Skip to content

Opening line tells the tale

“Fitzroy stepped back from the small opening he had made to the room beyond, then turned and faced us, a look of shock on his face.”

That is the first sentence of a story I’m working on.

At this point, it’s also the last sentence.

It’s not going too well.

I mean, that’s not a bad first sentence, in my opinion, but it sure leaves a lot of work to be done to finish the story. Like, who is Fitzroy; what kind of house is he in where he has to make holes to see into other rooms (I mean, don’t they have doors and windows?); and what has shocked him so much?

I wish I had the talent some other authors had for coming up with first lines to their stories. See how many of these you know.

“Call me Ishmael.”

A lot of people will probably recognize that as the opening to Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville, but technically it isn’t. There’s a long piece before Chapter 1, which some people say is the actual beginning. However, there is no doubt the narrator’s introduction of himself is what most people think of as the beginning.

Another note about the book: On the title page, Melville refers to the great white whale as ‘Moby-Dick” with a hyphen, but in the main body of the book, the hyphen is dropped in favour of “Moby Dick.”

“It was a bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

George Orwell this time, with the first line of “1984.” It sort of sets the stage in a way for some of the changes in our world reflected in the book.

Another note: The book was originally published in 1949, but Orwell wrote it the year before – in 1948. He simply reversed the final two digits of the year of writing to get his title.

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

Possibly not quite as well known as the other two, but anyone who has read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” will recognize it – and probably be scared of what they remember is coming in the rest of the book. Simply put, the book is about firemen. But they don’t put out fires; they set them, burning books the government has deemed dangerous.

Yes, another note: The title is a simple reference to the temperature at which paper burns. Bradbury was an American author. If he’d written the book in Canada, the title would have been “Celsius 233.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my novel.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *