Someone I follow on Social Media recently posted a question, “What’s your favorite first line from a book?”
I thought, “Hmm…great question.” There are so many.
- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Moses, Genesis (?)
- “Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
- “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
And what about movies and music? There are certainly many classics there too, no?
- “Hello darkness my old friend” Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence (1964)
- “I, I wish you could swim” David Bowie, Heroes (1974)
- “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.” LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
- “Rosebud” Citizen Kane (1941)
- “Please sir, I want some more.” Oliver! (1968)
- “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Goodfellas (1990)
As a writer, I understand the importance of a first line. It captures the audience. Draws them in. Makes them want to keep reading, listening, or watching as the story unfolds.
It’s like walking into a bakery and smelling that intoxicating scent of fresh baked bread. The hint of cinnamon, garlic, sugar, or warm chocolate. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
What do our favorite first lines say about us? Do they define us? As an individual? As a society? Who’s to say? There are as many lists out there as there are first lines.
What about you? What are some of your favorite first lines? To a book, song or movie? There are no wrong answers. Certainly the short list I posted are merely a sliver, a snippet, a morsel of my favorites.
I look forward to reading your favorite first lines…