Here’s an old trick. Lost your writing mojo? Can’t think where to start? Where better than the first line of a famous literary work? You don’t need to be familiar with the original story; in fact it works better if you aren’t. When you’ve finished your piece, you can go back to the beginning and delete the first line – I guarantee you won’t need it by then.
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite first lines. I’ve read, enjoyed and can highly recommend all of these books, though I can’t profess to have remembered all these beginnings without some help. Some of the novels are a delight, to be kept and revisited, some of the others are more of a challenge. I’ll let you decide.
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ 1984 – George Orwell
‘This is the saddest story I have ever heard.’ The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford
‘Mother died today.’ The Stranger – Albert Camus
‘Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.’ The Debut – Anita Brookner.
‘Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.’ Back When We Were Grownups – Anne Tyler
‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ The Go-Between – L. P. Hartley
‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’ I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.’ Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
‘I have been here before.’ Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
‘I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.’ Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton.