They say everyone’s got a novel in them somewhere. I’m assuming they don’t mean this literally – “We’ve got the x-ray back from the lab, Miss Smith, and I can confirm that you do have a novel inside you.”
Yes, I do. I’m sure I do. But where do I begin? Where would you begin?
You’re sitting in the kitchen eating your breakfast, preferably some kind of pastry that you pronounce in a French accent to make you feel arty, and you’re pondering absent-mindedly what the name of that bloke was in that thing on TV last week, when out of nowhere it hits you. Inspiration. Your characters appear to you in a glorious vision and now you have your novel. The words are practically writing themselves.
So here’s the challenge: what’s your opening line?
Here’s some attention-grabbing inspiration for you:
They shoot the white girl first.
Paradise by Toni Morrison
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
The Crow Road by Iain Banks
“To be born again,” sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.”
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
What a lot of hairy faced men there are around nowadays.
The Twits by Roald Dahl
ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Miserables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn’t seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, ‘Be My Baby’ on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
All this happened, more or less.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
And here’s some contenders for my own first novel:
“Trust me,” he winked and untethered it.
It was a crisp autumnal morning with a heavy sky to contrast with the light crunch of crimson leaves underfoot and the smell of diffusing seasons that gently danced on the soft breeze when I found out that my brother had turned into a goat.
Everyone can tell a lie but not everyone can tell a liar.
What would your first line be? You don’t have to write a whole novel afterwards . . . but you can if you like.
Our favourite gets a prize.