First Lines That Worked!


Last week I posted on First Line Don’ts. To capture the flip-side of what works in a novel’s first line, I have listed several opening sentences of popular, and relatively recent, YA novels.

The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.Goving Bovine by Libba Bray (Granted, this reference a past event, but really, don’t ya wanna read more?)

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

It was funny. At a time like this, wasn’t I supposed to be thinking serious thoughts of eternity, and the afterlife, and all that? As I glanced around me at the small groups of people huddled around the room, it seemed like that’s what they were all thinking about. Each somber face reflected their pious thoughts, but all I could think about was the hair-dyeing incident.The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Moonlight has special powers. Even in Beverly Hills, where everything sparkles whether it’s real or fake, there’s something magic about that big full moon. It can make you crazy, take a risk you’d never consider in the daylight, or even fall completely head over heels. Moonlight can totally change your life. And it all starts so simply.Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis

It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache. The school bus wheezes to my corner. The door opens and I step up. I am the first pickup of the day. The driver pulls from the curb while I stand in the aisle. Where to sit? I’ve never been a backseat wastecase. If I sit in the middle, a stranger could sit next to me. If I sit in the front, it will make me look like a little kid, but I figure it’s the best chance I have to make eye contact with one of my friends, if any of them have decided to talk to me yet.Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

All right, folks. What do you think? What about these opening sentences makes them work?

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12 comments on “First Lines That Worked!

  1. I love all of these. And I think the most important ingredient in every one of these first lines is the: what is going to happen factor. They all make me wonder. They all make me get excited about what is going to happen next. I’m parched. So much so, that I will buy the book to quench my thirst.

    Wonderful post. Openings are not my strong suit. I am ready to query and still wondering about my opening.

    Hmmm, an idea flashes into my mind. Post writers openings and then commenters can have their say about what is right and what is wrong. Kinda like Miss Snarks first victim on a smaller scale. =)

    • lbdiamond says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Robyn! I agree. These openers pull you in so you have to keep reading.

      Great idea about posting openers for critique! 🙂

  2. Speak and The Hunger Games. Those openings drag you in whether you want to read or not.

  3. Nisa says:

    Wonderful post! I need to read several of the books on this list still. I.Need.More.time!

  4. Lynn Rush says:

    HI! Out of all of them, I liked, “The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.” the best. The rest didn’t grab me much, but this one did. It made me smile, and then made me wonder, “Holy crap, what happened at Disney World?”

    Great post.

  5. lbdiamond says:

    Bethany–I agree!
    Nisa–I need to read more too. My “to be read” pile keeps getting taller and taller, LOL!
    Lynn–I had to find out what happened at Disney World too! 🙂

  6. Emily Ann says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this post!

    Well, they definitely all leave you wondering, and that’s the best thing a writer can ask for. It’s hard to express how important that is. Especially for first-time writers. People seem to be willing to give established authors a chance, even if they’re opening line is a little flat.
    But first-time writers are not afforded much leeway.

  7. Danyelle says:

    Great choices. What makes them good for me is their voices. For me, the characters make the story, and these characters all have great voices that make me want to come along with them for the ride. 🙂

  8. Cheree says:

    I absolutely loved Speak, that line was definitely a catchy way to start. I believe that if you don’t have something that catches the readers attention at the beginning, then you’ve pretty much lost them for the rest of the story.

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