What’s the first line of your novel?

It’s a big week for books in the UAE – the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has started, with more than 140 authors in attendance. I’ve booked all kinds of workshops and talks to learn more tricks of the trade and can’t wait to get stuck in.

Whether he likes it or not, Son1 is coming with me this year – I’ve found him a session entitled Unofficial Minecraft and the Quest for Justice. Seems right up his street.

See you at the LitFest!
See you at the LitFest!

My excitement about the LitFest peaked a few days ago, on the school run, when my fave DJ Catboy ran a segment on Dubai92 Breakfast inviting writers to send in the first line of their novel. I couldn’t resist, and fired off three texts as soon as I got home.

Well, my words got on the radio! They even called me a ‘serial writer’. It was such a feel-good moment, especially when, as wordsmiths, we spend endless hours hunched over our keyboards, tapping away, in isolation.

Here are the lines. They’re from a book of short stories I’m writing about Dubai, a sort of best-of-the-blog mixed with some humourous fiction that (inshallah) I hope to bring you soon! Watch this space – and if you’re a budding novelist, please tell me your first line in the comments section, or on this blog’s Facebook page. I’d LOVE to hear from you, even if your book isn’t finished.

Snatched
I’d just dropped my kids at school when I bumped into her; standing half-hidden behind a palm tree, sobbing into her hankie, big fat tears and Bobbi Brown mascara streaming down her crumpled face.

The Robot Help
“Over my dead body,” Marcie cried, fixing her eyes on her husband’s face to see if he was serious about replacing their housemaid with a robot cleaner; behind him the shadows thrown from the palm tree outside cast long, spindly fingers on the newly painted walls.

The Pearl Divers
Amir peered into the seawater – a shadow caught his eye, a murky flickering with indistinct edges at least fifteen feet down, but it was gone before the smudge became a man.

Your turn!

34 thoughts on “What’s the first line of your novel?

  1. Glinting through the leaves of the silver birch tree, the sunlight was casting dappled shadows on the dining room wall as she sat at the table looking at the pristine white page and wondered what on earth she was going to write…

  2. The sun warmed her shoulders as she typed away, one letter after another, each press triggering the ink stained letter of the typewriter to punch another mark into the page, it was less personal that way.

  3. Elizabeth Foster says:

    Here you go – First line of ‘Esme’s Wish’.
    “If any of you can show just cause as to why these two should not be lawfully wed, speak now, or forever hold your peace.”

    • Great start! I immediately want to know who is getting married, and I get the feeling that someone else is going to speak up at this point! Draws me in straight away! I should have asked for the whole first para! Thanks for sharing Elizabeth.

  4. Half-way up the wall, with the hardest stretch still ahead of her, Persephone closed her eyes. For her plan to work she had to be able to pull off the climb in total darkness.

  5. ‘Bloody Jonathan,’ Juliet Carlsen muttered to the scenery. ‘If you hadn’t tried to talk me out of this I wouldn’t be here.’

  6. I’ve written many elegant, intriguing first lines that have fallen into rabbit-holes of irredeemable manuscripts that would have benefited from even 10% of the same level of writerly care. For my current manuscript, I’m exercising the discipline of not going anywhere near the first paragraph until the rest of the structure is sorted. Still, enjoying the vicarious pleasure of reading everyone else’s first lines. Nice to meet you, Marianne.

  7. Love these lines. I want to read these books! Mine’s a picture book so this is actually the first page! ‘Come on, you can do it Joey,’ said Mum.

  8. This is my first rewrite of my opening lines to “Fortitude”, a steampunk-based novel. More to come, no doubt!

    Peremelia Winslow put one foot in front of the other in a effort to prevent herself running full pelt in the opposite direction. She dreaded her arrival at the desolate ruin known as Durringham Power Station. Yet how else would she discover who had written that letter in the neat cursive of her dead brother, Simon? “Be at the gates,” it had said, “no earlier and no later than 10pm.” It was quarter to that hour now.

  9. Elizabeth Foster says:

    Hi Marianne,
    Here’s a few more lines from Esme’s Wish.

    “If any of you can show just cause as to why these two should not be lawfully wed, speak now, or forever hold your peace.”
    Esme was seated in the front row, only a bouquet’s throw away from her father and his bride at the altar. Even though it was cool inside the old stone church, beads of perspiration were running down the back of her neck, staining her borrowed dress. Her hands twisted together nervously in her lap.
    The events of the last few months flashed before her – and the years, before them. This was her last chance. She gripped the edge of the wooden pew with one hand, and raised the other high in the air.

  10. Elizabeth Foster says:

    Oh, I forgot I have another one, too, from the current ms I am working on – the sequel to Esme’s Wish. Opening line.

    This is where I drowned.
    Esme crouched down and ran a hand over the pool’s glassy surface. The water rippled away, revealing the rock pool’s aquamarine depths. The weight of the water on her, the agony of her lungs crying out for air… this was the pool that had swallowed her whole, before spitting her out again, leaving her to figure out whether she was dead or alive.

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