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Judging First Lines

posted Jan 10, 2014, 10:20 AM by Ben Kreucher   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 4:00 PM ]
Aspiring writers are told that first lines are so important to hooking a reader's interest.  The first moments we have of a book are the most precious.  They give us our first glimpse into a new world, a new perspective.  That first sentence and first paragraph are our first impression of the book's tone, theme, protagonist, and plot.
So, I'm going to take a look at a few first lines.  Some I've written as mock-ups and some are from actual published books.  (I'll add a comment detailing which lines belong to whom.  Some, may be obvious.) 
I'm interested to know what you think are the best ones. 

1. I always knew it could happen, I just never thought it would happen to me.
2. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
3. Immortality can be a ...burden.
4. Though war between the nobles threatens the Thirteen Cities from within, Maria's mother consumes her thoughts.
5. If someone had asked Jared Grace what jobs his brother and sister would have when they grew up, he would have no trouble replying.
6. Silas Heap pulled his cloak tightly around him against the snow.
7. Dark spruce forest frowned on either side of the frozen waterway.
8. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
9. "Tom!"
10. This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
11. The place still shook occasionally as the earth rumbled in memory, groaned as if it would deny what happened that day.
12. There are few men who hold their heads up, rather than looking down at the floor like boys.
13. Only a fool declines an all expenses paid trip.
14. When I was young, I felt the lure of immortality; now, I yearn for death.
15. Once upon a time, there was a hole in the ground that led to the sky.
16. First of all, let me get something straight: this is a JOURNAL, not a diary.
17. I am an invisible man.
18. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.
19. When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.
20. I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional.
21. Marley was dead: to begin with.
22. I felt her fear before I heard her screams.
23. "We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
24. "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. [...]"
25. One thing was certain, that the WHITE kitten had had nothing to do with it:--it was the black kitten's fault entirely.
26. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
27. In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.
28. It was unfair, to could learn he had magic only for it to be taken from him.
29. On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado's greatest resort hotels burned to the ground.
30. "I see..." said the vampire thoughtfully, and slowly he walked across the room towards the window.
31. Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood.
32. The tropical rain fell in drenching sheets, hammering the corrugated roof of the clinic building, roaring down the metal gutters, splashing on the ground in a torrent.
33. How could I have forgotten her--the touch of her hand--the infectious laugh--a memory once indelibly imprinted now melted.
34. We were young.
35. 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.
36. Lest anyone should suppose I'm a cuckoo's child, got on the wrong side of the blanket by lusty peasant stock and sold into indenture in a shortfall season, I may say that I am House-born and reared in the Night Court proper, for all the good it did me.
37. The temperature of the room dropped fast.

Sorry, got a little carried away with myself.  It's interesting (to me) to look at books from the perspective of one line.  Not necessarily a defining moment or line; but the first line of the first page of the first chapter/prologue.
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