Great opening lines

After Elmore Leonard’s advice of ‘never opening with a description of the weather’, it got me thinking about opening lines. As someone who sees a future where my novels are seen as a corner stone of western civilization, the opening lines I have written are probably the most changed and edited part of my writing. There are numerous ways you can open, a statement of an eternal principle, like Jane Austen. Maybe just a statement of fact. Maybe you want to introduce your reader to a distinct voice, or maybe you want to establish a mood. There are almost an infinite array of ways to begin. Below are some of my favourites, please let me know yours. I’ve avoided making snarky comments about them too, as I feel it would undermine their beauty

“Call me Ishmael”

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

“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, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

” A screaming comes across the sky”

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

Sorry guys, but I’m not Googling “Lolita gifs”!

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

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

George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.”

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)

Share with me your favorite opening lines. Why do you think they stick in your mind?

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