As an avid reader and writer, the ability to hook an audience from the start of a novel has always fascinated me.
Some great novels start with the introduction of an anonymous voice that you know will be your guide: “what’s it going to be then, eh?”, A Clockwork Orange. Some novels start with a blunt fact: “we rode to war in a taxi-cab”, The Bridge. Regardless, you are trapped for the next few hundred pages until you are finally relinquished, gratefully, by the author.
Here are ten of my favourite opening lines:
- Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
- There are only two kinds of people in our town. The stupid and the stuck. – Kami Garcia, Beautiful Creatures
- All this happened, more or less. – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
- Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Marley was dead, to begin with. – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
6. I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and something warm dripping down my chin. – James Frey, A Million Little Pieces
7. The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel. – William Gibson, Neuromancer
8. In the beginning the universe was created. – Douglas Adams, The Hitch hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
9. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
10. He found it almost physically painful to lie, which was unfortunate for someone who had spent most of his life as a spy. – Kurt Andersen, Human Intelligence