A storm struck on the night Laura Shane was born…
I read that line back in 1989, and I have never forgotten it. But why? What made this line from LIGHTNING by Dean Koontz, an author I’d never read before, stick with me? It struck me enough that I bought the book after reading that first line. Other lines have stuck with me through the years. Such as Jane Austen’s first line from the classic PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” That line always makes me roll my eyes and snicker. So much sarcasm wrapped up in that elegant prose.
This is my goal. To write first lines that will capture readers’ attention immediately.
One of my favorite first lines from a book I’ve written is from A DARK SILENCE. “Heidi Martin flipped on the overhead light and looked into the eyes of a killer.”
I love throwing the reader immediately into the inciting event. Sometimes I do this with dialogue. I was interested in discovering the favorite first lines of some of my author friends. I asked them to include both books that they had read and books they had written. Here are a few I learned. (I’m keeping a list of books I need to add to my TBR shelf!)
Katy Lee: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” This iconic line is from REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier. Katy Lee’s favorite line she’d written was from SANTE FE SETUP. “Luci Butler was a thief. Albeit a cute one, but still a thief.”
Lisa Phillips said her favorite line came from her book COLD DEAD NIGHT. “If Kenna didn’t run fast enough, a child would die tonight.”
Sami A. Abrams chose: “Did the crazy girl want to get herself killed?” from IMPENDING STRIKE.
Rebecca Hemlock’s favorite line she’d written was from her book HIDDEN PASSAGES TO DARK SECRETS: “Levi wasn’t sure he’d ever experienced “normal”.” Her favorite line from something she read was, “Melancholy was a condition of the spirit and soul, but also of the mind.” (Jaime Jo Wright, THE CURSE OF MISTY WAYFAIR).
Kelly Underwood offered a line from UNINTENDED DETOUR by D.L. Wood. “Do I have what it takes to kill a man?” From her own writing, she gave me the first line from DEFENDING HONOR, “Laila Rabbinowitz tossed the binoculars onto the passenger seat and stifled a shudder.”
Jennifer Pierce, the author of EXPECTING DANGER, wrote, “The hair on the back of Kate’s neck stood on end, and the feeling of being watched crawled along her skin in goose bumps.”
Author Shannon Redmon said one of her favorite first lines was from THE GUARDIAN by John Grisham, “Duke Russel is not guilty of the unspeakable crimes for which he is convicted; nonetheless he is scheduled to be executed for them in one hour and forty-four minutes.”
Of course, no discussion of great first lines would be complete without including an author who had won an award for the best first line. Dani Pettrey won the Thrillerfest’s Best First Sentence Contest for the first line in her novel, SUBMERGED:
"Never wager unless you control the stakes."
And now I want to go and read some of these great books!
So what about you? What are some of the most memorable first lines you’ve ever read? I’m giving away a copy of one of my backlist books to one commenter.
Dana R. Lynn is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and Amish romance who believes in the power of God to touch people through stories. Although she grew up in Illinois, she met her husband at a wedding in Pennsylvania and told her parents she had met her future husband. Nineteen months later, they were married. Today, they live in rural Pennsylvania and are entering the world of empty nesters. She is a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing by day and writes stories of romance and danger at night. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. Dana is an avid reader, loves cats and thinks chocolate should be a food group. Readers can contact her or sign up to receive her monthly newsletter at www.danarlynn.com.
Great article, Dana. I love first liners. I've gone to Barnes & Noble before and read first lines in their suspense novels. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thanks Loretta. I've done the same thing.ReplyDelete
Great post, Dana! I love that opening line from Pride and Prejudice too.ReplyDelete
I love that line so much!Delete
I love all these great first lines. One of my all-time favorites is from Dee Henderson's "The Negotiator" (technically this is from the first chapter, not the prologue): "Kate O'Malley had been in the dungeon since dawn." After that, you just HAVE to read on!ReplyDelete
Yes! That was a great line. I enjoyed that series. Might need to revisit it.Delete
Love this post, Dana. Great first lines.ReplyDelete
This was so much fun to see author's favorite first lines. I'm reading Elizabeth Goddard's new release, Cold Light of Day and her first line is a good one...ReplyDelete
I never should have come.
Thanks for sharing all of these!
Ooh, I like that. I have her book on my list of books to read.Delete
I love a great first line. My favorite that I've read is from To The Hilt by Dick Francis..."I don't suppose my stepfather much minded dying...that he almost took me with him wasn't really his fault." and my favorite line that I've written is from Lily and the Lawman. "No son should have to arrest his own father...at least not more than once a month."ReplyDelete
Ha!! Love it!ReplyDelete
Fun article! Thanks so much for mentioning Submerged. So kind of you.ReplyDelete
"Dead people were easy to talk to. It was the living ones that often gave Lauren trouble." These are the first 2 lines of Jocelyn Green's new book, The Metropolitan Affair.ReplyDelete
There's just no good way to pick up a human head. Alex KavaReplyDelete
Katy McKenna's Wonderbra saved her life. Julie GarwoodReplyDelete
this makes me want to go back and up my First Line gameReplyDelete