Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Answers to My Last “Great First Lines” Post

Here are the answers to my last “Great first lines” post and, of course, ten new lines.

1. Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world.
The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey - Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

2. If I could give you just one word of advice, it would be…well, an incomplete sentence. Besides being grammatically iffy, I’m sure you’d agree that a single word of advice is rarely of much use.
A Whole Nother Story as told by (the one and only) Dr. Soup

3. Bliss to you. Bliss to you! Is me who is dog, Trixie Koontz, happy dog.
I, Trixie Who is Dog -Dean Koontz Illustrated by Janet Cleland
(I had to use this. Dean Koontz normally writes some of the best first paragraphs around. Treat yourself to an hour in a bookstore or library reading them. This is the only children’s book I ever saw by him)

4. Sometimes you wake up and the world is just plain different.
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
5. It is universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Graeme –Smith

6. I didn’t always live here, and by “here” I do not mean the La Brea Tar Pits where I am writing this down in a notebook –I mean Los Angeles. When I was a little kid, I lived in Chicago.
The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater (I loved this book. He has a sequel coming out)

7. That summer, let’s see, I’m still living in the basement, my own private down under, in the little room Grim built for me there.
Freak, the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

8. 12th day of September- I am commanded to write an account of my days; I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.
Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (This one is one of Hilde’s favorites.)

9. Sometimes extraordinary things begin in ordinary places.
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney

10. It was the middle of August 1966, and me and Wayne and Dad and about two hundred people were sweating and stinking in the auditorium of the Sand Mountain High School, home of the Mighty Mighty Miners.
Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins

Here are the new first lines. Some are from favorites. Some are from new books. Three were given to me from Rachel Brachman, a new member of our critique group. The rest I found in the bookstore. Did you ever browse the bookstore or library and fall in love with an author’s first line?

1. Once upon a time there was a pair of pants.

2. There was a time once when the earth was still very young, a time some call the oldest days. This was long before there were any people about to dig parts of it up and cut parts of it off. People came along much later, building their towns and castles (which nearly always fell down after a while) and plaguing each other with quarrels and supper parties.

3. When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of that hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’s caused it. (Having read that, I HAVE to read this book.)

4. It was bitter cold, the air electric with all that had not happened yet. The world stood still, four o’clock dead on. Nothing moved anywhere, not a body, not a bird; for a split second there was only silence, there was only stillness. Figures stood frozen in the frozen land, men, women, and children. (This is actually an adult book, but wow, what a beginning!)

5. Lucky Trimble crouched in a wedge of shade behind the Dumpster. Her ear near a hole in the paint-chipped wall of Hard Pan's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, she listened as Short Sammy told the story of how he hit rock bottom. How he quit drinking and found his Higher Power. Short Sammy's story, of all the rock-bottom stories Lucky had heard at twelve-step anonymous meetings -- alcoholics, gamblers, smokers, and overeaters -- was still her favorite.

6. One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.

The next three first lines are from rhyming picture books. Two were published in 2009. One is coming out in 2010. One is from a first time author. None of the three were illustrated by the author. This is for those of us who still love to write in Rhyme. There is hope. Rhyming books are still being published.)

7. Not last night but the night before three black cats came knocking at the door.

8. One morning at the breakfast table, when I read the juice box label, (thinking it was tightly closed), my daddy’s pants got orange-hosed.

9. When I grow up I’ll live in a tree; Just my cats Quentin, Quigley, and me.

10. Things could always be worse. That’s what my grandma says anyway whenever something really bad happens. I’ve always thought that was a pretty good way to look at life. But lately I’m not so sure, because I don’t think things can get any worse.


  1. Down Sand Mountain. Great book.

    Lupe F.

  2. Yes - I have browsed bookstores and fallen in love with first lines. That's a rare welcome thing. More often - I reject books that don't grab me right away. My mother got me into the habit of choosing books based on reading the first page, and I've done that since childhood. This is a great survey of first lines from children's books. Thanks.

  3. Margaret, you are most welcome. Lupe, I put Sand Mountain on my reading list

  4. One can't be reminded often enough of the importance of first lines. It's got to be tasty bait.
    Thanks for posting these!

  5. Michelle, I just realized you are the author of Dreamtown. I love that book! I bought two: one to give and one to keep. Thank you!

  6. I love that #3--I can't wait to find out what book that is.
    I have bought books for first lines. In my TBR pile is FEED by M.T. Anderson--purchased because the first line wowed me.

  7. Great as always! I was reading another blog today who talked about first lines and put your site in the comments: http://kikihamilton.blogspot.com/2010/01/setting-hook-how-do-you-start-your.html

  8. Ok Tricia, I have not bloggged the first line of Feed. You have sent me on a quest. And thank you Kathy, I went to Kiki Hamilton's blog and read the lines she had there. I think I had already posted all but one of them, Seeing the lines on Kiki's site was like meeting old friends.

  9. Hi Susan,

    Great list of first lines!! I'm a member of SCBWI too - will you be at the Western WA conference in April? Small world - right? What a fascinating career you've had!! Good luck with your new novel!

  10. Thanks Kiki
    I loved you blog. No I am not planning to go to Western WA conference. It is in my mind to go to Port Angeles this year because my sister and brother live there. I also hope to get to Hawaii. I used to live there in Kailua and I love to go back.

  11. I always loved "The Pokey Little Puppy," and its funny I ran across it here when I did, since the book recently took on new meaning for me. I'm glad to see it made Number 1.

  12. I loved this one too. I am trying in my recent posts to come up with "new book" first lines, but i agree this book is worth remembering. I really nedd some more first lines so if you have any please mail them to me at sueberger3@aol.com


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