Some authors obsess over their opening lines, rewriting them again and again until they finally seem right. Others simply jump in, trusting readers to follow.
We can learn something from both approaches. Can a brilliant beginning send a tingle down our spines, letting us know we’re in for something special? Oh, yes. Can a somewhat ordinary beginning make the prospect of Page 1 look easy, reminding us we need not overcomplicate things? Also yes. And can a writer obsess over a line that reads as deceptively simple?
Silly question, of course. We all know a writer can obsess over anything.
January is a season for beginnings but also for “best of” highlights, a last look over our shoulders at what we’re leaving behind. Let’s embrace the spirit of both and take an instructive, inspiring, or just plain curious look at the opening lines of 10 of the bestselling books of 2022.
(Note: For the purposes of this post, I worked from Forbes and Amazon rankings, eliminated perennial classics that have lingered on lists for years, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry Potter, and quoted only one title from any given author, lest this roundup quickly retitle itself Opening Lines From Colleen Hoover. Titles are adult fiction unless otherwise noted.)
1. “As I sit here with one foot on either side of the ledge, looking down from twelve stories above the streets of Boston, I can’t help but think about suicide.
Not my own. I like my life enough to want to see it through.” —It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
2. “The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog.” —Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
3. “’Can you come into my office?’
I look around at the desks beside me and then back at Frankie, trying to confirm to whom, exactly, she’s talking. I point to myself. ‘Do you mean me?’” —The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
4. “The present in front of me is wrapped in Christmas paper even though it’s the end of June.” —I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (memoir)
5. “At some point when I was a child, my father started using a cane to keep himself balanced when he walked.” —The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama (nonfiction)
6. “I always thought I wanted to be rich and famous, but now I’m starting to wonder if fame and fortune are worth the hassle.” —Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Overlode by Jeff Kinney (young adult)
7. “I’m sure I can tell this story. I’m also sure no one will believe it. That’s fine with me. Telling it will be enough. My problem—and I’m sure many writers have it, not just newbies like me—is deciding where to start.” —Fairy Tale by Stephen King
8. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into Café Rev, but it sure as hell wasn’t a picture of myself behind the register under the cheery headline ‘Do Not Serve.’” —Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
9. “I am not a sentimental keeper of things.” —Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown (nonfiction)
10. “I don’t know why I’m writing this.
That’s not true. Maybe I do know and just don’t want to admit it to myself.” —The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Have any opening lines stopped you in your tracks lately? We’d love for you to share! Join our discussion on Facebook.