Thursday, July 23, 2009

Literary Pick up Lines

by Donna MacMeans

A good book is a bit like a date. You browse the bookshelf, looking for those attributes that speak to your inner passions. If you like the look of the book, you might sample a few pages to see if you can invest a couple of hours with this Does it interest you? Stimulate, maybe? Makes you linger over your latte to slip in a few more pages?

Following my dating analogy, the first couple of lines would be the pick up lines - engineered to spark your interest, engage your attention, encourage you to take the book home to curl up with between the sheets. (And they wonder why the sale of romance novels is booming (grin)).

Writers (and lounge lizards) know that first lines are really important. Authors tend to rewrite them, trying to get just the right cadence, the right tone to hook your interest. My first line for The Seduction of a Duke inspired the rest of the story. Unusual for me, but true. I'm been to Newport Beach in Rhode Island and could vividly see this scene. Here's what I wrote for the beginning of Chapter 1 - the prologue came later:

"With all the malice she could muster, Francesca Winthrop whacked the wooden croquet ball beneath her foot, sending her mother's ball careening across the manicured lawn, over the edge of the Newport cliffs, and possibly into the blue gray waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Pity, it wasn't her mother's head."

Can you tell I was going for a chuckle, a smile, a bit of curiosity as to why Francesca was ticked?

Here's another first line - not mine - but one of my favorites.

"Thursday, March 17, I spent the morning in anxiety, the afternoon in ecstasy, and the evening unconscious." Dick Francis, Risk (1977)

How about this one? "It was understood throughout the great Northern Continent of Zantalia that assassins were invariably male. Clutching
the marriage contract in one hand, Kalena stood on the wide threshold of the Traders' Guild Hall and considered what it meant to be an exception to that rule."
Jayne Anne Krentz, Crystal Flame (1994)
One more - this from fellow bandita Kate Carlisle :
"My teacher always told me that in order to save a patient you'd have to kill him first." Homicide in Harcover (2009)

About ten years ago, I asked other authors to send me their favorite first lines in books they had read. Being the basically anal accountant that I am, I kept track of how many first lines opened with humor, suspense, dialogue, description etc. and kept that information duly filed. I'd like to revisit that study and see if times and first lines have changed. I'm thinking I can incorporate this into other statistics I've accumulated about well-written books. So I'm asking for your help.

Tell me your favorite first lines from any book. Be sure to include the title and author. If you don't have any favorite first lines from books, pick up lines will do (grin) but I'd really prefer lines of a more literary nature. I'll compile the lines submitted and report back about 11:00 PM EST the results for any interested participants. Of course, prizes (yes - that's plural) will be awarded.
So hit me with your best literary pick up.


Lynz Pickles said...


Donna MacMeans said...

Yay Lynz! Do you have plans for the golden wonder?

Lynz Pickles said...

Indeed, I do. There's a very, very messy bedroom with his name on it. Though I suppose I'll have to keep the dogs away from him... they might think he looks tasty.

jo robertson said...

Super topic, Donna! J.R. Ward's newest Black Dagger Brotherhood book, LOVER AVENGED, has a great first line: "The king must die."

Congratulations, Lynz. I think keeping the rooster working is very good for him :-D.

jo robertson said...

And the only way I got my AP students to read Kafka was the first line of THE METAMORPHOSIS. "As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed into a monstrous vermin."

Unfortunately, they don't often find the rest of Kafka as interesting as that first line.

Donna MacMeans said...

Lynz - I hope you have better luck getting the GR to work on the bedroom than I've had. He always tries to supervise the dog to get him to do all the work.

Donna MacMeans said...

Jo - I was one of the rare kids that liked Kafka! I'd forgotten about that opening line. It's said that you want to imply change in your openings - you can't get more explicit about change than that first line, can you.

Like the J.R. Ward line as well. Simple. Straightforward. Intriguing.

Lynz Pickles said...

Well, the last time he spent a day with me, the two dogs decided he'd be a yummy snack and spent a couple of minutes chasing him around the house before I noticed and rescued him. I'm hoping the fear of having that happen again will prove to be a strong motivator, because otherwise I might actually have to do the cleaning... myself. Gasp! No, anything but that!

Pissenlit said...

Congrats on catching the GR, Lynz!

My all time favourite is still the first line from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" :)

Emmanuelle said...

"The day Kevin Tucker nearly killed her, Molly Sommerville swore off unrequited love forever."
SEP This heart of mine very first line. My favorite opening line, really set the tone for this great romantic comedy...
Congrats !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Lynz.

One of my favorite first lines is "It was a pleasure to burn." It's from Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451."

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I agree with Pissenlit, that was my all time favorite first line.

Helen said...

Congrats Lynz I hope he does that room for you have fun with him.

What a great post Donna and some fantastic first lines I did love that first line from your book that grabed me straight from the start and I loved it.

A couple of mine are
Dangling a man upside down by the ankles outside a London ballroom was not how Maxwell Brooke had anticipated spending his first Thursday night as the Duke of Lyle. From The Dangerous Duke by Christine Wells.

There is another one that I really like and I don't have the book with me (my girlfriend has it) I think it is
I just got out of the assylum and this is from Romeo Romeo by Robin Kaye and it was another great book.

These are going to be lots of fun and I can see the TBR pile getting bigger LOL.

Have Fun

Tiffany Clare said...

How about first para: Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer: 'I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced.We are all alone here and we are dead.'

Carol Berg's Transformation: Ezzarian prophets say that the gods fight their battles within the souls of men and that if the deities mislike the battleground, they reshape it according to their will.

That book is part of the Rai-Kirah Trilogy, and is one of my fave books ever.

Cool topic. I really love first lines that just hit you over the head in your book.

Suzanne Welsh said...

One of the best I read lately was from RED-HEADED STEPCHILD, a book debuted on our blog back in March by author Jaye Wells:
Burying bodies is hell on a manicure.>..

I had to read more. And my CP, Sandy Blair, started reading it at a conference we were attending, so I got to hear her giggle over that line!

Nancy said...

Lynz, congrats on taking home the rooster! I hope he'll behave for you. Cleaning that bedroom sounds like a great way to keep him occupied.

Donna, what a great idea for a post! I usually get an idea for a scene first, usually early in the book but sometimes at the middle or end and work from there.

The Seduction of a Duke has a great first line! I think it's one many daughters can relate to.

My most memorable opening, though not the first line, is from Kara Dalkey's The Curse of Sagamore. I'm paraphrasing here because that book is on a shelf with other books stacked in front of it, but it's something like,"'Won't anyone leave me alone?' cried the prince as the rock crashed through the window. It wasn't the rock he minded so much as the fact that it interrupted his favorite occupation, writing suicide notes."

Margay said...

I don't know if this would be considered a pick-up line, but one of my favorite lines comes from Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer:

"And then the lion fell in love with the lamb."

There's just something about that...


Donna MacMeans said...

Pissenlit - I agree. That's why Jane Austen's first line was on the list I put together ten years ago. (grin) Any more modern ones?

Donna MacMeans said...

Emmanuelle - Love it! Susan Elizabeth Philips is one of my all time favorite writers...and...she used to teach English here in Columbus, Ohio. Wouldn't it be a hoot to be in that class? SEP was kind enough to pose for a picture with me at National. Hope to get it up on my website one of these days. Thanks for the contribution!

Donna MacMeans said...

Jane - Oh - I'd forgotten about that one. That's great. Could be used for a romance as well, couldn't it? (grin) Thanks Jane - I'm adding it to the list.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Dianna!

I know you're an avid, avid reader. Give me another favorite. I need to expand this list.

Donna MacMeans said...

Helen -

Yes - I love Christine's first line. It really sets the tone for the book, doesn't it? Thanks for reminding me. She goes on the list.

"Rosalie Ronaldi made a successful escape from the insane asylum. Okay, it wasn’t a real insane asylum; it was her parent’s Bay Ridge home." Robin Kaye, Romeo Romeo.

Thanks Helen - I'm putting that one on the list as well.

Donna MacMeans said...

Tiffany - Great first lines are a true art. I know I rewrote the one for Mrs. Brimley maybe ten times and the end result still wouldn't qualify for great status. When you've got one, you know it. It clicks.

Thanks for the two contributions - on the list they go, but send me more, more (she says with greedy fingers outstretched).

I know I'm already thinking about ways to punch up my first line in my WIP.

Donna MacMeans said...

Suz - love it! I have a soft spot for first lines that use humor in the opening. It's on the list.

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy - I'll probably use this list, combined with the old one, for teaching purposes so I need the exact quote. I checked Amazon but they don't show her first pages, and I can't find a website for the author. Bummer. I love the twist of the suicide notes - didn't see it coming.

Donna MacMeans said...

Margay - That wasn't the first line from Twilight, was it? I think Stephanie opened with Bella heading for the airport to leave hot Phoenix behind to move to someplace in Washington where the sun shines the least in the entire country. I love the contrast she sets up immediately with her change of settings.

But the Lion and the lamb is a great line as well. It makes you just want to go awwwww....

Becke Davis said...

Congrats on the GR, Linz!

So Donna -- you're giving me homework? This is going to be tough. You clearly haven't seen my bookcases. I'll have to do some research, but it's going to be dangerous, since it's bound to make me want to reread some of my old favorites. My TBR pile is too big for such nonsense! I will force myself, though, since it's you.

I always liked the opening of one Agatha Christie book that I remembered as "Damn," said the duchess. When I looked it up awhile back, though, that wasn't quite what it said. I don't think her books generally had kick-ass opening lines.

Loved your croquet scene, and loved that line of Dick Francis', too. (I've read all of his books numerous times, but had forgotten that line.)

Must go tear apart the bookshelves, digging for opening line gold!

Becke Davis said...

Oh, just thought of a classic: Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. . ." And so on.

Becke Davis said...

And that should be "A" Tale of Two Cities.

Minna said...

J.D. Robb: Haunted in Death: Winter could be murderous.

p226 said...

"It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him."

Donna MacMeans said...

Becke - You're so funny. I wanted this to be more fun than torture. But already I'm reminded of how important that first line is. I mean - I know it's important, obviously I wrote the blog - but reading the examples that have been submitted, I'm struck with how you can tell the tone of the book from that very first line. I'm loving this.

Donna MacMeans said...

Excellent choice, Minna - it's on the list. Must admit - I think any line with "murder" in it has a little extra punch to it, especially if it's short and raises questions as well.

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL P226 - that's great. Title & author?

Rose Lerner said...

I fell in love with Dostoevsky based on the first lines of "Notes from Underground":

"I am a sick man...I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I think my liver is diseased."

p226 said...

LOL P226 - that's great. Title & author?..

Catch-22. Joseph Heller.

Miranda Neville said...

"Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of a loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men."

Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Woot! Go Lynz. :> He's your probl...uh, companion for the day!

Donna, what a great idea.

Jo, I have to agree with your students. Nothing of Kafka's is as interesting as that first line. Snork. *ducking, lest Jo throw fruit*

Now, I need to check some titles before I throw first lines out there...BRB...

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Okay, Donna, here goes. My all time favorite?

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes: "The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm." So evocative, so much foreshadowing in one short sentence. :>

From Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs: "It's just like skinning a rabbit," the old man said as he removed another sliver of flesh from Tisala's finger.

Yeah, you gotta find out what THAT's about.

From our own Tawny Weber's Going Down Hard: It wasn't every day a woman got to see her naked self coated in chocolate and being licked like an ice cream cone by a dozen people. Apparently hot fudge wa the syrup of choice for an orgy.

Ummm, this needs no explanation as to why one would read on, now does it? Grins.

From the perinnial favorite that Anna C and I always reference, A COuntess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotsen: "You CANNOT be a housemaid, Anna, said Miss Pinfold firmly. "It is quite absured. It is out of the question."

And from another of my long-time favs, David Eddings, frequently mentioned here on the blog:

The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's Farm. For all the rest of his life he had a special warm feeling for kitchens and those peculiar sounds and smells that seemed somehow to combine into a bustling seriousness that had to do with love and food and comfort and secuirty and, above all, home.

- Pawn of Prophecy.

And last, but not least: She knew all about being saved. - Laura Landvik's Angry Housewives Eating BonBons.

Donna MacMeans said...

"I am a sick man...I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I think my liver is diseased."

Rose - I'd say that's not a romance (smile). It certainly paints a picture of the protagonist. What struck you about the line that made it memorable? I like the repetition and the diseased liver which suggests he drinks alot. The line has a cadence.

catslady said...

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald - "The birds saw the murder". This one had me hooked from that line.

Donna MacMeans said...

P226 - Seriously? I read Catch-22 years and years ago but didn't recognize the line.

I do remember reading, though, that this was his debut novel and none of his later works matched the success of Catch-22. Some reporter asked him why he hadn't written a better book than Catch-22 (only a reporter could ask such a question) and he responded - "Who has?" Love the man's humor.

Donna MacMeans said...

Miranda - Gotta love Jennifer Cruise - this is going on the list. I like the first lines from her TELL ME LIES - which of course isn't handy at the moment - but it's the one about discovering someone else's crotchless panties under the driver's seat of her car and stabbing a frozen male brownie. She has a way with words, that's for sure.

Donna MacMeans said...

Jeanne - Good Stuff. I'm putting them all on the list but I also particulary love the Ray Bradbury line. Very evocative. THe rabbit skinning one also raises goosebumps (grin).

How could I have missed Tawny's list line!!! That one goes to the top of the list (smile).

Donna MacMeans said...

catslady - another murder line - got it! Though I wonder if it's really the mention of birds, catslady, that caught your interest (smile). You may have licked your lips at the thought of murder and birds in the same sentence (very big grin).

Speaking of cats (and totally off the subject) while I was in Washington last week I got to visit my brother and see his bengal cat. What a beautiful animal! I've never seen a cat with such sleek fur and beautiful markings.

Becke Davis said...

Love the opening line of Crusie's Tell Me Lies -- I was going to post that one later. Love Ray Bradbury, too. (I still remember a short story of his I read as a teenager, because it forever impacted my view of illegal aliens. It was called "I See You Never," but I can't think which anthology it was in.)

Back to the hunt.

Donna MacMeans said...

Becke - I remember a short story he wrote called "There will come soft rains" that we read in fifth grade and has stuck with me every since. It's from the Martian Chronicles. I believe there're various versions of the story. The original is from the fifties - but the version I remember has the house burning down at the end and the poetry read in the study. Very moving.

Nancy said...

Donna, your blog sent me to my bookshelf. This is what I found:

"I remember where I was and what I was doing when Bonnie Prince Charlie was killed."
-- Emma Bull, Finder

"Sorcerers weren't normal, sorcery wasn't natural, and Quentin Rand didn't like either one."
--Lisa Shearin, Magic Lost, Trouble Found

"My name is Kate Connor, and I used to be a Demon Hunter."
--Julie Kenner, Carpe Demon

"It was the first minute of my first day and my first impulse was to run."
--Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission (mystery set in a literary agency)

"Every night, death came slowly, painfully, and every morning Maddox awoke in bed, knowing he'd have to die again later."
--Gena Showalter, The Darkest Night

Becke Davis said...

"There will come soft rains" was in The Martian Chronicles, a brilliant collection. I Googled "I see you never" and Wikipedia says it first appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1947. Doesn't mention the anthology I must have read it in, but it's currently in "A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories."

I'm a huge fan of O.Henry, too, and I think there are some similarities in the "feel" of the stories.

Nancy said...

Donna, "There Will Come Soft Rains" is available as a free download, I've heard.

This is the first line of my favorite Bradbury novel, one of my all-time ever favorite books: "It was a pleasure to burn."

I'm not giving the title so I can see who else out there also loves it. *g*

Donna MacMeans said...

I found the short story! If you haven't read this classic Ray Bradbury story you should - but it is sad and always gives me goosebumps. Here's the link:

Nancy said...

"I'd been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar."
--Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark

Nancy said...

Lynz, hows the cleaning crew working out?

Nancy said...

Pissenlit, the line from Pride and Prejudice really says a lot with a few words, doesn't it?

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy -

Lots of good ones there. I especially like the line from Blind Submission. Were the slush piles that teetering? (smile). I love Gena Showalter's line as well.

BTW, the "Pleasure to Burn" line was mentioned earlier in the blog comments (thank you, Jane).

Speaking of burning books - has anyone been watching the story of the library in Wisconsin that has been attacked by some parents trying to protect their teens from "those" books (you can fill in whatever type of book you want) Book-burning has been suggested.

Janga said...

I love first-line discussions!

Classics (in addition to the opening of Pride and Prejudice, which is my favorite):

"Call me Ishmael." Moby Dick, Herman Melville
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." 1984, George Orwell
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis

These are from more recent works:

"The magician's underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami." Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction
"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." Neuromancer, William Gibson
"You better not never tell nobody but God." The Color Purple, Alice Walker
"Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature." The Debut, Anita Brookner

I think Nora Roberts is a genius at great opening lines.

An old one: "He was running for his life. And it wasn’t the first time." Hot Ice
Recent one: "By the time she was eight, Mackensie Elliot had been married fourteen times." Vision in White

Nancy said...

Donna wrote: BTW, the "Pleasure to Burn" line was mentioned earlier in the blog comments (thank you, Jane).

Jane, I don't know how I missed that comment. Looks as though we have a book in common. :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Janga - These are great! Thank you. We're up to almost 40 first lines. You can really distinguish the older first lines from classical works by their cadence - don't you think? Loved the line from THE DEBUT. Yes. Nora Roberts excells in hooking the reader from the very first sentence. Wish I could do that (smile).

Cassondra said...

OMG, Donna. I'm a total first line whore. I study first lines. A really great first line or first graph will hold me through a slow beginning. I'm a sucker for a great first line.

Here are just a few of the ones I've collected, in no particular order, except the first one, I think, is the best first line ever.

"Marley was dead: to begin with.~
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

"How much do you cost?" ~This is Catherine Mann, who writes kick-butt first lines, and I can't put my hands on the book but I think it's Wedding at White Sands

"Allie McGuffey knew a yuppie bar was a lousy place to find a hero, but she was desperate, so she had to make do with what she had on hand." ~Charlie All Night by Jenny Crusie, another serious first-line hooker.

This is more than one line, but so compelling I always list it as one of the best ever....

"Granny Tula insisted with all of her Jesus-loving heart that God's hand was in everything. She held the deep conviction that, although it might not be readily seen, there was a divine reason for all that transpired in his earthly kingdom; even the terrible derailment of Glory's life. But Glory Harrison didn't possess her grandmother's unwavering faith. Glory had spent the past eighteen months on the run and had never once seen a glimmer of God's hand in any of it."~On Blue Falls Pond by Susan Crandall

One more..

"The wild child of Parrish Mississippi had come back to the town she'd left behind forever."~Ain't She Sweet by the venerable SEP.

I could go on...and on...

traveler said...

Thank you for this wonderfully enjoyable post today. It is fascinating and has brightened my day. So unique and special. My first line from Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is, "It was Edwin who wanted to build a new house."

Cassondra said...

Oh, here's another one...

"Planning on jumping? I wouldn't. Blood's hell to get out of silk."

Another Jenny Crusie, Man Hunting

Donna MacMeans said...

Traveler - you know you won a prize from me a while back and never claimed it. Come on over to and I'll fix you up.

I'm not familiar with Loving Frank, but there sounds like there's specific meaning in who exactly wanted to build a new house. Judging from bandita Tawny's difficulties in new housedom. This could be dire news indeed.

Donna MacMeans said...

Cassondra - Great openings and yes - whole paragraphs are fine.

I'm finding it interesting that some authors are being quoted repeatedly. That's a mark of a pro. I think when we think of those authors we expect wonderful openings.

Love the Susan Crandall opening especially the last line. Isn't that the way? When I see a long paragraph opening a story I have to restrain myself from jumping ahead to see the punch at the end.

I've added your openers to the list.

Donna MacMeans said...

Cassondra - The Man Hunting quote is goooooood. Added it to the list.

Becke Davis said...

Just randomly pulled these two off my bookshelf:

1) Christina Dodd's DANGER IN A RED DRESS: "Hannah Grey couldn't remember when she'd enjoyed a funeral more."

2) Virginia Kantra's SEA WITCH: "If she didn't have sex with something soon, she would burst out of her skin."

Janga said...

I can't let a discussion of memorable first lines pass without mention the first line of chapter one of Loretta Chase's Your Scandalous Ways: "Penises. Everywhere,"

I'm currently reading an old Robyn Carr American historical, Woman's Own, and the opening line hooked me immediately: "There is no power so reckless as a woman's need to be loved."

Donna MacMeans said...

Becke - Those are great! I've added them to the list. Isn't wonderful when the first line of the novel presents the feel of the book? In this case you get that jolt of humor that lets you know this is going to be a fun read. I've decided I need to rework my WIP opening for just that punch. Hard to do in one line - hoping I can hit it in the first paragraph.

limecello said...

lol so it's... actually, I guess it is a pickup line. Coming from the heroine, instead of the hero, actually. Ann asks Adonis "Do you do full body massage?" It's not the *first* line... but I'd say that's where the relationship starts ;) It's from Touch Me by Susan Lyons. Very hot book.

Becke Davis said...

Janga - I just finished that book! Too funny, I never thought to go back and check the opening line.

Helen said...

There are some great openings to books aren't there.

I could stand in front of the book shelves all day and check them out if only I had the time.

Have Fun

Donna MacMeans said...

Limecello - Well I can't add it to the list without an exact quote but I should like the way TOUCH ME starts (grin). Couldn't find the first page on her website. Bummer.

Donna MacMeans said...

Janga -

LOL - I'm building a word document with all these openings. For some reason, lines of time about a third of the way down the page pop up bolded and extra large - like a heading. Guess what first line I had entered that popped up big and bold (very big grin).

Love 'em. Thanks

Donna MacMeans said...

Helen - my husband once explained to my son that a bookstore "was like a candy store for mom."

Yes - it's an easy way to pass the time and spend some major bucks.

Louisa Cornell said...

Late to the party. Congrats on gathering up the GR, Lynz! Housework? Never touch the stuff. It won't kill you, but why take chances?

One of my favorite first lines is from Mary Janice Davidson's UNDEAD AND UNWED :

"The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry."

Lois said...

I feel bad to say that I don't remember first lines (except for Pride and Prejudice, of course), but looking at what I'm going to read next. . .

"Ten bucks says he's not wearing any underwear," Allison whispered in her ear. :)


Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Donna,

For me it is pages 1-5 of The Trouble With Moonlight by Donna
MacMeans! I don't think I need
to write it here, I believe you
are quite familiar with the text.
As I read it last week, Honey was
sleeping soundly beside me. I had
to keep my hand clasped tightly over my mouth to keep from waking him! He just hates it when I wake
him as I'm laughing madly over a

Pat Cochran

Cassondra said...

"Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie."

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Donna MacMeans said...

Louisa - Good one - added it to the list.

Have you noticed a lot of these involve death & dying? I suppose that's a function of vampire stories - obviously by the title, this is one. Death, dying, and murder do make a compelling start.

Donna MacMeans said...

Lois - I love it. Author & Title please?

Donna MacMeans said...

Pat - Bless your heart! That's the best thing I've heard all day!
I did enjoy writing that book. The beginning especially plays out like a scene from a movie - very visual. Thank you, sweetie!

Gannon Carr said...

I love first lines and SEP writes some of my faves. This one is from NATURAL BORN CHARMER:

"It wasn't every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a road, not even in Dean Robillard's larger-than-life world."

Makes me LMAO every time!

Donna MacMeans said...

Gannon - that's a great one! SEP is just such a talent at opening lines. Do you think she works as hard at it as we do? Or does it just come naturally?

Darn it - I went to her workshop. I should have asked!

Kate Diamond said...

Good question! Do I really have to pick just one first line?

I don't think I can do it!

I do know that YA novels frequently open with a great line.

Donna MacMeans said...

Kate -

No you can pick as many as you like and as much of the opening as you like (but typing is a pain!)

Donna MacMeans said...

Time for me to report the results of our collection. I have 55 opening lines that everyone submitted. Of those 53% opened with intrigue. By that, I mean the lines made you want to read more to learn about the particular situation.

Only 5, or 9%, opened with dialogue. This is a smaller percentage than the last time I looked at opening lines. A change in the times perhaps?

About 30% opened with humor. I think this might me more a reflection of the fun group of people that participate on this blog rather than a trend. I must admit I'm partial to humorous openings.

11% opened with some sort of evocative or clever description. 7% opened with a universal truth.

3 of the offered openings came from Susan Elizabeth Philips, 3 from Jennifer Crusie, four came from Nora/JD Robb. These then are the authors we look to for consistently great openings.

Not sure the statistics mean anything, but reading the openings was fun and made me think of how I can improve my work and for that I thank you all.

Now let me choose some people for prizes.

Donna MacMeans said...

The winners are:

and Rose Lerner

I'll let you choose between The Trouble with Moonlight, The Seduction of a Duke, or Power of Love - but you'll have to tell me your choice and contact information by emailing me at

Thanks for contributing everyone. It was fun and educational!

limecello said...

Donna... that WAS an exact quote from the book. It's not the first thing Ann says to Adonis or vice versa, but they meet in a business setting. That sentence is the first "come on" between the hero and heroine.
It just wasn't the first line of the book - didn't think that was the requirement.

Congratulations to the winners!

limecello said...

Ugh I need to clarify - I went with your pickup line option, not first lime option, which... obviously wasn't an option.
Just because - the first lime is "Ann Montgomery struggled to extricate herself from the driver's seat of her Miata." Definitely not as good.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Donna MacMeans said...
Hi Dianna!

I know you're an avid, avid reader. Give me another favorite. I need to expand this list.

Sorry Donna, I have been working 10 hours shifts and didn't make it back here til this morning.

Emmanuelle said...

I'm doing the happy dance right now !!! Thank you !!

catslady said...

Thank you so much - I'm going to send my info now!!!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey, they don't call me LATE KATE for nothing!!

Donna, I was just cruising by the Lair, trying to pretend I don't have a crushingly imminent deadline -- and I find you spruiking my first line!! Cool!

P226 nailed my favorite first line from Catch-22. I fell in love with that book from the first line to the last.

Helen, Madame Wells' first line is one of my faves, too! And so many other great ones were mentioned.

Lynz, hope you kept the GR busy! After all, busy feathers are happy feathers. :-)

Congrats to the winners!

Kerry said...

Oh WOW! I have a great pick up line or first line for my book... Who would you kill if you knew you could get away with it?

I wrote a fictional story about a woman who Astrally Travels to find people who have killed her "Clients". So I love the line. It fits because being an astral traveler there isn't ever any evidence left behind. She can pick and choose who she kills. And the emotions of the victim send her to their murderer. So the question to everyone out there- just for fun- is- who would you kill if you knew you could get away with it? Angela kills bad guys (Angela is the character.)

Awesome blog excellent topic!
Kerry Morgan
Author: The Astral Avenger