Friday, January 20, 2012

Jess's Favorite First Lines

This week we're talking about first lines, so I thought I'd take a look at some of my favorites. These are the first three that came to mind, two new favorites and a perennial one:

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 by Margaret Mitchell

This tells us straightaway that our heroine knows how to get what she wants. She's not conventionally pretty but she can make men think she is. Scarlett O'Hara is canny, in an era where clever women are not respected or appreciated; she has to manipulate men to get what she wants because she has precious little agency of her own.

I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged.
Now, if you please. -- CHIME by Franny Billingsley

This immediately has the reader asking, Good Lord, what did the narrator do that she thinks is so awful? Why does she feel she deserves to be hanged? People usually have a healthier sense of self-preservation. This sets up Briony's self-hatred but also her impatience. It's a curious and intriguing combination, just like our narrator.

It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark. The match hisses to life. -- THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

Read this one aloud, please. It has a gorgeous sound to it, like the rest of the book -- fitting for a book that explores the power of stories and myths. It's the sort of story you'd like to read out loud in a dark room by candle-light, and that's what the narrator's doing here at the very beginning, isn't she? It's perfect.

What are some of your favorite first lines? Tell me in the comments.

Jessica Spotswood is the author of BORN WICKED, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, coming Feb. 7, 2012 from Putnam. She likes reading stories about independent girls who still get in a fair amount of swoony kissing, so that's what she tries to write. She lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.

Currently on her nightstand: GILT by Katherine Longshore


  1. The first line of THE HUNGER GAMES is one of my favorites.

    When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

    Boom, hooked.

  2. Ooh, good choice, Rick! It does immediately hook you into wondering who's usually there, and where they've gone, and suggest that the narrator has to fend for herself.

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