I love writing first lines. There's something terrifying and satisfying about getting off the starting blocks. I can still remember the first lines of stories I wrote years ago in some cases...
"The first time I killed my mother was August 1979."
"Ernest looked left again and then right once more before stepping out into the road; he always looked twice before crossing, always waited for the green man."
"I found God in the wordsearch today, Margaret."
"We knew it was The Gas."
Some of the stories were prize winners, others complete flops, but I still have an affection of those lines - the good ones and the clumsier ones. They are full of intent. Even my first attempt at a short story with its slightly bland, "On a clear day you can see all the way to France", is defined and measured by those first few words.
Of course, terrible first lines can be just as memorable as great ones. The most infamous first-line ever has to be by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."I had heard that there was a competition in his honour, where entrants are asked to write an awful first line for an imaginary novel, but until listening to Tim Key, I hadn't realised that the much-mocked line itself was actual a rather clever joke about the way one of the characters speaks.
I've written before about how wonderful the opening to A Tale of Two Cities is, and I'm sure I only need to mention books like 1984, Pride and Prejedice, Moby Dick and Rebecca, to bring to your mind a few other famous first lines. Oddly enough, it is the last of these that has always stuck with me the most.
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."I don't know why that's always haunted me, but it has.
I'd love to hear your favourite first lines - both ones you've written and ones you've read. What makes a good first line? Do you find them easy to write? Does the book you're reading now have a good first line? Share it with me - I find them irresistable!
I'm off to continue fretting over line one, page one...