A Novel’s Opening Line

ImagePhoto Credit: Portrait of a Book

Today’s and tomorrow’s posts will be slightly related. I won’t reveal any more details now. You’ll have just have to see for yourself tomorrow.

Okay, so I’ve written posts about some of the more important aspects of books. Title. Character names. Well, today we get to talk about the first line of the book. It is often said that an author can lose a reader within those first few words, although I’ve never been one to believe in this notion. Let’s think about it. You’re reading your favorite author and the first sentence isn’t exactly the most enticing thing you’ve ever read. Are you going to close the book and throw it under your bed never to see the light of day again? No, of course not. Another scenario. You’re reading an author you’ve never read before and came across this book by any number of ways. You read the first sentence and it’s not necessarily to your liking. Are you going to close this book and vow never to read another book by this particular author again? No, you’re not. That would be stupid of you as a reader because you haven’t given the book or the author much chance at succeeding.

But since so much of the literary world seems to place so much importance upon the opening line I figured I could write a post about it. Now let’s get personal. Was I thinking about losing my reader by not writing a great first line? No. Did I place more importance upon the first line of my book than any other sentence? No. Am I a great writer? No. Wait, you tricked me! Anyway, the point that I’m trying to make is that the first line of your book is important, but let’s not pretend that it’ll be the end of the world if it’s not the most wonderful first sentence you’ve ever written.

The last point I’d like to make is that I’m not even sure I remember the first line of my book. So now I’m going to guess and then I’ll check to see how close I come. Sounds fun.


“I began pseudo dusting my desk that had accumulated no dust.”


I was close.

“With nothing better to do, I began dusting my desk that had accumulated no dust.”

So now I’m asking you both as a reader and as a writer, do you think greater importance should be placed upon the opening line of a book? Are there any first lines of any books that you know by memory? I have none. And feel free to criticize my opening line while you’re at it.