Where do you begin?
Writing the first line, whether it's in a novel, an essay or an article, is one of the hardest things to write. The first thing your audience reads needs to be a hook, a declaration and an invitation all in one. Opening lines can make or break a piece of work and mastering this skill is essential for any writer.
But how do you learn how to write the perfect opening line? One way is to study some of the most iconic opening lines in literature and think about what it is about lines like "Call me Ishmael." and "It was a pleasure to burn." are so powerful that they linger in the mind.
So, here are 50 of the most iconic lines in literature!
The trick to writing the perfect opening line is knowing what you're saying and how you're going about saying it.
Imagine you're writing a critical essay. You know that your discourse is going to involve comparisons and conflict, and that you're going to be going back and forth. In this instance, you want an opening sentence that clearly sets the scene. It gives the reader a grounding for all that is about to follow.
If you're writing a novel, the opening line might be the last thing you write. There are many ways to write an opening line in a novel, but they all have one common element: They are all hooks.
Hooks are exactly what they sound like. They are a means to grab the reader and reel them into the story. This can be done by sparkling curiosity…
"It was a pleasure to burn." Burn what? Is the narrator burning something, or are they themselves burning?
… evoking an emotional response…
Again, "It was a pleasure to burn." The words pleasure and burn stimulate the reader. Read that sentence a few times and you start to feel it and even believe it.
… by setting the scene…
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." This sentence sets a perfectly normal scene, ripe for being explored or perhaps, turned on its head by magic.
… or presenting a loaded statement.
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." This sentence is very loaded. It gives us functional information in the use of "I", telling us that this is a first person narrative. It poses a curious thought: why would the ability to not remember something be a blessing? Finally, it alludes to the subject matter in the use of "human mind".
All of these opening lines have hooks that tell you what is about to come and how it is going to arrive. This is why, generally, it is easier to write your first line after you've written all the others.
If you're having trouble pinning down your opening sentences, we're here to help. We provide academic support services to students of higher education for essays, reports, proposals and more. Contact us today for more information.