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First sentence

Related: beginning - novel - writing - examples


The first sentence of a novel is important. It should grab your attention. Finding first sentences has become a lot easier since Amazon started to list them on many of its book pages. The most famous first sentence of all time is once upon a time which starts most fairy tales. Some examples of first sentences I recently liked are:

"It was a dark and stormy night" -- Paul Clifford (1830) - Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

"There were 117 psychoanalysts on the Pan Am flight to Vienna and I'd been treated by at least six of them. And married a seventh." --Fear of Flying (1973) - Erica Jong

"I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain. " Brooklyn Follies (2005) - Paul Auster

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels." The contest was initiated in 1982 by Scott Rice and is named "in honor" of English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, source of the much quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night"; in full, Bulwer-Lytton's sentence runs:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. -Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulwer-Lytton_Fiction_Contest [Apr 2005]

The Lyttle Litton Contest
The Lyttle Litton Contest (run by Adam Cadre) varies from the Bulwer-Lytton in favouring extremely short first sentences, of 25 words or less.

Winners for each of the past four years are:

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyttle_Lytton_Contest [Apr 2005]

see also: cliché

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