First/Opening Lines of Fiction Novels

The significance of first opening lines is crucial for fiction novels. As Stephen King has stated, “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this…It’s a quick introduction to the writer’s style, another thing good first sentences tend to do.

But for me, a good opening sentence really begins with voice. A novel’s voice is something like a singer’s – think of singers like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, who have no musical training but are instantly recognizable. An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection — a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing.”

Even though I’ve never read a Stephen King book to tell whether I like his voice, I posted his input because many in the writing industry admire his works and guidance regarding writing.

Today, I have collected first lines from authors, and asked them to explain why they believe it’s a good opening line based off the Writer’s Digest, 7 Ways to Create a Killer Opening Line for Your Novel.

1) Genre: Humor\Satire: “If you’ve never spent a quiet evening in a padded cell, you haven’t missed much. It’s really quite boring.” Conversations with Larry Xenomorph by Jay Cole

This fits nicely with the ‘Statement that serves as a frame’ category. The narrator is obviously in a padded cell, and yet, there’s no attitude of fear or stress. He’s bored with his circumstance. There must be a story behind this incarceration.

2) Genre: Erotic Fiction: “The forest exhaled a pungent odor only sunlight could subdue, but sunlight would not grace the wicked until this deed had been done.” The Mark by Arla Dahl

I spent an entire writing day working on the opening paragraph of THE MARK. I was going for mood and tone with the first line, and was imagining where my characters were, emotionally, before the book actually started. I’m hoping those first words set readers firmly in that same place.

3) Genre: Fantasy Romance: “They always scream.” No Place Like Home by Mysti Parker

This line is a statement of simple fact laced with significance. From the main villain’s POV, it demonstrates she has committed a scream-worthy crime more than once and may be rather bored with her prey. This villain longs for a challenge, which our heroes are willing to deliver.

4) Genre: Historical Romance: “I was twenty-one years old when I sold my baby.” Songbird by Julia Bell

This corresponds with Point 4 – Statement of Simple Fact laced with Significance. It’s the nub of the story and since the heroine is a widow with a young son, I hope it draws the reader in to thinking she’s about to sell her child.

5) Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy: “SOMEWHERE. The crystalline chamber opened and the male emerged from his rest cycle.” Sidereus Nuncius by Ethan Howard

This opening line is significant because it deal with the main character and his origins are shrouded in mystery. The fact that he wakes up in a crystalline chamber and referred to as “the male” seems unimportant at the time, but by the time the read gets to Book Three, this little statement will have major ramifications.

6) Genre: Science Fiction: “It was barely eight in the morning, and Professor Charles Ainsley Hawthorne was already having a bad day.” Tiamat’s Nest by Ian S. Bott

The opening sentence is a statement of simple fact that sums up Charles’s situation, and encapsulates not only the narrative but also the backstory leading up to it. At the same time, it introduces the main character and hints at conflict to come.

7) Genre: YA Fantasy: “He hated them.” Royal Deception by Denae Chrstine

This is a statement of simple fact, the second type of opening line described in Writer’s Digest. This line doesn’t bother telling the reader who “he” is, or even who “them” refers to. This first line merely encompasses someone’s motivations without going into all the cluttering details.

8) Genre: Psychological Women’s Fiction (with Erotic Content): “The breath of the passengers created a layer of condensation on the windows of the plane obscuring his view of the city.” The Sleeping Serpent by Luna Saint Claire

The sentence appears to be a statement of simple fact. After learning he is a sociopath, whose nature is concealed from his victims, the sentence becomes laced with significance. The condensation a metaphor that establishes mood.

9) Genre: Spiritual Science Fiction/Fantasy: “Ilo Sungila felt he could see all of war-torn Mozambique from the hilltop of his new agricultural supply store.” Seeking the Light of Justice by Dr. Barry Nadel

The first line opens with an authentic Bantu name. It tells us about the sorry history of the country; war and destruction. However, the sentence ends with hope, optimism, and courage. It fits the first principle : A statement of eternal principle. That principle is that there is always hope.

10) Genre: Historical Science Fiction: “Pallas Athene was in disgrace, but she felt that it was worth every gram of it for she had immortalized herself, starting over three thousand years before she was born.” Athene’s Prophecy by Ian J Miller

Reason I think it is good:  Pallas Athene is known as a Goddess, but this throws everything about the Greek mythology out the window and at the same time, it sets an obvious SF the story into the future.

11) Genre: Elfrotica: “Zing!” Breakers of the Code by CB Archer

My first line is a statement that is used to establish mood. Not only is a description of what is happening, an arrow taking flight, but it also sets the tone for the book. You are going to hear a lot of ‘Zingers’!

12) Genre: Action & Adventure: “I wake up in an unfamiliar place.” The Forest in the Mirror by Abigayl Fincel

The first line in my book is a simple fact that is also key to how the story progresses. With the opening paragraph, I aimed to convey just how lost the character is by a series of short, simple observations like this one.

13) Genre: Thriller: “The congregation extended out in all directions; each face basked in a wash of neon, every breath a vapor in the cold, December night.” The Day and The Hour by Presley Acuna

It works as an opener because it establishes a mood which will persist through much of the tale. A tension of discomfort against ceremony, tradition, superficial appearance masking the underlying thrum of darker pinnings.

14) Genre: Literary Fiction: “Six-year-old Lily dashed into the servants’ quarter of the stately mansion.” The Triumphant Life – A Story of Love and Courage by Jin-Chen Camilla Wang

This is a statement of simple fact that introduces the historical tragedy and personal tragedies that are to follow; tragedies that are triumphantly overcome through love and courage.

15) Genre: Literary Fiction: “God entered Freud’s consulting room.” Operation Cosmic Teapot by Dylan Callens

It’s a statement of simple fact and carries with it the weight of what God is about to endure.

16) Genre: Paranormal Romance: “The diaphanous fabric that clung to her waiflike form did little to negate the coldness of the cavernous chamber.” An Unexpected Bonding by Lilly Rayman

I believe I have used a statement to set the mood for the reader, allowing the reader to get a feel for my language and narrative, allowing the reader to feel my writing style immediately.

17) Genre: Historic, Contemporary & Paranormal Fiction: “Is she dying?” Lilyanna Thorne asked, a sense of dread tightening around her heart.” Ripples – Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore by BonSue Brandvik

Immediately, the mood is tense. The thought that “She” is in peril creates a sense of dread. Even before the reader learns who is in danger or why anyone would hold back vital information from the protagonist, the reader senses something bad is about to happen.

18) Genre: Western Police Procedural/Family Saga: “At least try to keep ‘im quiet! Can you do that for me?” The desk sergeant, Ben Ortega, raised both hands in frustration and gave up on the booking form.” Back to Santa Fe by W.T. Durand

This opening was chosen to simply set a mood of conflict in a modern setting in the Southwestern US.

19) Genre: Children’s Book: “About 3 months ago my dad got transfer to Missamari and his last date for reporting was 29th of June.” The 2 Days Struggle by Harshit Singh

It’s a statement of fact regarding my father’s transfer.

20) Genre: Historical Fiction: “The air carried a fetid odor and a fine ash fell over the camp.” Face of the Angel by Scott Skipper

A statement to establish mood, given that only the most uninformed reader would fail to know exactly what the odor and ash is.

21) Genre: Dark, Psychological Suspense Thriller: “Mental institutions don’t relieve the mind of misery, they only create more chaos where overcrowding exists.” Net Switch by Denise Baer

This opening line is a statement of simple fact laced with significance. The significance becomes relevant as the story progresses up until the end. It’s the key to unlocking the entire novel.

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Also, check out the First/Opening Lines of Novels on Pinterest. If any of these first lines captured your attention, please don’t hesitate to click on the title of the book to learn more, and possibly buy it in support of that author’s voice. These books cost less than a Grande Latte at Starbucks and are much more fulfilling.

Fiction and First Lines,
Baer Necessities

20 thoughts on “First/Opening Lines of Fiction Novels”

  1. This is a wonderful idea. I think the opening line (after the book cover) is the most important part of the story. I also believe that if you don’t catch your reader in the first chapter, you’ve lost them.

  2. Oh the AGONISING I’ve done over opening lines. I totally agree that they’re essential to set the tone and invite the reader into the story – and that’s a lot to expect of one wee sentence. These are some great examples to bear in mind – thanks!

  3. Thank you so much for featuring my “first line” #8 Psychological Women’s Fiction–The Sleeping Serpent. Your idea to feature first lines as a blog post was brilliant! I will share this post, your blog, and all your social links on my social media.

    1. Luna Saint Claire, I am so glad you wanted to participate. Much appreciation for your shares, and I’m touched that you think this feature was brilliant. It’s very nice of you to say.

  4. Such a lovely idea for a post. Plus I know simply must head on over to Amazon and find out all about Elfrotica. I’d add book blurbs into the all-important mix of capturing a reader’s interest as well.

  5. Opening lines are so important. Not just the first line, but the first paragraph, first page, first chapter. The job of each is to draw the reader to keep reading. This is a novel idea, Denise, thanks for hosting, and I will blog and link sometime soon.

  6. You’re right, first opening lines are just so important! For me, they really need to have a question in there and leave something unknown so that the reader wants to know that unknown – and that keeps them reading!

  7. This is a phenomenal post with incredibly compelling first lines that make me want to read these books. I know I have reworked my opening lines dozens of times to get a “just-right” feel, tone and rhythm. It’s one of the harder – and most rewarding – parts of writing. Funny thing, though…the first lines in this post sound so natural and flowing, as if writing them took no effort at all.

    1. Arla, You totally Rock! I think most authors take time with that first line. Like you, I try to set the tone for the rest of the book, and I hope I capture the feel for all my novels. Thank you for participating.

  8. A lot of fantastic examples here. We’re particular to the humor/satire padded cell one, but that’s just us. And really though, as humor writers, our goal is to have a first sentence that makes someone laugh (or even just smile, we’ll settle for that). I mean, isn’t that the whole point of the novel, anyway?

    I think one of our personal favorites is from our first novel: “It was a quiet, blissful Monday morning when Agnes Butterton crippled civilization.”

  9. Hi Denise .. I’ve come over from Ian (the Botanist) – what an interesting post … drawing people in, to want to read more by turning the future pages …

    #2 “Erotic Fiction: “The forest exhaled a pungent odor only sunlight could subdue, …” – sort of what I might expect from the genre – not sure about the rest!

    #21 “Dark, Psychological Suspense Thriller: “Mental institutions don’t relieve the mind of misery, they only create more chaos where overcrowding exists.” … this I wouldn’t like to read …

    #6 Ian’s own … poor Professor … lost the plot I think ..

    Cheers to you both – Hilary

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