Special Occasion · Writing Advice

The Opening Line

It is said time and time again that the opening of any story is one of the most important parts. When a potential reader first picks up an unknown book in a store, there are three things they look at. The cover (which the writer rarely has control of), the synopsis and the first paragraph.

I’m not just talking about a good opening. I mean a line that sticks with you, one that you think of a few years after you last read a book. The haunting kind.

Coming up with the perfect opening line is a near impossible task, it’s rarely expected of a writer. Yet when a reader sees one, it sticks with them forever. Here are a few of my favourite opening sentences.

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

“It is a truth universally known that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat./Delilah Bard had a way of finding trouble.”

A Darker Shade of Magic/ A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Note: There is a parallel between the opening line of both books in the Shades of Magic trilogy. While the fantasy novels feature a span of multiple characters, each of them have one character who is the main character. They are featured on the cover, and similarly the first line starts with their name. I’m hoping when A Conjuring of Light (the third book in the series) is released, it will follow the same pattern.

“It was night again. The Waystone lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

“In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit.”

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Years after a book is closed, some words will still remain. What are some of your favourite opening lines?

– Nadia


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