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

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

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

Extras
“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.”

Peeps
“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. um from wat i c there r many interesting ways to start a story from all the books i read the way the uglies started was pretty confusing since i was tryin to make sense of wat point in time the book was written. i never read the back becuz i feel it gives away half the book but thats just me. honestly to get through the uglies was quite an effort cuz wen i started readin it was a bore to me n i stopped half way n picked it up later on. wen i finally finished i felt mad cuz the story wasn’t over n i just couldn’t wait till the next book wasn’t released yet i look online 4 it but the same then i saw i needed to read 2 more books to finsh the story n i was like damn money money i barely have lol….

    but point is i like the story’s theme so i bought the book but from the beginnin it was hard stickin to book. but i fell 4 it once i got passed the middle 🙂

  2. *BEWARE POST CONTAINS MANY BREAKING DAWN SPOILERS*

    i agree about breaking dawn, but I LOVED it esspecially the ending, but come on, no epic battle with the Volturi, what up with that? i think kate should have kicked Janes but and given her a taste of her own medicine. i LOVE nessie and even though it was quiet fairy-tailish I LOVED IT (and kinda hated it too, but LOVED it way more)

  3. I get what your saying. Its like she knew she had to end the series so she made everything perfect and o-so jolly. but i guess that was how i wanted it to turn out so…haha.

  4. i was refering to if more of a main character died…like one of the Cullens or something…it would have been really good if either Bella or Edward died because that would have been more depressing…i like depressing books…

  5. No I think it would have been better if Seth or Charlie had died. Then it would have been sad enough to be depressing without making it have no happy ending at all.

  6. i was glad too Bran-la! i would have been p.o.ed if it would have ended badly or someone that was important died. after everything they have been through they deserve a happily ever after.

  7. yeah charile would have been the perfect character to kill off… if seth had died, war would have broken out and Bella would have lost Edward or Jacob

  8. i don’t really like sad books, i think the ending was perfect as it was. i wanted to reread it but my thought that i read to much so she took away all my Twilight books and Scott Westerfeld books (at least I got to finish BD first) but I am still REALLY mad
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    PS would you rather be Bella Cullen or Tally Youngblood?

  9. to Andrea-la: lucky you I’m NOT ALOUD TO GET BOGUS TO BUBBLY UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I am so mad, I hope my mom changes her mind, don’t you think thats ao unfair? Its just a book, its not like I’m obsessed with TV or something! I am so mad. she took away ALL my favorite books that I paid for!!

  10. Except that one time when my mom hid all my Harry Potter books because she thought I was “too obsessed”…I found them and continued reading…But she was surprised that I noticed that a couple books were missing…lol. I keep track of such things.

  11. Id rather be Bella Cullen. Its kind of like my life long dream to fall in love and have kids so….yeah. And, hello, Edward is like the best guy ever! Why cant all guys be like Edward? Life can be so unfortunate sometimes. *sigh* Okay well i dont no what i am going to do but im gonna go do something. Like write maybe.

  12. I like David more than I like Edward.. I was totally team Jacob. So I’d rather be Tally Youngblood…

  13. **POST CONTAINS BREAKING DAWN SPOILERS**
    tomorrow I’m going book hunting (if my mom knew I WOULD BE DEAD) she thinks i’m obsessed (I am but thats beside the point) I liked Zane and David (same with Jaciob and Edward so I’m glad everyone is happy, though imprinting is weird, I would rather be Bella she now has the perfect life and family

  14. With the movie…no idea.

    Anyways, I loved Breaking Dawn, but there were a few things that I might have changed…((SPOILER ALERT!!)) I agree that the ending was a bit TOO happy, and that Bella got everything that she wanted, and I was disappointed at the end with the Volturi. I wanted a battle!! Meyer had been building the suspense up, and all our excitement, and then she just washed it away?!?! That’s annoying…I wanted them to fight! Plus, I wanted Kate to give Jane a taste of her own medicine. That would have been awesome!!

    I guess it did make sense that Bella wasn’t affected like normal newborns should. Think about it; she’s probably the first ever vampire that KNEW they were going to become a vampire BEFORE they did; and she’s probably the first who actually wanted to and decided to become one by their own choice. Not only that, but she had months and months to prepare herself…so it makes sense that she was immune to the newborn craze.

    I LOVE Renesmee!! She’s SO cute!! But I hate the nickname Nessie. It sounds like something you’d name your dog. I thought that Bella betrayed us all when she gave in and started calling Renesmee “Nessie” at the end. Grr! Stupid Jacob for coming up with that nickname. Ah well.

    I thought it was freaky that Jacob imprinted on Renesmee. I mean, she’s Bella’s DAUGHTER! *shudders* It just feels weird, and I don’t like how Jacob was spending more time with her than her own mother could. Her own mother! Also, he seemed to think he had more of a claim on Renesmee than Bella or Edward. Her parents, for crying out loud! You’ll get plenty of time to be with your imprint later, when she grows up, but this is her childhood- give it to the parents! Plus it seems a bit creepy for Jacob to kiss the daughter of someone he kissed and had feelings towards. Ergh.

    But I thought that Breaking Dawn was really good overall…yes, there were times where I wanted to throw it in the toilet (I was SO confused and mad when part one ended and then it switched to Jacob’s view- I was like, “WHAT?? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON AND NOW YOU’RE GOING TO COMPLETELY MOVE ON AND IGNORE EVERYTHING??”) but I got over that…so it rocked. xD

  15. *** POST CONTAINS BREAKING DAWN SPOILERS***
    I agree, when it switched from part 1 to part 2 I was like, what the heck, whats happening, is she pregnant? but it was fawsome

  16. Psh. I don’t know if this has been said yet or not (too many posts to read), but I think we ALL know what the greatest opening line ever is.

    “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
    -The Gun Slinger, Stephen King

    Perhaps it’s not quite as impressive if you do not know the history behind the line (which is actually rather interesting).

    Some of my other favorite opening lines are:

    “I think I was a nice person before my mom died.”
    -Premonitions, Jude Watson

    “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”
    -The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket.

    “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
    -The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

    “In the last days of Narnia, far up to the west beyong Lantern Waste and close beside the great waterfall, there lived an ape.”
    -The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

    “‘The end came quickly, and there wasn’t any pain.'”
    -Elsewhere, Gabrielle Zevin

    “Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”
    -Eragon, Christopher Paolini

    “The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.”
    -Eldest, Christopher Paolini

    “The gunman is useless.”
    -I am the Messenger, Markus Zusak

  17. hey, Scott-la WE NEED A NEW POST PLEASE, this one has too many comments we need a fresh start.
    i thought of several songs that remind me of the Uglies series if you really listen to the words:
    1. Bubbly by Colbie Caillat (this is Tally and Zane’s song)
    2. Pocketful of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfeild (this is Tally and David’s, but esspecially Tally’s) song
    3. Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis (also reminds me of Tally)

  18. I thought about songs for Twight;
    1.Our Song by Taylor Swift (Bella and Edward’s song)
    2. Teardrops on my guitar (the mood is the same as Jacob’s in Eclipse/beginning of BD

  19. It REALLY bugged me when in Breaking Dawn it switched to Jaccob’s perspective…I really wanted to throw the book at the wall…except that 1) my wall is already mad at me and 2) it was in the middle of the night and I would of woken someone up. Otherwise I would have TOTALLY thrown the book at the wall…or something…

  20. Breaking Dawn was brilliantly written. I can see why some

    ****SPOILER ALERT*****

    people hated the break to Jacob’s perspective… but I think it was very interesting…. Plus it was awesome to be with Jacob while Bella was pregnant and when he imprints with Renesmee 😀 Priceless. It was a beautiful story… I can’t wait to see Twilight from Edward’s perspective–Midnight Sun.

    *****END — Rest spoiler free****

    I wanted to know what’s up with the Uglies movie…. I don’t want to see Davis Entertainment do it though, they botched up Eragon…. Plus it says 2008… well it’s almost over and I can’t even find a cast list… so I doubt it will be 2008.

    Anyway, great books Scott… I just picked up Last Days today…. belated but still.

    Happy writing,

    Rose-sa

  21. oh and the topic at hand.. right… I think the best first line second to Uglies would be… what Samy said:

    “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie”
    -The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

  22. i was mad at first too, when BD switched to Jacob’s perspective. but by the end of book two i liked it and was glad that she switched it.

    there were a lot of funny parts in BD too… like when Bella woke up in feathers! lol. that part made me laugh.

    one thing about BD is that it gives you horrible insomnia. i’ve been done with it since Monday at like 7 a.m. and i still can’t seem to get to sleep until at least 3 a.m. and so i’m stuck laying there. and during the day i’m always tired. it stinks.

    i reallyyyyy wanna buy myself a new camera. i was gonna wait and buy a really fancy digital SLR for myself as my graduation present so i could use it for college. (cuz i wanna be a photographer) but i don’t know if i can wait. i’m only gonna be a sophomore this year so that means 3 years. ew. 3 years is a longggg time. and so i was thinking i could buy a cheaper one now and another more expensive one then… and by then hopefully they will be cheaper.. they will definitely be more advanced cuz technology is always changing. so what do you guys think? should i buy one now?

  23. OMG!!!!!! Kay-wa, I HAVE INSOMNIA TOO!!! I never did before but after reading BD i cant sleep, the first night I only got 4 hours, thats the main reason my mom took my books away
    PS she said I can have the books back this weekend (YAY) I think shes gonna cave about Bogus to Bubbly too (like shes gonna remember about this in October)

  24. Oh godddd. I’ve always loved the first line of Uglies. But i have to choose the amazingness that is Stephenie Meyer.
    Now, technically these are the first lines of the books, but they’re all from the prefaces, rather than the first chapter.

    I’d never given much thought to how i would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. – Twilight <3

    I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can’t make your body move fast enough. – New Moon <3

    All our attemps at subterfuge had been in vain. – Eclipse <3

    I’d had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn’t something you ever really got used to. – Breaking Dawn <3

    God. If you haven’t read her books, READ THEM! They remain to be [in my opinion] the best books ever written! Scott’s are an unbelieveably close second 😛

    And I HAVE BREAKING DAWN INSOMNIA TOO!

    I can’t sleep till like, 3am each night. But it’s worth it, the book is THAT amazing 😀

    Alisha-la xx

  25. I just woke up from a nap (A NAP I KNOW!!!!!!!) my BD insomnia makes me tired, I guess I just cant sleep at night, Alisha-la is right it is totally worth it

  26. I thought of another song for Bella and Edward:
    This is me by Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas (from the movie Camp Rock)

  27. OMG.

    Songs for Twilight! I’ve had so many ideas, but Seth [Stephenie Meyer’s webmaster] says they won’t change the playlist D=

    SPOILERS of New Moon coming up!!!!!!!!
    DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ NEW MOON!!!!!!!!

    When Edward leaves Bella, look up You Are The Moon by The Hush Sound, or Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap. I can see them both in the movie with Bella stumbling through a forest while they’re playing.

    Listen to them!!!

    I’ve re-read Breaking Dawn again. It just doesn’t lose it’s amazingness.
    However, am i the only one wishing there was a little more detail in certain parts? Like on Isle Esme for example…..

    xo.

  28. ((BREAKING DAWN SPOILER BELOW))

    Yeah, I was really pissed when it turned to Jacob’s view, but once I started to understand what was going on better, I liked it. It was cool being in his mind. His thoughts are so funny, and the chapter titles crack me up. Plus, before I read that section in his view, I used to hate Jacob; that made me like him. Yay. XD

    ((SPOILER ENDS))

    OMG BREAKING DAWN GAVE ME INSOMNIA TOO!! When I got Breaking Dawn on August 1, midnight, I read it the WHOLE night and COULDN’T stop!! It was that good. XD

    Two good songs for Twilight:

    1. Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis; sounds like it would fit!
    2. Heaven (I’m not sure who it’s by, but David Archuleta sings it!! i LOVE him); the words of this song are PERFECT!! It’s as if they were written for Twilight! It’s kind of like Edward saying this to Bella.

  29. Alisha-la, I agree, I wish the Isle Esme part had more detail! It seemed very rushed!! I wanted more!!

  30. haha! i’m with ya there Alisha-la.

    and i just woke up from a nap too nikki-wa. i fell asleep at 4 a.m. last night woke up at noon and then just took a nap from like 2-3. isn’t that horrible! i’m sleeping my summer away! 🙁 i only have 9 more days to relax and have fun! then i have softball 2-a-days.. WORST part of the entire year, for me. they start the 18th and so i’ll be waking up at 6 a.m. going to the softball field running until 7:30 and coming home to sleep and shower and i’ll probably be limping at that time (not even kidding. last year i was stuck on the toilet.. and not in the sense that i was going to the bathroom a lot. i was literally stuck.. i had to use the counter to push myself up. that’s how bad it is) and then i have to go back to the softball fields at 4 p.m. to practice till 6 p.m. and that’s what i will be doing all week.. but it gets worse cuz this year they’ve scheduled it so that school starts on thursday the 21st and 2-a-days won’t be over by then so i’m gonna have a heck of a time getting to school at 8 when i won’t even be done running till 7:30. and there is no chance that i’ll get to shower.. EW! i’m gonna be disgusting and gross all day long.

  31. Breaking Dawn Spoilers Below!!!!!!

    Haha. I was waiting for that to happen and then one minute they were in the water, the next she woke up! I was like =O I didn’t want a full on description, just a nice little intro… But nothing. I was not happy 🙁

    Jacobs chapters make me giggle too. The names were awesome! I kept giggling randomly to myself. And throwing the bowl at Rosalie, classic xD
    I like him the more i read him. I’m so glad he imprinted. I was hyperventalating when i found out but now i’m so happy him and Bella can be together xD

    Spoilers End!!!!!

    God. Edward is PERFECTION! It’s so unfair thats the last book. And that it’s all fictional of course…

    xo.

  32. haha! me too! all of Emmett’s jokes were hilarious!

    and i know! i was like what? that’s it? there was a little detail in the second time, if i remember right… but it’s so not the same. i would have rather heard about there 1st time then there 2nd. and it was such a good build up too.. like Bella was all nervous and freaking out kinda and then went outside got in the water and that was it.

  33. i want to know how cell phones can pop popcorn! watch the video and you will be curious too! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj6SZgbBuSQ usually i would think something like this was a trick but i watched a bunch of the videos and there were a few that it actually worked and then one where popcorn blew up an iphone. if anyone knows how this works let me know. please.

  34. where is everybody?
    probably sleeping.
    but where are my insomniac friends?
    and why can’t i sleep when it’s been days since i finished BD??
    oh how i wish i could sleep at night.
    it’s so much easier for me to fall asleep during the day.
    which is weird cuz usually i like it better when it’s dark outside when i sleep.
    but noooooo. life is not easy.
    and if i read i won’t be able to stop. which leads to worse insomnia.
    and if i watch tv my eyes won’t get tired.
    oh how i wish i could just fall asleep reading like i use to.
    and i’m really starting to get tired of sleeping till noon.
    cuz it always makes me sad to see the day go by so fast.
    grrrrrrrrrr….
    sorry for my sleepless rant.

  35. and Scott-la why have you not posted in days??
    this post was the 26th of july! and now were already on the 9th of august! i know your writing and all but take an hour break and whip us up a post please.

    ughhhh.. i miss my Uglies books! my cousin STILL has them! i let her borrow them on my birthday, APRIL 28th! and she’s not even done with Uglies yet! how can that possibly be? i was planning on rereading them all this summer but looks like that’s not gonna happen.. and i’m busy all of this fall (with softball, dance, and being the main photographer on the newspaper staff.. which btw i am so freaking excited about!) so i’ll probably read them over christmas break.. if she’s even done with them by then! argggggh!

    can you tell, me is not so happy. i think it’s the sleepless thing. and maybe the headache thing. and i’m going jet skiing tomorrow.. and i really don’t wanna be tired for it.

  36. Kay-wa-about your softball and being sore, I play softball but hurt my arm (I have a hyperextended elbow and the bones hit together) But I am doing Jr. Guards (Its like being a lifeguard when your not old enough to actually be a lifeguard) And I get soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired!!!!!! We ran atleast 4 miles the other day!! On the beach!!!!!

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