Posted by Kathy Waller
Write a blog post? I would prefer not to.
No, that’s not correct. I’d be happy to. But I have nothing to say. It’s three a.m. and my brain is an absolute vacuum. It’s been that way all summer.
So this time I’m going to let others write for me.
Finding substitutes is not difficult. Their books lie all over the floor around my chair. And under it. At one time they were neatly stacked–several times, in fact, they were neatly stacked–but lately they’ve made a veritable carpet. The poor cats have had to detour to get to the window for sunbathing. They don’t mind stomping all over me, but heaven forfend their little paws should touch a dust jacket.
Anyway, I scooped up an armload of volumes and borrowed the first line from each. I’ve studied first lines since I started writing fiction and have added quite a few to my initial collection (from Pride and Prejudice and Gone With the Wind).
Expert opinions vary as to what the first line of a novel should do: hook the reader, create tension, tell the story in one sentence. My favorite first line from my work is, My grandfather thinks stop signs cause wrecks. It not only catches the reader’s interest (mine, anyway), but also is literally true. My grandfather did think that. I heard him say it.
Well, whatever. I don’t know much about first lines, but I know what I like. Here are a few of them.
Note: The books pictured here are the ones formerly circling my chair. I stacked them on the futon for picture-taking. This is the futon I’ve said for ten years is on the way out. My husband likes it. The books are now in his place. I don’t know where he will sit. The other end belongs to Ernest the cat.
By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat.
Jacqueline Kelly, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
He had never told anyone.
Ruth Rendell, The Monster in the Box
It is called Portobello Road because a long time ago a sea captain called Robert Jenkins stood in front of a committee of the House of Commons and held up his amputated ear.
Ruth Rendell, Portobello Road
Or your family.
Sophie Hannah, The Wrong Mother
Time is not a line but a dimension.
Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
I watch Loretta Singletary hurry up the steps to my house.
Terry Shames, A Killing at Cotton Hill
My eyes glaze over as C. Granger Dockery cracks open yet another egg.
Lyn Fraser, Debits and Credits
The book was thick and black and covered with dust.
A. S. Byatt, Possession
Her eyes sparkled, the most alert deep Mediterranean blue you could imagine, surrounded as they were by a deep-lined gray face, a halo of white hair, the off-white walls of the room, and sheets as ivory as the silk that lines a coffin.
Russ Hall, Goodbye, She Lied
On the morning of Bernie Pryde’s death–or it may have been the morning after, since Bernie died at his own convenience, nor did he think the estimated time of his departure worth recording–Cordelia was caught in a breakdown of the Bakerloo Line outside Lambeth North and was half and hour late at the office.
P. D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Audrey Villeneuve knew what she imagined could not be happening.
Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In
“Now we will all die because of the filthy Roman Catholics,” said Janet.
Frank Schaeffer, Zermatt
The day Eddy Cranny got himself murdered started bad and went downhill from there . . . especially for Eddy.
Janice Hamrick, Death Rides Again
Looking back, it astonished her that none of them had broken down at the hospital.
Joanna Trollope, The Other Family
The man lay still, as still as a piece of meat on a slab, as still as death itself.
Donna Leon, Beastly Things
BETHEL–Mr. and Mrs. Thurman A. Bell announce the engagement of their daughter, Raney, to Charles C. Shepherd of Atlanta, Georgia.
Clyde Edgerton, Raney
My boy, you might think an old woman hasn’t much to say about the living, but your grandmother knows when a person does right by her and when they don’t.
Michelle Hoover, The Quickening
Winters are long in Mattagash, Maine.
Cathie Pelletier, Once Upon a Time on the Banks
Sacraments are what you do in church.
Virginia Cary Hudson, O Ye Jigs & Juleps!
The birds saw the murder.
Ann-Marie MacDonald, The Way the Crow Flies
Agatha McGee had been a resident of the Sunrise Senior Apartments only three days when she realized that she’d lost the diamond brooch her parents had given her when she’d graduated from Staggerford High School in 1927.
Jon Hassler, The New Woman
SUMMERLIN–President Ted Sears of Ballard University announced yesterday that his school has been awarded a $320,000 federal grant to sponsor an innovative project with the halfway house adjacent to the Ballard campus, BOTA House (Back On Track Again).
Clyde Edgerton, Killer Diller
Well, I have broken the toilet.
Elizabeth Berg, Durable Goods