First Lines

There is a mini-cult of first lines among us writers. The first line is sort of like the lobby of the book: the first thing you see, coloring all subsequent impressions. It’s one place where you’re truly allowed to show off.

So we writers like to geek out on first lines. We get all excited about collecting and trading them, having top-ten lists and all-time faves. We even reveal our chapter first lines in advance as tiny spoilers.

As many people have spotted, Uglies, which begins:

The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

pays homage to the opening of William Gibson’s Neuromancer:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

I bring this up now because of this article on io9 discussing great science fiction first lines. It’s cool to read all these lines all together, and of course it doesn’t hurt that they include my adult novel, The Risen Empire, which opens with:

The five small craft passed from shadow, emerging with the suddenness of coins thrown into sunlight.

Oddly, io9 calls this line “a little adjective-heavy.” Dudes, it only has one adjective, the word “small”!

So for the sake of deep analysis, here are all my YA novel first lines:

The Uglies Series
“The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”

“Getting dressed was always the hardest part of the afternoon.”

“The six hoverboards slipped among the trees with the lightning grace of playing cards thrown flat and spinning.”

“Moggle,” Aya whispered. “You awake?”

Midnighters Series
The Secret Hour
“The halls of Bixby High were always hideously bright on the first day of school.”

Touching Darkness
“At last, everything was sorted out.”

Blue Noon
“Bixby High’s late bell shrieked in the distance, like something wounded and ready to be cut from the herd.”

The New York Trilogy
So Yesterday
“We are all around you.”

“After a year of hunting, I finally caught up with Sarah.”

The Last Days
“I think New York was leaking.”

Soon I’m going to expand on this post, and talk about why I started books with these lines. In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear from you about them

Plus: What are your favorite first lines? Pick any novel you want, except mine!

568 thoughts on “First Lines

  1. Eragon by Paolini… first line… “Wind howled through th night, carrying a scent that would change th world.”

  2. From The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Douglas Adams= made of awesome)

    ”It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, ‘as pretty as an airport.’ ”

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  4. Must admit the first line of UGLIES is my all time most-hated. That said, it was definitely effective as it snagged my attention. And what a great book it is.

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  6. My favorite first line is from “Jeremy Fink andthe Meaning of Life”. It is:
    My sweat smells like peanut butter”

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  11. The Neuromancer first line has been a favorite for a long time. Also, the first line of Feed: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

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