Friday Fun: First Lines and Would you rather…?

Paper Hangover is a fantastic group blog offering writing tips and advice, book reviews, weekly blog topics, and teen interviews. I recommend you spend some time exploring the site–they have so much to offer!

Here’s today’s Friday Five prompt:

I have to admit, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to first lines until I began to write seriously. Now, I’m always eager to see how an author opens his/her book. Does the first line make me ask an immediate question? Does it give me a unique insight into the narrator? Is there automatic tension? Is there an appealing hint of the voice to come? Most importantly: Am I intrigued enough to read on? I always make a mental note of what works about a particularly great first line and hope it’s awesomeness somehow absorbs into the writer part of my brain.

Here are five very effective first lines from a few of my favorite books:

1) If I Stay by Gayle Forman – Everyone thinks it was because of the snow.

2) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

3) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.

4) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – Miriam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.

5) Looking for Alaska by John Green The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.

What makes a great first line, in your opinion?

And a Would you rather…? I’m still not quite sure how to answer. Writer Katy wants to answer one way, and Mommy Katy wants to answer the other . I’m curious to hear what you’d choose… 🙂

Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?


26 thoughts on “Friday Fun: First Lines and Would you rather…?

  1. Jus Accardo says:

    “Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?”

    THAT is an insanely tough question…
    It’s a close call, but I’d have to go with keeping the old ones. There’s no way I could sacrifice all those amazing talks I had with my grandmother, learning to ride a bike, seeing my husband for the very first time…

    There’s just too much to loose.

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m torn on this one too… I’d hate to lose the memories of my childhood and my daughter’s, but I’d also hate not to be able to remember all that’s to come.

  2. Emy Shin says:

    Oh, I love these first lines you’ve chosen. I adore HARRY POTTER’s first line. It’s so full of voice that it drew me in immediately.

    That’s — That’s difficult. I suppose it depends on how much longer I have to live. Because I treasure my memories growing up, my only memories of Vietnam. But I still haven’t experienced a lot of firsts, and I would like to remember those. So I’d have to choose the latter.

    • katyupperman says:

      I love that Harry Potter line too–it’s the “thank you very much” part that gets me.

      It’s so interesting to read what people would choose for Would you rather…? I’m totally torn on this one too!

  3. Rebecca B says:

    The HP opening line is so great.

    That would you rather is so tough–I’m going to go with lose all old. Otherwise, I feel like I’d turn into Miss Havisham!

    • katyupperman says:

      Ha! I think I might loose the old too. I’d like to think there’s a lot of great stuff to come in my life and it would suck to not be able to remember it. Then I think of my childhood and my wedding and my daughter’s birth and I get all sad at the prospect of losing that. Too hard!

  4. Marquita Hockaday says:

    Oooh! These are so good! I am going to read Looking For Alaska before SCBWI (courtesy of the cuz, Pam) and after reading the first line here, I can’t wait! Also, the first line of Harry Potter is pretty much genius-it’s def. a hook 🙂

  5. Pam Harrris says:

    I LOVE that first line from If I Stay–it really pulls me into the story. I have this saved on my ereader–can’t believe I haven’t read it yet!! As far as your “Would you rather”….ooh, that’s a good one! I’d have to say I wouldn’t want to lose my old memories. I pride myself on remembering things as far back as when I was 3 years old. That way, you can always remember people that are no longer here.

  6. Erin L. Schneider says:

    Ohhhhhhh, our lists almost shared several first lines! 🙂 And #5 is on my TBR list – glad to see you mention it here!

    And what makes a first line? Anything that sticks in your memory years after you’ve read it. Before I buy a book, I always open to the first chapter and read the first line. It doesn’t always sway me to NOT buy the book – because I’ll give it a fair chance – but I can guarantee, if it immediately resonates in my mind, I’m buying it right away!

    To answer your would you rather question…yikes, Katy – that one’s a tough one.

    While there are a few I wouldn’t mind forgetting, I know I’d rather keep all my old memories. I wouldn’t ever want to forget my Mom, the wonderful places I’ve traveled to, and being 16 all over again.

    Great post, Katy!

    • katyupperman says:

      I noticed that we shared some of the same first lines as well… great minds. 🙂 I always read the first several lines before I buy a book too. I’ve put several back on the shelf based just on a few sentences.

  7. Holly Dodson says:

    Great picks, Katy!!

    Your would you rather question has evoked some really strong thoughts for me. I’m a mom too — and the prospect of not remembering anything from the rest of my son’s life is horrifying. As much as I’d hate to loose my old ones, if I were forced to choose, I’d only keep the new. 🙂

  8. Jessica Love says:

    Mary Kole had a post on first lines the other day. She said your first line shouldn’t be able to be the first line of just any book. I love that all of the first lines you’ve chosen are definitely from THOSE books, if you know what I mean. They connect you to that particular story right away.

    For the would you rather, I think I’d be ok with losing my old memories if it meant I could still make new ones. (As long as I didn’t totally forget all the life lessons I’ve learned from the things I’ve done…don’t want to go making stupid mistakes again!)

    • katyupperman says:

      I read that post Mary Kole did and completely agree. If the first line can be from any old book, it’s not doing its job.

      And I agree… losing my previous memories is terrible enough, but to lose the wisdom I gained through experience would be a nightmare!

  9. Alison Miller says:

    You’ve seen my take on what makes a great first line. 🙂

    And Looking for Alaska? *sigh* I almost used that one. And the one from If I Stay. Great choices, Katy!

    PS – I can’t answer your last question. I can’t bear to part with old memories. And the thought of never being able to make new ones – unimaginable.

    Have a great weekend!

    • katyupperman says:

      Glad I’m not the only one having trouble with that Would you rather…? I wonder if the choice is hard for parents? Probably a whole different perspective, at the very least.

      And your first line list is fantastic, Alison. 🙂

  10. Sophia Richardson says:

    And now I am checking whether the line of seven people waiting for two copies of Looking for Alaska has dwindled. The Jellicoe Road opener also packs a lot of punch; there are so many questions to answer from that one line.

    I can answer your last question way too easily unfortunately. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always had a really bad long-term memory. When it comes to those questionnaires about favourite hobbies as a kid and your first memory, I’m just one big blank. So between the fact that I already don’t remember 90% of my life and my relative youth and uninspired life, I’d go with the ability to make new memories.

    • katyupperman says:

      I don’t have a great memory either, Sophia. I like to think that I remember the important stuff, but that’s up for debate.

      If you can spring for a new book, Jellicoe Road is most definitely worth the splurge. One of my very favorites. 🙂

  11. Literary Marie says:

    First lines set the tone of an entire book. It has to immediately grab my attention.

    I have a similar meme on my book blog called First Lines Friday. Feel free to participate!

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