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Getting off to a Good Start

Sentences that begin well-known (and some not-so-well-known) stories.

(340 entries, updated August, 2010)

A blank page is often a scary thing. Even when writing something as brief as an essay or a letter. Much more so for a novel or other significant work of fiction. Confucius said, "The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step" - so a book must begin with a single sentence.

According to E.L. Doctorow in a 2009 interview: “The first lines of a book are very crucial. They give you the voice. They imply the kind of texture the text will have. And, in effect, they are the acorn from which the oak grows. They Predict. You can find the entire book in that first line.”

Here are a wealth of such examples, all trimmed after the first period, to show how many noted or notable works begin. Sort of like a first line index for books. Some are quick and to the point, others, to put it charitably, are a bit long winded. Some describe action, and start you off, as the Romans used to say, in medias res (in the middle of things), others set up location, relationships, atmosphere or character. A few leave you breathless.

Many of these books are considered classics, or at least they are books that made a significant impression on the public. Some may be be a bit more obscure or out of fashion at present. None of them begin with "Once Upon a Time" (well, maybe one or two). A pair that contrast well are 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Peter Pan'.

--Steve

This collection is arranged alphabetically by Author:

Or you can click on the alphabetical index across the top of the page.


P.S. So which one starts out with "Once Upon a Time?"


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