What is your favorite first line?

I enjoy analyzing first lines. They open doors to new worlds. They introduce characters. They establish narrators. They set the time and tone of the story. Here are just a few of my favorites.


“This is a story a young girl gathers in a car during the early hours of the morning.”

—Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”

—Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

—Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“Shadow had done three years in prison.”

—Neil Gaiman, American Gods

“First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl name Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey.”

—Tim O’Brien, The Thing They Carried

“You’ll probably think I’m making a lot of this up just to make me sound better than I really am or smarter or even luckier but I’m not.”

—Russell Banks, Rule of the Bone

“I’m pretty much fucked.”

—Andy Weir, The Martian

“When Lauren was a small girl, she would stand in the Kansan fields and call the cats.”

—Steve Erickson, Days Between Stations

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

—J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Last, but not least…

“For the most wild yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.”

—Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat

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