First sentence

December 6, 2008 at 11:11 pm (writing) ()

I plan to write a novel.

They say the first sentence must be catchy.

Of course, as any INFP I find myself at the research stage. What is a good example of a first sentece?

Here are a few well known great first sentences (as found on the internet):

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times […] – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. – Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

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. – J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. – Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

All this happened, more or less. – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Call me Ishmael. — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

I also happen to like the first sentence of the three musketeers: ON THE FIRST MONDAY of the month of April, 1625, the small town of Meung, the birthplace of the author of the ‘Romance of the Rose,’ appeared to be in a state of revolution, as complete as if the Huguenots were come to make a second siege of La Rochelle.

What makes them good?

My favorite is the one that Jane Austen wrote when she was probably 21 years old (the book was published in 1813, but she wrote the draft in 1797).

Why is it great? “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Maybe because it says a lot while not saying much. It gives way to our imagination. Every reader can say to himself or herself: this can be a great story.

What I find to be a common trait among these sentences is that they are directly addresed to the reader. They seem honest and simple, but yet not void.

Here go my atemps. Here are the ideas that I have right now for how to begin a novel.

1. The first sentence of a novel is the most important.

2. Beginnings are always full of hope.

3. The beauty of life is that you get to state your own purposes.

I think I will follow Jane Austen’s idea and start with an universal truth.

So here are a few universal truths that I have found on the internet:

All attempts at profundity will immediately kill a conversation.

People who don’t drive slam car doors too hard.

Ketchup makes everything taste better. Except Ketchup.

Just because the thought was reached through deep meditation, dosn’t make it deep.

The volume of the music coming from inside a car is inversely proportional to the quality of what’s being played.

I guess the wright phrase will come to my mind when I will actually have something to write. 🙂



  1. Bruce McIntire said,

    I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

  2. infpidealist said,

    Thank you for the encouragement! And sorry for replying so late.

  3. Ø said,

    Would you write it in English? It would be impressive if you wrote it in a foreign language (foreign to yourself).

    by the way, one of my favourites: “First of all we need a place to stand.” (Stephen Dobyns–The Wrestler’s Cruel Study)

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