First Lines from Other Worlds

I changed things up a bit for this First Line Friday post. First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. For these first lines from other worlds I include the first 45-55 words of each novel. When you read these first words, do you want to read more?

The cover of The City in the Middle of night is mostly black silhouette of city buildings against pink silhouettes of buildings against a yellow sky running perpendicularly down the open edge of the book.

Bianca walks toward me, under too much sky. The white-hot twilight makes a halo out of loose strands of her fine black hair. She looks down and fidgets, as though she’s trying to settle an argument with herself, but then she looks up and sees me and a smile starts …

The City in the Middle of the Night  by Charlie Jane Ander

The cover of Machine has a dark blue to black background with a lighter blue to white tree like structure dotted with lights--possibly representing neurons in the white space of your brain--definitely other worlds

I stood in the door and looked down.

Down wasn’t the right word, exactly. But it also wasn’t the wrong word. All directions were down from where I stood, and almost all of them were an infinitely long fall.

Machine: A White Space Novel By Elizabeth Bear

The cover of Tiger Honor shows the white outlines of a tiger againsg a blue star field with two planets in the background. In the foreground a young man kneels on one knee and looks up into the heavens and other worlds.

When the mail arrived, it should have been the best day of my life.

Mail—physical mail—came once a week at best. The Juhwang Clan of tiger spirits made our home on the world of Yonggi for the past several centuries. Our ties to the land dated back…

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee 

The cover of The Light Brigade has large typeface so the author's name and the title fill the cover's foreground, behind the letters is the non-gender specific soldier in armor standing in a white light that fades to a dark blue a symbol for other worlds

They said the war would turn us into light.

I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world. That’s what I told the recruiter. That’s what I told my first squad leader. It’s what I told every CO, and there were … a couple. And that’s what I’d tell myself, when …

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Cover of Afterland has the Author's name at the top in the center is a twig with four green leaves hanging down from it and continuing to end in a pink flower against a blue sky with white fluffy clouds a story from other worlds here on earth.

Look at me,” Cole says. “Hey.” Checking Miles’s pupils, which are still huge. Shock and fear and the drugs working their way of of his system. Scrambling to remember her first-aid training. Checklist as life buoy. He’s able to focus, to speak without slurring. He was groggy in the car, getting away. …

Afterland by Lauren Beukes 

A Reminder

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

If you liked those first lines, I hope you’ll love this one:

Cover of the Book Fellowship, a companion to the Fellowship Dystopia, has a deep brown background with rust brown Fellowship shield over which there is a yellow and orange 2-D church spire, in front of which the silhouette of a young man runs toward the camera. Other worlds sometimes happen on earth.


One word and Ian Hobart’s world teetered into not safe.  The reporters’ voices fell, the remainder of their conversation now muted by the clack and ratchet and ding of their typewriters. 

Fellowship, a companion novel to the Fellowship Dystopia Series
by Lynette M. Burrows

Don’t forget, book two in the Fellowship Dystopia, If I Should Die, will be on preorder next month. Read book one before then. And watch this space for a sneak peek or two into the action-packed story of book two.

Other Worlds on Your TBR?

Did you enjoy these first lines from other worlds? You may also enjoy previous First Line Fridays.

Which of these books is now on your TBR list?

First Lines from Women’s Fiction

Let’s celebrate women’s history month with first lines from women’s fiction. First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

The cover of A Train to Moscow has a graphic of yellow corners and a red pair of red triangles with the tops meeting in the middle form two triangles revealing the profile of a young woman looking  pensive. Its the first book in the first lines from women's fiction blog post.

She immediately knows something is wrong. The door to Marik’s house is ajar, and there is a black car blocking the street just a few meters away.

A Train to Moscow by Elena Gorokhova

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Jewish Spy, shows a young woman in a red dress and carrying luggage walk away from the camera down a city street, the buildings are unfamiliar and have Nazi banners hanging at intervals. Two bombers fly overhead in a smoky sky.

Rivka’s whole body ached with nostalgia, even though her husband and children were with her in her home town of Nadvorna to celebrate her forty-second birthday.

The Jewish Spy (World War II Brave Women Fiction)  by Hayuta Katzenelson 

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, These Tangled Vines, shows large stone home on a hilltop in the distance.

The telephone rang and woke me from a dream. I must have been deep in the REM cycle, because I was cognizant of the ringing, but I believed it was part of the dream, so I chose to ignore it.

These Tangled Vines by Julianne MacLean

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Woman in the WIndow,has a graphic representing venitian blinds in the foreground with the book title in red behind the blinds.

 Her husband’s almost home. He’ll catch her this time.

The Woman in the Window  by A. J. Finn  

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Four winds, shows golden ripe wheat stalks against a black background.

Elsa Wolcott had spent years in enforced solitude, reading fictional adventures and imagining other lives.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, Will Women and the Blues, shows a young woman's plunging v neckline in the back of her green dress.

On the fifth floor of the Bronzeville Senior Living Facility, I stand outside the smallest room in the world, doing my best to ignore the dropped ceiling and square linoleum tiles, stoking my claustrophobia.

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Vanishing half shows vibrant colors in the shapes of overlapping female faces.

The morning one of the lost twins returned to Mallard, Lou LeBon ran to the diner to break the news, and even now, many years later, everyone remembers the shock of sweaty Lou pushing through the glass doors, chest heaving, neckline darkened with his own efforts. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The last flight, is a red and black photo looking down an escalator to the silhouette of a woman at the bottom.

Prologue:Terminal 4 swarms with people, the smell of wet wool and jet fuel thick around me. I wait for her, just inside the glass sliding doors, the frigid winter wind slamming into me whenever they open, and instead force myself to visualize a balmy Puerto Rican breeze, laced with the scent of hibiscus and sea salt.  

The Last Flight by Julie Clark


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? Check out previous First Line Fridays. You’ll put an enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below—

What’s your favorite first line?

First Line Friday: Ghosts and Witches and Monsters

It’s October and that means for First Line Friday we’re looking for ghosts and witches and monsters—in science fiction and fantasy books. As always, there are no affiliate links in this collection of first lines. These titles are available on Amazon. They may be available in other places as well. 

image of three ghosts with arms raised and mouths open in a oooh shape. Ghosts witches and monsters are the theme for this month's first lines friday post.


Alexis Kine always knew her luck would eventually run out. 

We Dare (Ghost Squadron Book 1) Eric Thomson

No one noticed the rock.

The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War Book 2) John Scalzi

Monday is nature’s way of telling you that the only easy day was yesterday.

Ghost Dog: Military Science Fiction Across a Holographic Multiverse (Gate Walkers Book 3)  Ashley R Pollard

I placed a paper shirt into the furnace.

The Girl with Ghost Eyes: The Daoshi Chronicles, Book One M. H. Boroson

And Witches

photograph of a woman in a black cloak looking at a book in front of a pentagram drawn on the wall. Ghosts, witches, and monsters are the theme of this month's first lines Friday post.

Bess ran. The clear night sky and fat moon gave ample illumination for her flight.

The Witch’s Daughter: A Novel Paula Brackston

There had been no sign of the hunters for three days.

The Witches of the Wytewoods M J Thompson

I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

A Deadly Education: A Novel (The Scholomance Book 1) Naomi Novik

Her eyes rested above the waterline as a moth struggled inside her mouth.

The Vine Witch Luanne G. Smith

And Monsters

close-up image of a reptilian alien eye. Ghosts, witches, and monsters are the theme of this month's first lines Friday post.

In the beginning there was only the hunt—the primal need to fight, to feed, and to kill.

Wandering Spirit (Bill of the Dead Adventures)  Rick Gualtieri

Krizzo fought while curled around himself in the control module.

The Trilisk Ruins (Parker Interstellar Travels Book)  Michael McCloskey

“It’s the monster!” Shade Darby cried out, speaking to no one in particular.

Monster (Gone Book 7) Michael Grant

The giant knew Richard Nixon.

Monster: An Alex Delaware Novel  Jonathan Kellerman

Tonight’s job had me sitting in a shadowy corner of a dead-end dive watching the unfortunate, the hopeless, and the degenerates.

Evil’s Unlikely Assassin: A Vampire Urban Fantasy Jenn Windrow


Finding ghosts and witches and monsters in the lists of science fiction and fantasy books proved to be more difficult than expected. The so-called ghost stories and the witch stories rarely had a first line that established mood or that we were talking ghosts or witches. One reason this might be the trend is to establish the normal world. But I found this disappointing. How about you?

The monster stories almost always established the mood and idea immediately. As a result, these first lines appealed to me, even though I don’t read monster stories often. What do you think?

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll enjoy my previous First Line Friday posts.

Will You Buy One?

I hope you found at least one story about ghosts and witches and monsters that you’ll enjoy. Perhaps you’d like to share a first line from your favorite Halloween-themed book?

How to Write a Great First Line

The first line of a story has a major job—to catch the attention of the reader. The right reader. As a writer it is, arguably, the most important line we write. So how do we write a great first line?

once upon a time handwritten on a piece of paper can be a great first line if you've written a fable or fairy tale

The Job of the First Line

If the job of the first line of a story is to catch a reader’s attention, then all it has to do is shock or be surprising, right? Well, that may work for some stories and some readers. But it’s not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the right way for the story you write today.

The most important job of the first line is to hook the reader, but it’s not the only job of the first line. The best first lines also introduce a writing style, a mood, a theme, and hints at conflict to come. Now, not all of us can write the perfect first line. But we can learn techniques that will give us a great first line.

No One Right Way

I’ve said it repeatedly. Every writer must find what works for them. The biggest shocker is that one way won’t work for every story written by the same writer.

Great first lines can reflect the story’s theme. It can reflect an odd or unique detail of the world. Establishing your character’s voice is another powerful way to create a great first line. Convey the stakes with your opening line and you’ll hook readers. Or you can use sensory details and the setting to establish mood and foreshadow what the story will be about.

The one thing that’s sort of consistent is that the first line must convey your writing style. Are your sentences short and choppy or full and flowery? That first sentence will let the reader decide, is this a style I can spend hours reading?

How Do You Learn?

Collect them. Collect first lines of novels and short stories in your genre. Good ones, bad ones, even mediocre ones will help you.

Analyze them. What’s your gut reaction? Are you interested or not? Is it—meh?

Don’t ignore the bad or the meh. Take them apart. Why does it give you that feeling?

Is it dialog? Go a step further. Is it internal dialog or with another character? What’s the dialog. Is it a confrontation, an expression of love or desire, or something else?

Perhaps it’s a unique voice or style of writing. Again, what is it expressing? How do you feel about the character or setting? What do you expect will happen next?

Is it heavy on description? What mood does it convey? Does it convey a theme? Why would the author of this story choose this location?

Perhaps it’s an action beat. What action? Why is the action important?

Don’t neglect popular stories outside of your genre. You never know when one might spark an idea that would make your first line great. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of 100 best first lines. Or check out the ones on my First Line Fridays posts.

How I Wrote a First Line

cover of My Soul to Keep by Lynette M Burrows from which the first line is taken

The giant bronze angel of death loomed over Miranda Clarke’s shoulder.

My Soul to Keep by Lynette M. Burrows

How did I choose that as the first line of My Soul to Keep?

I wanted to convey a location, an action, and a situation that firmly created the world in my reader’s mind. But how? The story world had so many elements of the real world it could confuse my reader.

I kept asking myself, how is this world different? What symbols would there be? How would their daily life be different? If I were one of the elite, my life would be one of luxury. Why would I want to run away from that?

I tried dialog. I tried an ‘every day’ scene. And I tried several settings. I also tried many symbolic representations of the society.

My story is a dark dystopian alternate history. The symbolism of the statue, this particular statue, looming over Miranda conveys theme, potential conflict, and the society. And the first paragraph, and subsequent paragraphs, build on the theme and conflict and society.

Does my first line appeal to every reader? No, of course not. You don’t want a first line that appeals to every reader. Your first line should entice YOUR readers to keep reading.

You Can Write a Great First Line

First, thanks to reader Jan G for giving me the push to write this post sooner rather than later. Second, know that you can do this.

Usually, a great first line doesn’t come in the first or second draft. Often the writer writes and rewrites the first line many, many times. Stephen King rewrites his first lines for months, sometimes years.

There are lots of good first lines out there. And there are many great first lines out there. How can you write a great first line? Scribble some bad first lines. Write many good first lines and you’ll find a great first line. Write a great first line and let your readers decide if you penned the perfect first line.

First Lines for August

August is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So I thought it fitting that I feature novels set in or about World War II in the First Lines for August post. Based on these first lines alone, would you buy the book?

Illustration of a palm tree on one page of an open book. Under the palm tree a treasure chest and pirate. On the other page the pirate's ship. First lines for August might make images in your mind.

At dusk they pour from the sky. 

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Carla knew her parents were about to have a row.

Winter of the World, Ken Follet
cover of Ken Follett's book Winter of the World

The man at the end of the long table—he wore a trimmed black beard streaked white at the ends of his mouth—looked up at the wall clock: three minutes past seven.

Prologue, From Time to Time, Jack Finney

We stood bunched in with the little crowd you can see on the balcony down there at the right—see it?—just over the pillared entrance to the Everett House: Julia and I, her hands in her muff; and our four-year-old son, chin on the balcony rail.

Chapter One, From Time to Time, Jack Finney

SS-Sturmbannfürer Gunther Dettmer had been dreaming of this day since his childhood.  

The Heroes of Sainte-Mère-Église, J.D. Keene

Once Harry made a decision, he rarely looked back.

Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds, Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

Mas Arai worried that the customs officer at Kansai Airport would find his best friend, Haruo Mukai, inside his suitcase.

Hiroshima Boy, Naomi Hirahara

Heavens! Already five o’clock. How time flies! I’ll never get the fusuma put up, or the bedcover stitched, before our new lodger arrives.

The Flowers of Hiroshima, Edita Morris

Yes, the last one has more than the first sentence because the first sentence is so short. And because that book will appear on this blog again. Next time it will be reviewed.

Happy Reading!

Tell, me which ones peaked your interest?

Do you like prologues? Do you read them?

Which ones did you also read the blurb?

If you like reading first lines, you might like Will You Buy These Books Based on the First Lines? and why some first lines work.

A novel’s first line is a powerful thing. A well written line can suck the reader in. A poorly written one can convince the reader to give the book a pass. Are there books you’ve purchased or read simply because of a great first line? Are there any of the First Lines for August that tempted you to buy the book?