, 3, 6, & 8, mostly because of names I'd recognize.

    I'm surprised how little the first line of a book matters to me.

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