Famous First Lines

What’s Yours and What’s Your Favorite?

The Writer Magazine has an article in their May issue – 34 of the Most Memorable First Lines in Literature.

Some I agree with. Some I wouldn’t put in my top 1000 – thank goodness for variety and difference of opinions 😉

Some of my favorite first lines

  • “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.”

A&P – John Updike

  • “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

  • “A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: ‘Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!”

Kate Chopin, The Awakening

  • “From a little after two o’clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that – a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone believed that sight and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.”

Absalom, Absalom! William Faulkner


From my debut novel – Josephine: Red Dirt & Whiskey

  • “Lying, cussing, smoking, drinking, fornicating, all those things Brother Richard told the congregation not to do, Josephine was doing every one of them and then some.”

And, from my latest novel – Nelson and Cora – The Beginning

  • “Nelson McGinnis rocked back in the wooden chair.”


What are your favorite first lines? And, if you are a writer, what are the first lines of your novel(s)?



About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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18 Responses to Famous First Lines

  1. Cassie says:

    I have to give Faulkner the bow for one of the longest and expansive first lines. I do love Kate Chopin’s first line though, beautiful and odd.

  2. Melanie B. says:

    I am so excited to have run across your blog! I just downloaded your book “Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey” for my Kindle. Can’t wait to start reading…

  3. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

    And also, of course:
    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

    ZZ Packer’s Short Story ‘Brownies’ published in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere: “By our second day at Camp Crescendo, the girls in my Brownie troop had decided to kick the asses of each and every girl in Brownie troop 909.” Made me devour the book! And I’m picky about short stories.

  4. DM Yates says:

    From Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, starting, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, etc, taking up an entire paragraph with a unique first sentence.

  5. The first line of Random Winds by Belva Plain, Sugar by Bernice McFadden, Faulkner, and yours. I must find your debut novel:-) If I weren’t so sleepy, I’d quote the lines of the first two books mentioned; however, for now, the titles will have to do.

    • Hi and thanks for the comment!
      I am not familiar with Random Winds (but awesome title!).
      If you are interested, you can get a free short story of mine – When I Met Crazyi n the Morning – on Amazon for Kindle. Try it and see if you like it before you buy one of the novels. I’m off to find out more about Random Winds 🙂

  6. Barbara says:

    The opening line to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is my absolute favourite “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I’ve read it so many times but just thinking about that line has me wanting to read it again.

    • Hi Barbara! Thanks for commenting 🙂
      Isn’t it amazing what a great first line can do to us as readers! Just typing the line from Chopin’s The Awakening made me want to delve right into it again 🙂

  7. As usual, great post!! My first lines from The Green Bayou Novels:

    Going Home: “Why don’t these people move out of the way?” I demanded through clenched teeth.

    Awakenings: “Where in the hell is Justin?” I asked as I huffed a stray, golden-blonde lock of hair from my eye.

    Deja Vu: “The baby’s almost here!” I said, sweat dripping down my face.

  8. Roger says:

    “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
    Can’t get much better than that. I’d pay just to read the rest.
    The Crow Road. Iain Banks.

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