Created by and with thanks to That Artsy Reader! This Tuesday’s prompt celebrates my top five opening lines. This one was hard!
1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
‘The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.’
You see the cover: a well-dressed, handsome man of the 1800s, top-hat and all, set against a backdrop of historic London. You see the title: it literally has angel in it. And then you read the first line, with a violently, grossly exploding demon… Toto, we’re not in a period drama anymore!
2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
‘To: Headmaster Richmond and the Board of Directors, Alabaster Preparatory Academy; I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order–including the Library Lady, the Doggies in the Window, the Night of a Thousand Dogs, the Canned Beet Rebellion, and the abduction of the Guppy.’
Just… How can you read that and not want to find out more?
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
‘Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.’
I love this for a bunch of reasons: it’s a great way to start a sequel, reminding readers that this isn’t the first book or the first argument; it wastes no time scene-setting, just jumps into the action; and it’s a perfect call back to the opening line of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, ‘Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.’
4. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
‘The early summer sky was the colour of cat vomit.’
I mean… If the purpose of an opening line is to stand out, this one takes the Oscar.
Here’s what I also love about this line: I read a piece (I think on his website, a very long time ago) where Scott Westerfeld quite proudly declared that his opening line went directly against a piece of writing advice he’d read–that an author should never open on the weather, because it bores the audience. Talk about being the exception to the rule.
(The last line of each of these books is amazing, too–each one is the title of the next book, until the final one, in which the last word is ‘ugly’. The first time I realised, I got goosebumps. Genius.)
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’
It’s iconic for a reason; Austen’s signature sardonic wit poking gentle fun at the old wives’ tale that turns out, after all, to be absolutely true for her characters. Every time I read it, I smile: and that’s the sign of a great opening line.
What are your favourite opening lines?