When you are a writer, you hear over and over again the important job of first lines: to draw your reader into your story. The first line is a “hook” to grab the reader. But another important aspect of the first line is when it grabs you as a writer.
Write as often as possible,
not with the idea at once of getting into print,
but as if you were learning an instrument.
–J B Priestley
One way to fire up your imagination? Creative writing exercises focused on the first line of a story. Below is an arbitrary list of first lines for you to use to hone your storytelling and writing skills. Any of the following lines can be used to begin a novel, short story, or even an essay or non-fiction piece. Choose one and let your imagination loose!
Write the one that interests you most at the top of the page and then start writing. Now write the one that interests you the least and do the same. There are 31 first lines here, enough to keep you writing for an entire month. (These are in 1st person, but feel free to change them into 2nd or 3rd person.)
31 First Lines to get you started:
- I can’t help it. I lie. All the time.
- When I found out there would be a supermoon in two nights, I began making my plans.
- I turned to see who was following me.
- I’ve never done anything like this, but I was about to be thrown out of college and was desperate for money…
- The day I decided to get my tattoo…
- I had always thought the people who were paid to watch me were stupid, but this was beyond belief.
- I wish I could take back that moment, at the fortune-teller’s table…
- Anytime you want to meet someone over the internet, take my advice. Don’t.
- It’s bad enough that I have the boss from hell, but this profession sucks the life from my soul, especially today.
- 10. The first thing that went through my head was “she’s a witch!” from that Monty Python movie.
- Manipulating people is so easy I almost stopped doing it. Almost.
- This was the last thing I expected.
- When he suggested I should run for office, I laughed. Then I considered it. After all…
- I was fascinated by the history of my house.
- This building smelled like a hospital, but it was not a place anyone would leave alive.
- I’d always wondered what would happen when I opened that door.
- The day I died began as an ordinary day.
- The moon has always called to me…
- Everyone thinks I’m normal, but no one has ever seen me at midnight.
- As I sit down to write this, I imagine what you will think when you open the envelope…
- Watching for the delivery truck became my obsession. I couldn’t wait for the package to come; I’d never ordered anything like it before.
- Never a dull moment when you’re a taxi driver. Just the other day this guy gets in…
- This might seem like it’s about me, but it’s not.
- If I hadn’t looked out the window at that exact moment and watched it happen with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.
- Sometimes it’s best not to go home again.
- I wasn’t allowed to do this. But I couldn’t resist.
- I never should have started it, but I had no idea I would cause such trouble.
- When I woke, I didn’t know where I was.
- The moment I realized what I was reading, I knew I was as good as dead.
- I’d never imagined I could kill somebody.
- After she’d told me it was “high time” I knew my family legacy, my grandmother turned, pulled the box from the closet and handed it to me.
So there you are, enough first lines for a month. Enjoy and remember (to use a cliché) practice makes perfect.
Looking for more writing exercises? The How to Write Shop has an entire section of creating writing prompts to try.