Sunday, September 24, 2017

More First Lines

“All children, except one, grow up.”

Do you recognize that sentence? It’s the first line of J. M. Barrie’s story, Peter Pan.

The last time I wrote, I told you how, in order to progress in my writing, I was headed for the library to collect the first lines in novels and to see if they worked – that is, to see if they grabbed my attention right from the start. Certainly, Barrie’s line does as it leads us willingly towards a land of enchantment.  

Here’s another one that works for me: “Sometimes in the night he dreamed about the dead – familiar faces and others, half-forgotten, fleetingly.” It’s the first sentence from Colm Toibin’s The Master, the powerful story about the writer Henry James.

“Excuse me sir, may I be of assistance?” are the benign and friendly first works in Hamid Mohsin’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which are especially benign considering the chilling words at the end of the book.

Although most of the lines I found were from books I’d already read, this one wasn’t: “Matanni, my grandmother, said it began deep inside my mama’s womb when she was pregnant with me.” These are the first words in Icy Sparks, a novel by Gwyn Hyman Rubio, which according to its back cover is “a story about a girl growing up in rural Kentucky with an undiagnosed affliction that manifests as violent tics and uncontrollable cursing.” I found this interesting and eerily similar to my description for Rude Awakening, my memoir about growing up in 1950s Philadelphia with an undiagnosed disorder that affected all my relationships, even into adulthood.

What about you? Do you have a favorite first line, your own or someone else’s? If you have, I’d love to see it in the comments below.

My memoir, Dear Elvis, is available at

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