Cheesey Opening Lines, part 2.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

Here are some opening lines. You rate them and then I’ll tell you where they came from. Don’t be afraid to say what you like or dislike about each, and NO CHEATING! The answers are below, so don’t scroll too far:

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The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.

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It was love at first sight.

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The call came from an unfamiliar number.

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The late twentieth century has witnessed a scientific gold rush of astonishing proportions: the headlong and furious haste to commercialize genetic engineering.

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The tropical rain fell in sheets, hammering the corrugated roof of the clinic building, raring don the metal gutters, splashing on the ground in a torrent.

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Mike Bowman whistled cheerfully as he drove the land rover through the Cabo Blanco Reserve, on the west coast of Costa Rica.

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How old do you think Miss DeGroot really is?

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Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.

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Shortly before midnight, July 1, 1833, Colonel Aaron Burr, aged seventy-seven, married Eliza Jurnen, born Bowen fifty-eight years ago (more likely sixty-five but remember: she is prone to litigation!).

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It wouldn’t be the first time Dick Ebersol had pitched the new program called Saturday Night without having more than the vaguest idea of what that program would be.

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The man with six weeks to live is anxious.

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Buck did not read newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

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The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.

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The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.

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“TOM!”

No answer.

“TOM!”

No answer.

“What’s gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!”

No answer.

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them.

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Jack Torrance thought, officious little prick.

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STOP! HERE COME THE ANSWERS!!!

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STOP! HERE COME THE ANSWERS!!!

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STOP! HERE COME THE ANSWERS!!!

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The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.

Jaws, Peter Benchley

(Meh)

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It was love at first sight.

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

(FOUR STARS! I LOVE this opening line!)

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The call came from an unfamiliar number.

The fourth Descendant, Allison Maruska

(Yeah, she did a good one, what can I say.)

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Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) has an introduction, a prologue, and I guess chapter 1 is called The First Iteration, so I’ll give all three. I love the movie, I read the book on the advice of a friend – and skimmed a lot.

The late twentieth century has witnessed a scientific gold rush of astonishing proportions: the headlong and furious haste to commercialize genetic engineering.

Jurassic Park Introduction

(Yawn)

The tropical rain fell in sheets, hammering the corrugated roof of the clinic building, raring don the metal gutters, splashing on the ground in a torrent.

Jurassic Park Prologue, which is really where the book and story probably start

(Ehh, it’s okay.)

Mike Bowman whistled cheerfully as he drove the land rover through the Cabo Blanco Reserve, on the west coast of Costa Rica.

Jurassic Park, What I Think Is Chapter One

(Yawn – and adverbs???)

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How old do you think Miss DeGroot really is?

The Other

Thomas Tryon

(A GREAT opening line and a GREAT, GREAT, GREAT book, scar as hell. Also a great movie.)

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Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.

The Godfather, Mario Puzo

(Meh, but that’s how he told it, and it was like a snowball rolling down a hill, it started slow and just kept getting better. One of my favorite books and favorite movies.)

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Shortly before midnight, July 1, 1833, Colonel Aaron Burr, aged seventy-seven, married Eliza Jurnen, born Bowen fifty-eight years ago (more likely sixty-five but remember: she is prone to litigation!).

Burr, Gore Vidal

(Oh my god, shoot me now – until that little line about the wife suing you if you get her age wrong. That saves it. Not a fave, just one I read a while back.)

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It wouldn’t be the first time Dick Ebersol had pitched the new program called Saturday Night without having more than the vaguest idea of what that program would be.

Saturday Night, A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, Doug Hill & Jeff Weingrad

(Not a bad opener, really. I like it.)

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The man with six weeks to live is anxious.

Killing Lincoln, Bill O’Reilly

(I like it! Say what you want about Bill, but this history book reads like fast-paced thriller, and that’s an accomplishment!)

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Buck did not read newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

Call Of The Wild, Jack London

(It’s a bit of  run-on sentence, but I LOVE the opening… of the opening. He had to explain some things. So he did it fast, but ya gotta love the immediate foreboding!)

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The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

(Yawn – but I feel that way about all her stuff, and I find people who gush about it to be pretentious. Sorry.)

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The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.

Twenty Thousand leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne

(I like it! Ol’ Jules had it goin’ on. Not a four star, but pretty good.)

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“TOM!”

No answer.

“TOM!”

No answer.

“What’s gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!”

No answer.

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them.

Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

(I love the opening. I don’t know why.)

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Jack Torrance thought, officious little prick.

The Shining, Stephen King

(As much as I like the book and the movie – and both scared the hell out of me and still do – it’s a giveaway for this exercise when the main character of a popular book is mentioned in the opening line, so this one gets a pass, but it’s catchy because of the name calling, probably a device. It works.)

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Here’s the top 100 according to American Book Review. Read them and learn something about hooking a reader.

http://americanbookreview.org/100bestlines.asp

How did you rate these?

18 thoughts on “Cheesey Opening Lines, part 2.

    • Same with the movie. VERY slow start. It’s all the killing scenes and violence that keep you on the edge of your seat, which I only realized a few nights ago.

      It was on TV, so I recorded it. The movie follows the book pretty well, so I fast forwarded through to see why it was so interesting. Yes, it explained about the mafia. Yes, there are subplots and intrigue. But every so often there’s a gruesome murder! And they are pretty evenly spaced throughout the movie, with a LOT of them at the end, like the conclusion of a fireworks display.

      A lesson for movie makers and writers alike.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Here are the best from the list of American Book Reviewers’ top 100. Notice how far down I had to go to find good ones (that I didn’t already list in my post)

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

    39. They shoot the white girl first. —Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)

    41. The moment one learns English, complications set in. —Felipe Alfau, Chromos (1990)

    48. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

    49. It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)

    82. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. —Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)

    And the ONLY reason The Old Man And the Sea is in there is because if you fish for a living and go 84 days without a catch, you are in dire straits. I don’t think I knew that as a kid when I read it. It’s like going 84 days without a paycheck, or 84 days without eating. I didn’t get it back then.

    Kitchen sink? That’s hilarious and grabs me.

    Granny explodes? Gotta read more about that!

    Learning English creates complications? Tell me about it!

    Shooting kids is bad; shooting the white girl first, wow, what did she do? And maybe it’s a little scary-racist-y. I have to read more.

    Vonnegut’s “more or less” is how I’d start every book, if I didn’t start so many with dialog. It’s funny and tells you a lot about the writer in an instant.

    Like

  2. I think Call of the Wild’s opening is perfect. We get introduced to the main character and start immediately in the action all in one sentence. Maybe it’s a little run-on, but literary conventions were different in 1903.

    My favorite cheesy opening line is from Tom Holt’s Who’s Afraid of Beowulf. “Someone had scribbled ‘godforsaken between ‘Welcome to” and ‘Caithness’ on the road sign.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Maybe it’s a little run-on, but literary conventions were different in 1903.”

      Absolutely. And even in jaws, we’ve changes quite a bit since 1974!

      I like to think that if those authors were publishing today, they’d just change the opening line and nothing else. Scary to think of what some of the classics would be if they had to go through today’s process.

      Like

  3. Awesome list!! I knew Tom Sawyer, but I have to confess I didn’t know any of the others. I should have caught The Godfather because I have read the book and seen the movie at least 10 times. It is one of my all time favorites! The others I did not know because I have not read any of them! OMG! I read ALL the TIME! I have seen several of the movies though. Does that count??? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It all counts. I LOVE the movie Jurassic Park, but when I look at the book, which I read first, it doesn’t hold up. I thought The Shining was a scary book but I found the movie MUCH scarier – and my best editor friend totally disagrees and thinks Kubrick ruined the book. They are different, but they all have to capture you pretty fast these days!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Shortly before midnight, July 1, 1833, Colonel Aaron Burr, aged seventy-seven, married Eliza Jurnen, born Bowen fifty-eight years ago (more likely sixty-five but remember: she is prone to litigation!).”

    That’s a hint to laughter and sarcasm or just sarcasm, which will make me laugh. I can’t resist.

    Liked by 1 person

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