First lines in literature

I entered a pitch slam competition recently where 3 judges each read your work and gave feedback on your 35-word pitch and the first page of your novel.  One of these judges suggested I add a prologue to place the reader right in the middle of the intrigue and action, right from the start.  So, after having had no agents rushing up to me, so far, demanding that I allow them to represent me, I’ve decided to take their advise and add a prologue to The Quadrants.

In The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, the prologue takes place around the time of the dramatic events that occurred when the main character was a baby.  And in Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children, the prologue is just a brief overview of the MC’s relationship with his grandfather and his telling of unusual tales.

Also, I have had it pointed out to me this week, the importance of an awesome first line.  So I’ve decided to try to come up with one of these too.

Here are some first lines from famous books:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)


“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)



“Call me Ishmael.”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)



“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.”

A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens (1859)



“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy (1877)



“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (1937)

“I am an invisible man.”
Invisible man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

“It was a dark and stormy night.”
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)


“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)


“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (1997)



“There once was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.”

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999)


He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.”

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (2009)



“There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.”

Divergent by Veronica Roth (2011)



“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (2011)



“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)



I really like the one from Stardust, Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina.  I’ll post what I come up with soon.




About Rohsaan McInnes

I am an aspiring author and this blog will take you along on my journey to getting published. I live in Victoria, Australia, in a seaside town where you can walk to the main street and can hear nothing but the waves at night (plus someone's cockatoo 2 or 3 blocks over-which incidentally, I like). Oh, and did I mention I have four children. :-)
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3 Responses to First lines in literature

  1. Mia says:

    WOW!!!!! These gave me goosbumps and I just wanted to read all of them again! Stardust, A Tale of Two Cities, and Pride and Prejudice. It’s just a ‘yes!’. And having some insider knowledge, another certain writer’s first line is pretty darn good too 😉 I can’t wait for the ‘waiting’ to end!


  2. Mia says:

    Oh, and actually Miss Peregrine as well!


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