First impressions can be significant.
That first meeting with someone, your first taste of Brussels sprouts or reading the first line of a book–we get an instant, often lasting, impression.
“A man’s look is the work of years; it is stamped on his countenance by the events of his whole life, nay, more, by the hand of nature, and it is not to be got rid of easily.” —William Hazlitt
I guess it’s kind of like the imprinting phenomenon for the wolves in the Twilight series, they are forever branded once they experience their love at first sight moment (although when it happens to Jacob in Breaking Dawn, it’s a bit bizarre).
But the best first lines not only impress, they offer a glimpse into the entire story to come.
“The boy who lived.”
–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
“It was a pleasure to burn.”
–Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
–Feed by M.T. Anderson
“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”
–Holes by Louis Sachar
The best first lines make the reader curious, instantly pulling you further into the story.
“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
–The Crow Road by Iian Banks
“The winds in Washokey make people go crazy.”
–Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
“Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.”
–A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz
Sometimes the best first line tells you so much about the main character.
“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
–Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Dicamillo
“It was fun at first, playing house.”
–Love, Aubrey Suzanne LaFleur
Or they simply inspire.
“So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.”
—Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
First lines are special, crucial to both reader and writer, because they often determine the success of the rest of the story.
“He who therefore fails to please in his salutation and address is at once rejected, and never obtains an opportunity of showing his latest excellences or essential qualities.”–Samuel Johnson
What is your impression on the first line? Do you have a favorite story opening?