The History of a Novel’s First Sentence

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The great first sentence is not just a step on the path to a story but its own self-sufficient enterprise. Is it so easy to extract because it was unnaturally grafted on in the first place?

We all know the obvious importance of a first sentence, that hook that invites you to read through a novel completely. Famous first lines are often touted, compiled into lists, and analyzed for their literary value. But has literature always placed such a high value on how novels open? Over at Electric Literature, Andrew Heisel finds that importance placed on first sentences is a relatively modern phenomenon.


Victor Luo is a graduate of UC Davis's MA in Creative Writing program specializing in fiction. He lives in Los Angeles where he loves never having to be cold. More from this author →