Novel Fun with First Lines

the-narrowsThe first sentences of a novel – whether you read online or pick up a book from the shelf at the library or bookstore – are extremely important.

It’s the doorway into the world of the story and the entrance can be as ornate, or as sparely beautiful and as varied as there are doorways in the world.

The first lines of a novel should do a few things:

It should hook you into the story

It can set the tone, the setting and introduce character

Above all it establishes the Author’s voice – a sort of singular DNA that runs throughout the entire story

Enchanting first sentences don’t come easy – they’re something that a writer works and reworks until it’s perfect.

Stephen King devoted an entire essay on the topic: “Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences” in an article in The Atlantic magazine.

In the first of my video series Fun with First Lines, I picked 3 genre novels at random from my personal library (excepting all the books on my e-reader – I’ll do that next time around) and read the opening lines.

Take a gander. Try to figure out the genres…It’s fun!


Need a cheat sheet? Take a look at the list of genres of popular novels and the astounding array of sub-genres from Writer’s Digest.

The books are:

The Narrows by Michael Connelly (Crime/Mystery)


Ursula K. Le Guin:  Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (Science Fiction)

Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard (Thriller; Sub-genre Heist/Caper)


Elmore Leonard: Photo by Peabody Awards


4 thoughts on “Novel Fun with First Lines

  1. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” (Austen). My favourite first line in a novel of all time. What a great post, it really got me thinking about all my favourite books and some great catchy lines.

    Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Print.

    Liked by 1 person

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