Great Opening Lines

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The Telegraph’s top 30 opening lines

Following on from last week’s post on how to write your first page, here is a link to the Telegraph’s 30 greatest opening lines in literature. It really is worth looking at them, to see whether you agree that they’re great or not and to think about why they made the list. They haven’t included my favourite opening line of all time though. Mine is from The War of the Worlds, written by HG Wells:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

I love this opening so much. I love that straight away you know you’re reading science-fiction, you know the story is going to be about aliens and the voice comes across really strong to set the tone for the rest of the book. The idea of humans being studied without being known is introduced quickly, making the reader feel a little on edge, and I think that’s great. To me it’s a strong start to an even stronger novel, and it’s a standard I look for in opening lines when starting to read any new book.

Is there a book opening that you really love? Or do you disagree with any of the openings given in the Telegraph’s top 30? Let us know in the comments below.

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One thought on “Great Opening Lines

  1. K J says:

    My favourite opening line, that I can currently recall off the top of my head, is from ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. ”
    “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” It’s obvious it’s going to be some form of drama and have some sort of mystery from the first line. It’s quite simple but when you think about each work it opens up more questions. Again – why is she not there now? Is this a good or a bad dream? Is it recurring? What is Manderley? What happened that was so significant that you would dream of it? etc.

    I think I like very simple first lines more than complex ones but that’s just a personal choice. However I agree all first lines should hook you in and make you want to read on whether it just sounds interesting, poetic or there is a question to answer.

    🙂

    Like

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