Even Stephen King labors over his first lines

Looking back, I think I came up with at least five very different scenes to open Fate’s Fables with. But that was nothing compared to all the first opening lines I wrote, revised and fretted over, before I finally settled on, “The light was fading fast.” I sometimes thought I was putting too much importance on my first line, but I’ve since discovered I’m not the only one.


Stephen King said in his interview with The Atlantic, that he can spend months, even years writing an opening sentence. King said, “When I’m starting a book, I compose in bed before I go to sleep. I will lie there in the dark and think. I’ll try to write a paragraph. An opening paragraph. And over a period of weeks and months and even years, I’ll word and reword it until I’m happy with what I’ve got. If I can get that first paragraph right, I’ll know I can do the book.” He goes on to say, “The best first line I ever wrote is the opening of Needful Things. Printed by itself on a page in 20-point type: “You’ve been here before.” All there by itself on one page, inviting the reader to keep reading. It suggests a familiar story.”

While the book itself is not reliant on a stunning or mediocre opening sentence––because let’s face it, the story has to be engaging––this first line certainly sets the tone and often dictates whether a reader will continue to read or put the book back on the shelf.

In case you’re curious, here’s some first lines I ended up not using:

– The horizon rose and fell as it always did in that unrelenting, yet reliable way–a comforting behavior after so many years of seeing the same skyline reshaped into the unfamiliar from one day to the next.

– “She’s almost here. I can feel her getting closer,” the young man said with a shiver from where he sat in the shadows.

– Clutching her journal to her chest, Fate ran down the tree-lined streets past children playing in the sprinklers and adults tending their yards.

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